When 2K Sports announced that they were getting back in the football game, the ensuing euphoria was palpable. Obviously, the lack of an NFL license was a problem - for one, it meant the game couldn't use NFL teams or current players. But signing 240 retired NFL gladiators to be in the game would add some legitimacy even without the league's coveted teams, stadiums, and assorted accoutrements. The ghosts of 2K's by-now mythological gridiron classics of yesteryear were going to be reborn on next-generation consoles to put Madden in its place. Or to at least force EA's juggernaut to step up to the plate after some less-than-perfect outings.
Now that we've got the final product in our hands, we can officially say that it's Mission Accomplished. Not that All Pro Football 2K8 is an automatic all-time classic - it's not. It is, however, a better-than-average pigskin title that offers plenty of good times for those of us with a penchant for old-time football.
Certainly there is a lack of an emotional connection when you’re playing as squads named the Cobras or the Top Guns, no matter how many of your favorite retired heroes man the trenches. Even so, 2K does an excellent job of representing them. You can easily spot Reggie White sacking the quarterback, Walter Payton scissoring through linebackers, and Earl Campbell smashing past helpless defensive tackles - the animations are simply that good. In fact, between the viciously sweet tackles and tiptoe sideline catches, the on-field action is the best part of All-Pro. The classic 2K gameplay is instantly recognizable, and hasn’t changed much over the years.
That’s where any disappointment you’ll have will likely settle in - in more ways than one, All Pro feels dated and decidedly unpolished. The visuals are passable on the field (and the fans in the stands look awesome), but much of the remaining presentation is wanting. The opening coin toss and sideline cutscenes are painful to watch, with many laughably ugly players looking (and sounding) disjointed. The wholly unnecessary "2K Field Pass" would have you think Johnny Unitas talks trash on par with Jerome Brown, even though we all know that wouldn’t happen in this or any other lifetime. Worst of all is the clumsy kicking mechanic, which never feels quite right.
Strategically setting up your team with a pair of gold, three silver, and six bronze legends (the medals correspond to their value) is a brilliant design move that allows for innumerable combinations of squads to use. That’s a good thing, since there’s no single-player mode other than season - no franchise here. At least 2K's typically awesome online leagues and tournaments are available, slightly mitigating that lack of offline options. Incidentally, the only real difference between the 360 and PS3 versions is that the former runs at 60 frames per second and the latter at 30 - so 360 players will see things animate a bit more smoothly.