ESPN Football

Review

posted 10/29/2003 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: Xbox
It’s football season, which means we have to deal with this year’s onslaught of football titles (we’ve already reviewed Madden 2004, NFL Fever 2004, and NFL Gameday 2004. )
Sega introduced the NFL2K series a few years ago for the Dreamcast and, while it wasn’t perfect, it was a pretty solid competitor to the Madden franchise. Since the first version, the Dreamcast has bitten the dust but Sega has continued to refine the 2K franchise to the point where it has more than caught up with Madden. Last year, Sega partnered with ESPN to utilize their announcers’, logos and look and feel. This year the transformation is complete with the game actually switching names to complete the transformation. The two great ironies is that ESPN uses Madden 2004 for their in-studio analysis and that John Madden now works for ABC, ESPN’s sister sports station.

Ironies aside, Sega has done a good job of adding new features to this year’s version. Besides the tweaks to the graphics and animations, there are a host of significant new features. First off, the integration with the ESPN look and feel is complete. It’s all there from the game intros, to the on screen graphics, to the chimes that let you know when they are displaying the scores from around the league. It’s a very authentic experience and there were a few times when I felt like I was actually watching a game.

Another big addition this year is the First Person football, which puts you behind the facemask. This sounds like a pretty cool feature and it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to viewing an NFL stadium from this perspective. It certainly gives you a good perspective on what it’s like to return a kickoff or face down a full on blitz but I’m not sure you’re going to play games with this mode once the “cool” factor wears off. It would be really nice if you could switch in and out of this mode during the game (I hated it while on offense but love it while on defense) but that’s something that could be implemented for next year. I give credit to Sega for putting together a cool and unique feature but I’m not sure how many people are going to really use it.

The final major addition is “The Crib,” a space that you can decorate with items that you unlock while playing the game. Items are unlocked by playing accomplishments (200+ running game, 70 yard touchdown runs, etc) as well as by how long you are playing. You can unlock everything from sofas to wall art to mini-games and then use them to decorate your digital domicile. At first, I thought it was pretty cheesy and kind of pointless but then I started unlocking stuff and I realized it wasn’t that bad. If you like the Sims and football games, this is your killer feature. The only downside is that while you can create and design your own place it’s hard to come up with a design that doesn’t reek of “Single Bachelor with more money than taste.”
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