Reviewed: September 12, 2008
Released: August 26, 2008
With football season in full swing and head coaches dropping like flies, I decided that I needed to start looking to take advantage of all these new job openings. I picked up a copy of EA Sports newest installment of the NFL Head Coach series. I figured there was no quicker way to put myself in the driver’s seat of an NFL team and see if I had what it took to bring him the Lombardi Trophy… or as I refer to it, the Championship Trophy (no room for Green Bay Packer’s namesakes for this Bears fan!).
The previous NFL Head Coach which EA released a few years ago for the original Xbox and PS2, was a flop to put it nicely. The game was very slow paced, and the interface was very aggravating, however, EA promised massive changes to its newest release. Head Coach ’09 features a fresh new next-gen look and plenty of options to boot. EA has placed itself on a different level when it comes to sports games in recent years, and NFL Head Coach ’09 looks to continue the trend!
For anyone that loves football maybe just a little too much, like myself, NFL Head Coach gives you that extra step into the behind the scenes world that Madden’s Franchise Mode misses. The purpose of Head Coach is to put you at the reigns of the team of your choosing to determine if you have the leadership and play-calling savvy that it takes to make a winner.
Head Coach gives you the option to play one single game or being a career. Single games can be played versus the computer or another person online. Unlike the Madden series, the quickest finger on the juke button or the best downfield passing vision won’t win you this game. Only the superior intellect, and of course a little bit of luck, will help you claim victory.
As the game begins you are placed in the headset of the team of your choosing. You choose the plays the team runs, the substitutions the team makes, and you can even create new trick plays during the game if you are stuck in a tough spot. As mentioned before, the players will work on their own, so the game’s not as much about skill as the Madden series. The skill involved in Head Coach is much more cerebral.
Faced with a 3rd and 10 down by 4 with 1:17 on the clock in the 4th quarter, do you take to the air for the big gain, or do you sneak a draw play in and hope to catch the defense sleeping. Does my running back have enough energy left to make that last plunge into the end zone for the win, or will I have to rely on the fullback to power ahead? Should I punt to Devin Hester, or should I take my chances and try to stop the Bears’ offense on a short field? These are the questions we’ve heard discussed on ESPN most Sunday nights and Monday mornings, and all of us “armchair quarterbacks” have our views. The question presented is, “Do you have the guts to make the call?”
Head Coach uses the “Coach Clipboard” to manage your menus and options during gameplay. All tasks work off timers to keep things moving quickly and simulate the quick pace that a real coach must process within. For those without much coaching experience, the control scheme is simple and basic commands make it easy to grasp the general concept. The more “hardcore” football fan will enjoy the depth that game provides.
Once you’ve tested the waters and jump into the career mode, there are what seem to be a million things happening at once. If you aren’t scouting for the next season’s draft, signing free agents, making trades, working on your playbook, or hiring new assistants, then there’s game planning for your next opponent, teaching your players new plays, or trades to be made.
From the most standard coaching applications such as play calling to the most tedious process like teaching players to become more effective at specific plays. Head Coach covers the bases well. Again, the menu system is fairly simple to figure out, and you can easily maneuver between tasks. Just as before, tasks are timed, so you must be smart about when you do things. There is time for it all if you can manage your hours properly.
Some of the major changes from the previous release involve playbook building, free agency, and trading. Playbook building in the original release was very limited and took several seasons in order to complete your playbook. In Head Coach ’09 you are able to completely customize your playbook in whatever amount of time you’d like, and add or delete plays whenever. Free Agency has been transformed into a timed auction event that can become very heated and exciting. You place a bid and hope that no one outbids before the time has ended. Trades work much the same way. Offers are sent, and the opposition will counter or accept your offer.
Graphically, NFL Head Coach ’09 lives up to the typical EA Sports standard. Stadium, player, and coach models are excellently done. Early on developers stated that they planned to use no code from either the original Head Coach release or Madden, but the in-game graphics look specifically Madden-esque. Broadcast in up-to 1080p, Head Coach delivers a terrific HD experience.
The sound of Head Coach is somewhat lackluster. The typical in stadium noise and player chatter is present, alongside the new coach chatter. Music selections are limited and ultra repetitive. Customizable soundtracks would be a great addition for the next NFL Head Coach.
NFL Head Coach can be purchased one of two ways, either in the Madden 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition for $90 or separately for $30. Either way the value is solid for any football fan willing to give the franchise a second chance after a dismal first showing. The improvements made have really taken Head Coach to great new heights. As long as EA continues to develop the strategies and input more options, the series should continue to be a cult hit.
My advice on purchase is simple. If you have ever thought about coaching football, you should try this out. If you enjoy it, then you should follow up on your thoughts. If you are easily bored, then you should stay away from coaching. It does a relatively good job of depicting a day in the life of a coach. Rather or not my win streak on the game will translate into a million-dollar job for me in the next few years has yet to be seen.
Madden without the ridiculous button combinations equals uncoordinated football fans dream game! NFL Head Coach delivers a well-rounded, enjoyable experience that any real football fan can enjoy. Challenging your football intellect and stimulating your testicular fortitude to call the gutsy play that could make or break the game… that’s what Head Coach is all about.
Could you have lead Eli and G-Men on the drive to beat Brady’s undefeated Pats? Have you ever wondered how frustrated Jim Mora would have had to be when he gave the infamous “Playoffs?” speech? Do you think you can call the right defense to fool Ray Lewis and rest of the Ravens D for four quarters? If you answered yes to anyone of the previous questions, then you should play this game. Simply put, NFL Head Coach ’09 is a winner.