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Sofware in Review → Games → Sports games →

Total Pro Football review

By Joe Cavaliere

If you're like me -- a complete NFL junkie and a card-carrying member of Video Gamers Anonymous -- you've longed for an accurate, highly detailed, engaging football sim game. I have played the Maddens and Game Days of the world for years but there was always something missing. I wanted complete control over all football operations, from draft day and managing the coaching staff to signing free agents and more. I think I've finally found my perfect game.

Overview

EDITOR's NOTE: .400 Software Studios has gone out of business, and Total Pro Football is no longer available. The developer now works for Grey Dog Software and it looks like there are plans for a new version of Total Pro Football in the future. The "old" review continues below.

Total Pro Football (TPF) is a game in the same genre as the popular Tycoon and Sims games but with a superior sports twist. You take on the duties of general manager and/or head coach of a fictional franchise in a fictional league. I say fictional because TPF is not licensed by the NFL or any other sporting agency, although there are ways around that which I'll discuss later. You can micromanage just about every aspect of your team if you like, or you can stand back and see what your coaching staff does with the roster you've assembled.

When I say you have full control, I mean it. With TPF you can hire/fire your coaching staff, you can sign/cut free agents, you can negotiate contracts and manage your realistic salary cap, you have to deal with injuries and players with a less-than-stellar attitude, you have to prepare for the draft with the help of your coaching staff and you can edit and call all the plays if you like. You have to watch your team morale (brought down by players with a high character risk that complain all the time) and fan/owner approval. If it drops too much you'll be fired! But it doesn't stop there -- this isn't even scratching the surface of all that's in TPF. There's so much to do, and going through it all will give you a greater respect of what it takes to field a real professional team.

The game features over 50 unique player attributes which are broken down into three categories:

  • Personality traits such as greed, character risk, and clutch
  • Character traits like work ethic, intelligence and athletic ability
  • Positional gradings which are specific to each player position. For instance an offensive lineman has run block, pass block, hold block and footwork, to name a few.

Anything you want or need to know about your player is there. This theme is carried over to your coaching staff, which has grades for their strengths and weaknesses as well. Your assistant coaches consist of an Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator and Special Teams Coordinator.

Gameplay

The thing I like most about TPF is you can do as much or as little as you like. You can go in and call every offensive and defensive play and create new ones if you don't like any that are standard; or you can draft a team and let your assistants take over those duties. There is also an option to simulate multiple seasons, if you want to see if you'll ever win the "big game" down the road. This game is simply a great idea that has been executed very well.

As I mentioned earlier, there are no NFL licenses here so the team and player names are kind of funny, but Total Pro Football gives you complete control over that. You can import custom rosters, custom helmets and end zone logos so it gives a "real" feel to it. Like most simulation games, there isn't a way to graphically take control of a player and play out your game like in Madden. It's more a text based game with icons to show down and distance. Some may frown on this aspect, but it's not what the game is about and doesn't detract from the fun you'll have playing it.

The game has an almost infinite amount of depth; there are so many customizations that can be done to it that trying to go over them all in one review would be impossible. But I've been playing the game for over three weeks and I can certainly cover the major points of interest:

Features

  • Extremely detailed in every manner. Players, coaches and even owners have specific traits that directly affect the game. Maybe signing that all-star QB who is a huge character risk wasn't such a hot idea after all...
  • You can have as much or as little control as you like. You can be just the GM and draft and sign players and let your assistants take over play calling or you can do it all.
  • Awesome salary cap modeling. Now you have to play by the same rules as your favorite NFL team. Making hard decisions on who to keep and who to let go is actually a lot of fun.
  • Super fun college draft. Full draft procedures, complete with a Mel Kiper-type guy that analyzes each pick in real time. If you make a bad one, he lets you know about it.
  • Every aspect of player movement is accurately modeled. It's interesting to cut the over-priced veteran and sign a promising (cheap) free agent.
  • Customize anything. Because you can change just about everything, the game's replay value is limitless. There are some issues with the game plan editing, however.
  • Online leagues. You can link up with your buddies and try to outwit them.
  • Superior support via .400 Software's message board. What it lacks in documentation it makes up for in its community. Any question or problem you have will be or already has been resolved on the board. Check it out here.
  • Supporting the little guy feels good. .400 Software Studios is not on par with Electronic Arts or Activision -- and that's a good thing. Ideas and comments have a great shot of making it into future releases of the game. Try that with Madden.
  • Game updates early and often. In the 3 weeks I have had the game, there have been at least 4 game updates released addressing issues. It's nice to know the developer is listening and wants to take care of whatever bug you encounter.

Bugs and Problems

  • Bugs. Because this game is new and the developer doesn't have unlimited funds, there are some bugs. Run Time Error posts still come up but usually there's quick fix.
  • Quirks with the stats. Sometimes, when reviewing your team's game you'll find curiosities like a fumble recovery in the end zone for a TD that took 4:35 to happen. Nothing major, but still a factor when looking at realism.
  • Documentation needs work. The manual is very brief and not really helpful to people starting the game for the first time. The message board makes up for this, but most people would like a manual to consult that describes most of the game functionality.
  • Logistical in-game flaws and ease of use issues. Some screens, like player injuries, need to be integrated with your roster so you don't have to do as much hunting around for information.

According to the developers, many of these problems will be fixed or addressed in the next update.

Conclusions

Bottom Line -- Total Pro Football is a fine game that, even with its shortcomings, is really fun to play. The game is obviously geared toward football fans so if you don't like the NFL, it probably isn't your cup of tea. The potential upside of TPF is awesome and the development team seems to really care about what is important to its customers. It will be fun to see how Total Pro Football evolves over time.

Total Pro Football

Total Pro Football
Game Type Sports
Manufacturer .400 Software Studios
Operating Systems Supported Windows 95/98/ME/2K/XP
License Proprietary, heavily restrictive
ESRB Rating N/A
Price (retail) $35 for the download edition, $10 additional for a CD copy
Demo Click here
Screen Shot See article for screen shots
Recommended System

Pentium3 500 mhz or higher, 128 MB RAM or more, 60 MB free hard drive space for installation and additional space for saved games, 1024x768 display capable of running in 32-bit color mode. For multiplayer online play, a 28.8 Kbps or faster connection is recommended

Product website Click here