The game play is where ESPN Football 2004
really shines. Everything is tight and better than last year. Sega got rid of the old radial play selection scheme and switched to a three-box system. It’s cleaner and easier to navigate. Play calling is just a matter of selecting a package, formation, and then play. You can also pull the left trigger to get a recommended play, if you don’t like the one you can pull the trigger again to see other recommended plays. One thing that would be a nice addition would be a recent plays category like the one in NFL Fever 2004
, it’s a bit of a crutch for those of us too lazy to work your way through the play tree to get to a play but it’s all about convenience right?ESPN Football 2004
does a great job of putting the personalities of the teams in to the games. If you follow the NFL at all, you know what you’re going to get. The Colts are all about Manning and Harrison. Tampa Bay and Baltimore are defense heavy, and the Browns and Bengals are going to suck. It’s all there in the game and it’s nice to see these qualities actually in the game.
Controlling your players is solid and you’re going to use every button on the controller. First time users should be able to pick up the game pretty quickly and then learn how to use the more advanced moves. The game does provide some nice tutorials to show users how to play the game. The only real gripe I had with the control system is that when you are on defense you have to rotate through the defensive players rather than using the D-pad to move through the line-up.
A nice realism touch in ESPN Football 2004
is the ability to challenge plays. I was a bit shocked when the computer actually challenged a spot of a ball and the spot was overturned forcing me into a fourth and short situation. Later on in the game, I thought I had gotten a bad spot, challenged the spot and got the first down. It’s a nice feature and it adds a lot of realism to the game.
The franchise mode is excellent and allows armchair general managers to try their hand at building a Super Bowl caliber team. You have full control over player options and you’ll quickly learn how difficult it is to deal with the NFL’s salary cap. You can start a new franchise or take over one of the existing 32 NFL teams. You can wheel and deal players and sign free agents (either already on the market or unlocked players from The Crib). There’s actually some accountability built into the franchise mode, as well as, you have to accomplish certain things in order to keep your job. It’s not as detailed as Madden (you don’t set concession and ticket prices) but then again do you really want to micromanage your franchise that much?
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