The Ratings Drive-By: October ‘03

411 GAME OF THE MONTH

ESPN FOOTBALL 2K4 (XB, PS2)


It’s football season! Time to sift through dozens of pigskin titles desperate to obtain your gaming dollar. Sure, we like our Maddens and our Fevers, and our GameDa”¦ err, well ok. We’re not really THAT fond of GameDay. But regardless there can only be one champ of the gridiron in the hearts of the 411 Games staff, and that game is ESPN 2k4. With improvements to the series all around and wonderful additions such as The Crib and a new first person mode to enjoy, it’s the highlight of the football season. Time to face facts people. This is a Sega Sports world. We all just play in it.

Welcome to the Ratings Drive-By. Ever read a review here and wanted to know a second opinion? Do you relate to a particular reviewer here over others and want to hear their outlook on your favorite or not so favorite games? Well that’s what this place is ALL ABOUT, baby. Monthly we’ll be compiling the game releases for the previous month and giving you multiple views on the hottest titles to hit the shelves. Why is it called a “Drive-By”, you ask? Because everything has to be a gimmick with me of course! Since we’re giving you quick succinct shots at games with at least two reviewers at time, it’s sort of like of a drive by shooting only with videogames”¦

Oh don’t look at me like that! Chuck Platt came up with the name! ;)

Anyway. A word of warning. This feature is NOT a replacement for the reviews themselves! At 411Games we pride ourselves on covering every nook and granny of a title in our reviews until it borders on the insane. That’s because we want you to know that we truly took the time to put the game to the test in lieu of playing it for a couple of hours, not finishing the bloody thing, and THEN throwing out a “full” crappy review. So if you REALLY want to know the lo-down on these games, click the link provided under the title that you’re interested in. But since I’m sure you’ve already read them all (right? RIGHT??) you can kick back, relax, and bask in the glow of these mini-views provided for your viewing pleasure.

Just as a quick reference, here’s how we currently rate things here at 411Games (even though rumor has it the whole system will be changing in the coming months)”¦

  • 10.0: “Perfect”

    This score is damn near impossible. It’s saying that a game cannot be improved much more than it is in a meaningful way, and that it sets a new high water mark for whatever genre the game is in (if it fits into one). You’ll rarely see one of these. Very rarely.

    Examples: None

  • 9.0-9.5: “Classic”

    Buy, buy, buy! We recommend the games within this range with slobbering lunatic-like fanaticism. Take it for granted that if you enjoy any games within the genre of the reviewed title, you’ll absolutely get some great measure of enjoyment out of that particular game.

    Examples: Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, Ikaruga

  • 8.0-8.5: “Great”

    Excellent, wonderful, games. They have their problems, but not enough to seriously dampen the enjoyment of playing them. Highly recommended.

    Examples: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic

  • 7.0-7.5: “Good”

    A score of “7” around these parts is considered a REALLY good rating. A game within this range is just fine and dandy and likely worth your time to check out, especially if you’re interested in that particular genre.

    Examples: F-Zero GX, Phantasy Star Collection

  • 6.0-6.5: “Fair”

    Games in this range have some good qualities, and they’ve got some bad qualities. Not a bad game by any sense of the word “bad”, but when you’re contemplating a purchase exercise some prudence to make sure this particular game is the one for you. Normally worthy of at least a rental to see if it floats your boat.

    Examples: Wrestlemania XIX, Star Wars The Clone Wars

  • 5.0-5.5: “Average”

    Ok, a 5-range score refers to a game that’s “merely average”. Nothing special. Nothing to write home to momma about. A mediocre game. It tends to have enough weaknesses to thoroughly dampen their strengths. Not exactly a train wreck, but goodness knows it could have been better and probably IS done better somewhere else.

    Examples: F-1 Career Challenge, Evolution Worlds

  • 4.0-4.5: “Poor”

    Something went wrong. The game is either fundamentally broken, certain features are glitchy beyond excuse, or the whole thing ends up not having the structure to create a successfully fun game playing experience.

    Examples: Tao Feng: Fist Of The Lotus, Space Channel 5 (GBA)

  • 3.0-3.5: “Bad”

    We’re getting into “stay away” territory. These games may have a few positive qualities, but everything else dampens the experience so much that it makes the rest of it seem even more disappointing.

    Examples: Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness

  • 2.0-2.5: “Dreadful”

    Almost completely devoid in quality. There may only be one or two things at the most that can be cited as positive features.

