ESPN NFL Football Review

Joe Dodson
ESPN NFL Football Info

genre

  • Sports

players

  • N/A

Publisher

  • Sega

Developer

  • N/A

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS2
  • Xbox

rating

Playin’ like a pro.

Behind the dark veil of our starry firmament ticks the great clock of destiny and certitude, to which is set the tempo of all natural phenomena: the sun rising and setting, the Domino’s pizza guy showing up one second before it would have been free, the Raiders choking in a crucial game. It’s a big clock, and it’s dependable.

That’s also a good way to describe the 2K football game from

Visual Concepts. Year after year, the series inches closer to getting a piece

of Madden‘s pie, a slow but determined drive downfield. While

the most recent cycle of 2K football is being called ESPN

NFL Football
, it moves to the beat of the same awesome drum as its

predecessors.

However,

the two big features new to ESPN NFL Football are surprisingly

lackluster. Although it is obvious the requisite amount of Visual Concepts love

went into First-Person mode and The Crib, both modes seem extraneous and a little

forced.

First-Person mode lets you hop into the helmet after hiking the ball to get

down and dirty on the field. You can use a neat slow-motion effect to get a

better view of things before you get nailed, and a ‘threat’ meter gives you

an idea of how soon that will happen. These are cool details, but they don’t

change the fact that you can’t see enough and wind up feeling limited by a point-of-view

that simply doesn’t work well for football games. It’s not nearly as fun as

the normal third-person view. Perhaps if they renamed it “Michael Irvin” mode

and let you do

a bunch of coke
before pimpin’ some hoes, First-Person mode would be more

interesting.

When it comes to acting like a pimp, look no further than The Crib, which is basically a trophy room. Each profile gets a virtual crib to fill with furniture and decorations given to you upon completing various challenges (returning a punt for a TD, shutting out an opposing team, etc.) Then, after you’ve filled your Crib with tons of stuff, you can show your friends your amazing accomplishment and let them bask in the glory of your greatness.

Yeah, right. While it sounds kinda neat, it’s just window dressing and isn’t really a new mode of play so much a new way to feel virtually cool. A few of the unlockables are actually useful (such as some little mini-games like an air hockey table), but most of the time you’re just getting a new sofa or something.

The rest of the modes are fairly ubiquitous and include Franchise, Season,

Tournament and Practice. Unfortunately, ESPN‘s single-player

modes don’t really stack up with those in Madden 2004.

The Franchise mode is well done and realistic, allowing you to do all the things

you usually do with minimal difficulty, but Madden took things

so much farther this year with its outstanding Owner mode.

Then again, ESPN Football‘s gameplay is very solid. Maximum

Passing is an intuitive take on the passing scheme and places an even greater

emphasis on (and grants greater rewards for) good timing than the Madden games.

The running game is slightly superior as well, with a streamlined control scheme

and a handy charge-meter for jukes and spins. The game has a distinctly more

arcadey feel than Madden, but to me that serves as something

of an advantage.

The tight control of ESPN Football is complimented by its

outstanding animations. Dive tackles, one-handed catches, hurdles – everything

looks good. However, it would have been nice if Visual Concepts had added more

new gameplay mechanics. As opposed to spending so much time on First-Person

football, I think they could have given defensive play mechanics in general

more thought. For example, defensive linemen really should learn how to shove.

What

ESPN Football really needs is to crush the competition in one

area, and clearly the gameplay is its best feature. The more risks they take

with the running and passing, the better this series will be. They’re on a good

path, at least.

And despite the two underwhelming new additions of First-person and The Crib,

ESPN Football goes the distance with its online play, adding

tons of replay value to a game bursting with playability. Logging on and kicking

other people’s asses in this game is a unique thrill thanks to the depth and

responsiveness of the controls; when you bust open a big play your opponent

knows you did it, not some twist of the computer AI. Xbox owners in particular

should be excited about the online play of ESPN Football because

the Xbox version of Madden 2004 is not online.

Regardless of your system, ESPN Football looks great. The

players look sharp and crisp on the field and the animations are simply out

of sight. The stadiums are nicely detailed and the fans actually wear their

team’s paraphernalia. As usual, the Xbox version looks a bit better than the

PS2 version, but it still maintains a solid framerate so the animations look

just as good. The game looks eerily life-like.

ESPN Football sounds fine with solid commentary and decent

effects, but I’d like to hear even more crowd noise in some situations. Clearly,

a noisy stadium can wreak havoc on a visiting team’s offensive procedures (just

look at the Raiders) – how about some false starts associated with crowd noise

and maybe even some preventative measures a QB could take? Just a suggestion.

Ultimately ESPN Football is a very good game, but not good

enough this season to beat Madden…unless you own an Xbox and

are dying to play online. If ESPN wants to compete with an

EA Franchise that has made some serious leaps and bounds this year, they’re

going to have to buckle down in the off-season, tighten up their offense and

maybe learn some new plays on defense.





REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating8
Tight control
Smooth graphics
Online for both systems
First-person football doesn't pan out
Relatively light single-player possibilities