IGN Review of NFL Head Coach 09
When Madden 09 released in August it was available in two flavors: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition and Standard Edition. The standard edition is the typical barebones, no frills offering, while the 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition came packed with extras. One of which included the full retail release of NFL Head Coach 09. While the game was an attractive add-on to an already stout package, there's some doubt as to whether the title has the legs to stand on its own.
NFL Head Coach 09 is a game tailored for the gurus of fantasy football. In fact, guru doesn't even seem accurate. The aficionados among the gurus, the masters of the masters, are the ones that Head Coach is truly made for. It's a football management simulation where players will need to take painstaking measures to try and guide their team to a title.
This can be done by inhabiting the shell of a coach already in the league or crafting your own via limited customization options and inserting them into your favorite squad. You'll be tasked with things like staffing your roster of coaches and coordinators as well as establishing skills and specialties for your coach. Customization options in this sense actually do have a good bit of depth. You'll be able to level up the physical, intangible and learning development abilities of your coach for every position on the field as well as general play calling and strategic skills.
The skill progression is extraordinarily deep and you'll need to complement your head coach's weaknesses with strengths from your coordinators. You'll need to sculpt a philosophy for every position and side of the ball and week-to-week, you'll to manage strategies and teach your players new plays designed to highlight the weaknesses of the opposition. There's no question that NFL Head Coach 09 has a lot going on. Now the only question is if it's any good.
The answer to that really depends on the type of football fan and gamer you are. For me the process of building a staff, keeping players happy and meticulously sculpting every other aspect of team was actually pretty fun, but most likely won't think so. It's rare to see a title that is so heavily based on its niche appeal, but NFL Head Coach 09 makes no apologies to fans who might not appreciate the total lack of speed and excitement in the game.
Luckily Head Coach isn't completely devoid of real football. On Sundays you'll be transported onto the field, though you'll still be relegated to calling plays and won't get hands-on with the action. Before the play you'll see what kind of a pre-snap advantage you have over the opposition, if any. There's no doubt that the action on the field isn't up to the level of authenticity as what is seen from Madden, but the player models are detailed and move reasonably well for a title that isn't about football in the traditional sense.
Selecting plays is done based on two things: chance of success and how educated your players are on a given play. This is where practice comes in and you'll need to remember what you focused on during the previous week. Head Coach 09 does a good job of rewarding you for using your practiced plays in a game and you can see the difference when you focus on stopping the inside run as opposed to focusing on stopping the shotgun pass.
It's just too bad that calling each and every play for both sides of the ball throughout an entire game is a process that takes multiple hours per contest. Thankfully you can exit out into SuperSim mode at any time which speeds things up considerably, but then you lose some of the feeling of being in control of your team. If only the game had some sort of a middle ground where you could still get the statistical feedback for your play calling without having to watch every play. As it stands it's either too slow or too hands-off to be totally satisfactory.
The off-season feels a lot like Madden with the usual scouting and drafting options becoming available. It doesn't differ all that much from what is seen in Madden, but that package is deep enough as is. In your spare time during the off-season you'll also be able to play online, it's just too bad that it's limited to what is best described as a typical Quickplay experience.
The presentation of NFL Head Coach is much more attractive than what we saw from the series' first entry. You'll now see the home sports complex of your team and panning shots of your surroundings. Your clipboard is constantly refreshing with new tasks as the clock ticks through the week with varying simulation speeds depending on your preference. Adam Schefter of NFL Network chimes in with Picture-in-Picture updates of what's going on around the league, followed promptly by NFL Network promo videos. They're slightly annoying, but they do feel authentic.
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