In the AI department, NFL 2K2 gets some high marks, but the game does have one small problem. The computer plays very well on the medium difficulty setting and actually seems to get better throughout the season. The computer plays the ball well on defense both at the line and in the backfield. It knows how to position its line and how to use its defensive backs well. On offense, the computer is very efficient, especially on the ground with an A-list running back. It sometimes seems that the computer just really wants to win, and it's busting tackles left and right, but most of the time if you hunker down and give it everything you've got, you can at least keep it competitive. The computer is really good on the hardest difficulty setting but not as impossible as in the PS2 version. The one area where the computer isn't so smart is clock management. It can be late in the fourth quarter with only a few yards to go, and the computer will spike the ball instead of using one of the three timeouts at first. In the PS2 version the computer never called a timeout; in the Xbox version it does, but still not before it spikes the ball.
Visually, NFL 2K2 for the Xbox is really good. People are sure to debate over whether NFL Fever 2002 looks better, but the truth is that they both look great and simply have different graphical styles. The opening movie of NFL 2K2 illustrates the realistic look of the game by showing an FMV sequence that fades seamlessly into polygon models from the game in the exact positions. The texture-mapped, animated faces of the players look more like their real-life counterparts than in any other football game before. While you can really see this only during the tight close-ups after the play or in replays, the detail is there nonetheless. Some faces look better than others, but for the most part they all look really good. The player models themselves are very complex and are quite different from one another. The animation, however, is where the game earns most of its points, as the players move and react to one another very realistically. The players in NFL 2K2 really look as though they are making contact with one another, especially in the tackles, of which there are many. Another very nice touch to the look of the players is the real-time field lighting and shadowing. The most pronounced use of this is when clouds pass over the stadium when you're playing during the day. You'll see the clouds pass over not only the field, but the players as well. While it might sound trivial, the first time you see the big dark shadow coming, you'll realize that you've never seen it before. The stadiums all look very real, plus they've got all kinds of detail in the stands and along the sidelines with full 3D models of the teams, camera crews, cheerleaders, and even the chain gang. Visually, the main difference between the Xbox and PS2 versions is that the Xbox version doesn't slow down at all, which does make the game look a bit better in comparison to the PS2 version. You can also see some of the small technical differences between NFL 2K2 and NFL Fever 2002, especially in regard to the game's reflections.
In the audio department, NFL 2K2 is one of the most entertaining games to listen to. The play-by-play and color commentary are not only accurate and right on the mark but also funny, informative, and even refreshing. You'll hear some of the same comments after playing a few games as the same team, but as a whole, NFL 2K2 really does have a lot of diversity to its dialogue, and it has wonderful hard-hitting sound effects, crowd chants, and fantastic trash-talking player chatter.
In the end, NFL 2K2 is a great football game that you'll either love or hate, depending on your personal tastes. Deciding whether it's the game for you simply depends on what type of football game you like. NFL 2K2 is an action-packed football game that plays more like the 16-bit football games of old than the latest generation of momentum-based simulations. In NFL 2K2, when you make the catch you know you made it, because you threw the ball accurately and you got the receiver in the right place at the right time, and he actually caught the ball because you hit the catch button just as the ball reached him. No other game truly delivers the feeling of literally catching a football, running through the line, or making that perfect throw better than NFL 2K2 does. For fans of the series, NFL 2K2 for the Xbox is a must-own game that you'll love to play. For anyone who likes Madden or NFL Fever 2002 but wishes the control were a bit more responsive, NFL 2K2 is a game you'd probably like. Hard-core Madden fans might not be too thrilled with the game, but even they should probably give NFL 2K2 a try.