    Examples: Darkened Skye

  • 1.0-1.5: “Appalling”

    What the blood clot happened? This puppy is rare. But in circumstances when a score like this is warranted, there isn’t one good thing we can find about the game AT ALL. No redeeming features. Feh”¦

    Examples: Final Fantasy VIII (No, no”¦ I KID! I KID!)

Got the idea? So according to that scale, a 5.0 is a decent, average, nothing really special about it, game. You’ve probably become accustomed to seeing those types of games with a score of 7.0, but here a 7.0 is VERY good game! Keep that in mind people. Enjoy!

The Ratings Drive-By October 03′ Edition –



FINAL FANTASY TACTICS ADVANCE (GBA)

Full Review: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)

Alex Lucard
FINAL SCORE: 6.0
It’s an average game. Aside from a story that makes me want to gouge out my eyes or develop mad cow disease, the game does everything at a decent level. There is far better out there in regards to every aspect of this game, and if it wasn’t for the Final Fantasy name stuck on the box this game would be quickly forgotten and regulated to a bargain bin of your local Target or Best Buy. Sorry Square fans, but it’s true. If you really need your Final Fantasy fix, here it is. But if you go into it without being a slobbering psycho fanboy, you too will come away disappointed by thoughts of what could have been.

Lee Baxley
FINAL SCORE: 7.0
Though the story is very poor, the gameplay is a lot of fun. The different races make it more interesting, the mission system is nice, and the whole clan system is cool as well. And though some of the jobs are a waste, most are really cool. I’m just pissed because I’ll never be able to make a character that has ALL the jobs.



POKEMON PINBALL: RUBY & SAPPHIRE (GBA)

Full Review: Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire (GBA)

Alex Lucard
FINAL SCORE: 9.0
It’s 30$. 40 hours of fun. It’s an RPG and a pinball game wrapped into one. Listen to these words people: It’s a sequel that surpasses the original in every way. And not just because it’s a next gen game. Because they took the time to fix the little mistakes in the original, yet stay true to not only the original concept but the greatness that is Pokemon to begin with. Pokemon may look adorable, but with the ability to always do something new with the title characters, this series is going to continue to remain fresh, innovative, and original long after other series have gone the route of Army Men and Tomb Raider.

Lee Baxley
FINAL SCORE: 8.0
Though I’m not a fan of the core Poketitles, I love the offbeat separate games. Pokemon Snap and Hey You Pikachu are a lot of fun. And this game is no different. It’s pinball, with a twist. It’s a lot more fun for me to catch Pokemon this way rather than actual pokeballs and such. This game is great fun for everybody.

Alex Williams
FINAL SCORE: 9.0
When I initially picked this game up, I never thought it would have such a stranglehold on my life as it does now. I mean, I LOVE GBA pinball games, but this one offered so many surprises on so many levels. They took what was great about the original PP. and improved upon it by leaps and bounds! The graphics are crisp, the controls are a lot more tight, it’s easier to catch and evolve those little monsters, and there are plenty more bonuses to be discovered! Besides, have two Alex’ ever lied to you before?



THE SIMPSONS HIT & RUN (PS2, XB)

Full Review: The Simpsons Hit & Run (PS2)

Alex Williams
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (XB)
This is quite possibly the best Simpsons game made…ever. The voice acting talent is incredible, and the graphics are the best I’ve seen of the Simpson cast in 3-D. However, the missions get pretty repetitive as you go, and the humor value drops quite a bit when not playing as Homer. In any case, if you’re a Simpsons fan, please feel free to raise my score an additional 1.5. You’ll get much more of a kick out of it than the average joe.

Chris McCarver
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (PS2)
The Simpsons: Hit and Run is probably the best Simpsons game out at the moment for the next-gen consoles, but unfortunately that isn’t saying much. Younger gamers will probably get more enjoyment out of the game, and while parents are liable to balk at the game’s occasionally mature themes, the Simpsons franchise has stood the test of time to both young and old. I recommend this game for die-hard Simpsons fans, but more seasoned gamers are going to find a few flaws and a bit of frustration with the game’s A.I. issues.

Cory Laflin
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 (XB)
When Grand Theft Auto 3 came out, I wrote a review on another site that said that the engine and the immersive environment was too good to have to be limited to a mature audience. I’m glad somebody agreed with me and made this game. You have the same free-form gameplay, the same missions, and the same automotive mayhem, but without the gore and with the carefree attitude that IS The Simpsons. Simple controls, a decent story, challenging gameplay, and Matt Groening’s wit make this a great game and a viable alternative for those parents leery of the GTA series.



SOUL CALIBUR 2 (PS2, XB, GC)

Full Review: Soul Calibur II (GC)

Chuck Platt
FINAL SCORE: 5.5 (GC)
Soul Calibur II is an exercise in bloodless game play, literally and figuratively. Sure, it has its rush at times, but the vast majority of the time, I found myself wondering what else I could be doing. Will I be skeet shooting with my copy? No, but I sure as hell won’t be playing it, either. The very definition of a lackluster sequel.

Alex Lucard
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (GC)
WOW! A WHOLE POINT MORE THAN CHUCKS. I beat Weapon master Mode only using the A button people. It was the easiest fighting game I have EVER played. I’m sorry, but that’s me being honest. I felt the game was too easy and just a button masher. 2 Player mode is MUCH more fun, but one player mode? ZZZZzzzzz.

Bebito Jackson
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 (Multi)
There was something that the staff at GameFAN used to become every so often, but I forget what the term was”¦ Oh yes! JADED. That’s it! That’s what happened to the rest of the 411Games staff here with Soul Calibur 2! How else can these guys give such an way above average game such a LOW score? To their credit, the game does get tiring and almost flat out boring after a good week or two in one player mode, and it’s no where near as revolutionary as its Dreamcast prequel. But come on! It’s got the best music in any fighting game ever. The best graphical flare. And the best announcer in the history of fighting games! Get three friends (if you have them) a couple of beers and I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Not what we were all hoping for by any sense of the word hope, but it’s still fun nonetheless.

Lee Baxley
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (Multi)
Though the whole fighting system has inherent flaws, it can be fun at times. The Weapon Master mode is the only real reason to play this title, and once you’ve unlocked everything from that, it’s really pretty pointless. The story is very bland as well. This game is fun to play for a time, but it’s only worth a rent at best.



RAW 2: RUTHLESS AGGRESSION (XB)

Full Review: Raw 2: Ruthless Aggression (XB)

Chad Thomas
FINAL SCORE: 5.0
The bad outweighs the good, that’s for sure. There are a few features worth seeing but the game itself isn’t any fun. Keep your fingers crossed for Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain, because it’s our last hope. I bumped the score two full points for the things RAW 2 gets right, but a 50% is still failing in any classroom in the country.

Cory Laflin
FINAL SCORE: 7.0
An improvement over the original’s gameplay and graphics; and with an expanded, but ultimately confusing Season Mode. Even deeper character creation mode with custom soundtracks available make this the most immersive wrestling game yet. Still, wrestling game fans should rent first, then buy if they think they can look past the single-player foibles.



ESPN FOOTBALL 2K4 (XB, PS2)


411 GAME OF THE MONTH

Full Review: ESPN NFL Football (PS2)
Full Review: ESPN NFL Football (XB)

Cory Laflin
FINAL SCORE: 9.5 (XB)
The First Person gamble pays off big for Sega. Not only is it innovative, but it forced them to make the close up graphics and motion modeling exceptional compared to everything else out there. This game has all the normal modes you expect, an absolute winner with First Person, and a really fun unlockable environment with The Crib. Football fans who don’t already own Madden should buy. Those that do, should buy, although they might want to rent first, just to be safe.

Lee Baxley
FINAL SCORE: 9.0 (PS2)
I think it goes without saying at this point that this is the finest football game ever created. It looks, feels and plays like football from a television standpoint, as well as a realistic standpoint. The First Person Football and The Crib are two innovative ideas that were pulled off flawlessly, and you can bet that someone else is going to try to copy them. If you like football games, and you don’t own this one, then you’re missing out. If you haven’t played a football game in a while, then this is the perfect time to start again. You won’t regret it.

Alex Williams
FINAL SCORE: 8.0 (Multi)
Madden games have become SO boring and monotonous that it borders on insanity. Sega’s NFL2K series has been running right along side them them (and regularly surpassing them) for years, and no one has really taken notice of the competition. Well with 2K4’s reincarnation as ESPN NFL Football, I sincerely hope SOMEONE puts down Madden for it. The First-Person Mode is an amazing experience to behold, as it’s YOU who needs to make the tackle, find the hole, or avoid the sack. The Crib is a wonderful alternative to those STUPID cards. And playing online is a great feature for those who can support it. An excellent effort all around.



F-ZERO GX (GC)

Full Review: F-Zero GX (GC)

Alex Lucard
FINAL SCORE: 7.0
Decent game. Better than Average game. Good game. All of those apply pretty well to F-Zero GX. Great game though? Sorry. Look elsewhere. This is a great addition to the Gamecube library and a worthy purchase once it goes down from the 50 bones pricetag. But not until then. Find an AX cabinet and you can actually play in a mock up of the Blue Falcon. And use a steering wheel. And for much less than the 50$ tag.

Bebito Jackson
FINAL SCORE: 8.0
Behold the labor of love that comes from the mating of Sega and Nintendo. Absolutely the fastest, most stunningly beautiful racer I’ve ever played. And I HATE racing games outside of Sega Rally and Daytona. Is my Sega bias taking effect here? Perhaps. Or perhaps it just has to do with this game giving you the kind of rush that can only be duplicated by jumping off the Empire State Building using a martini umbrella. The solitary thing knocking this game down from true greatness is the interesting, yet frustratingly annoying point system that that’ll have you pissed as all get-out trying to allocate points between obtaining new vehicles and advancements in the story mode. (ONLY 20 POINTS FOR FIRST PLACE?? WTF?!) Other than that, recommended to buy.



Wrestlemania XIX (GC)

Full Review: Wrestlemania XIX (GC)

Chuck Platt
FINAL SCORE: 7.0
Before I start, let me say this, I think that Wrestlemania XIX is a great game to rent and kill the weekend with. It’s a can’t miss if you have friends over and some beers. If you, like me, prefer your wrestling game with some depth, however, than I recommend going elsewhere. Revenge mode is exceedingly gay, forcing you to do lame, non- wrestling related tasks over and over in order to earn money. That wouldn’t be a big deal if money wasn’t the be all and end all of create a wrestler mode. Unfortunately, it is. Be prepared to drop a few hours tweaking the appearance of your CAWs and getting down the nuances of their moveset only to have another couple hours ahead of you building up the cash necessary to have adequate stats. The absence of ANY sort of season mode, premade CAW parts, and the unusual movelist, which includes the Shining Wizard NO ONE in the WWE does but excludes the Shining Black which is in EVERY one of the Hurricane’s matches, makes it hard for me to recommend this game to anyone with serious CAW and storyline aspirations. Before you accuse me of some sort of puro bias, remember that while the pinnacle of wrestling games, for me, is Fire Pro Wrestling D, I consider No Mercy and Fire Pro Advance to be must buy games. The shallow and unrealistic matches, annoying CAW mode, heinous music (wait until you hear the crap quality for Hurricane’s voice sample at the beginning of his song. I thought my speaker was damaged.), and unforgivable Revenge mode make WM XIX a definite rental with a caution if you plan on buying.

Alex Lucard
FINAL SCORE: 6.5
Wrestlemania is supposed to be the granddaddy of them all. But the problem is, THQ and Yukes are showing their age as creators. With wrestling competition this side of the Atlantic, except for FPW on the GNA, wrestling games in general have become stale and humdrum. I applaud WMXIX for taking a chance and trying something new with Revenge Mode. EVERY video game company should take risks and try something innovative. But the downside to the risk-taking, is that sometimes, the risks end up sucking wang. Much like Revenge Mode. Yukes got it damn near perfect with Touken Retsuden 4. So why in the 4+ years since the game has been out, haven’t they been able to capture lighting in a bottle twice?

Alex Williams
FINAL SCORE: 7.0
Finally, a wrestling engine based on the No Mercy engine! Its like a dream come true! The only problem I see is the fact that the story mode has nothing to do with actual wrestling. You’re just beating up security guards in the hopes that they might bleed and fall unconscious, which is an impossible task. Hell, the No Mercy chapter storyline was done better than that! Still, for those who like doing a ton of exhibition matches with No Mercy controls, you’ll have a good time playing it. The graphics are nice and detailed, and pulling off moves is nice and easy. But why, oh why, do your opponents get still 17 super moves after you beat them to an inch of their loves!?



THE LAST SHOTS OF THE MONTH

Hope you enjoyed the first edition of the Ratings Drive-By. We’ll be back next time with all of our mini-views for the games of this month. But in the meantime, if you haven’t checked out our full reviews for these other games from September, browse on through and see if these things are worth your time and dollas:

GAMECUBE
Full Review: Freaky Flyers (GC)

XBOX
Full Review: NFL Fever 2004 (XB)
Full Review: Aliens Vs. Predator: Extinction (XB)

PLAYSTATION 2
Full Review: Starsky & Hutch (PS2)
Full Review: Downhill Domination (PS2)
Full Review: Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
Full Review: NCAA GameBreaker 2004 (PS2)

Peace. Until next month, you’ve just been the victim of a Drive-By”¦ (Oh god, I felt gay just typing that. :p )