Review: ESPN NFL 2005 (XB)

Review: ESPN NFL 2005 (XB)
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 7/20/04
Genre: Sports — Football
Systems: Microsoft Xbox — Sony Playstation 2
MSRP: $19.99

Never should the “MSRP” in the above line be emphasized more than it needs to be for ESPN NFL 2005. For a penny under 20 bucks, you get the most complete NFL football experience to date, up-to-date rosters, and online play action in the month of JULY. Sure, it helps that your top competitor waxed the floor with you last season, but Sega might be on to something, beating Madden out of the gate this year with the best valued football — or any game — of all time.

Gameplay

The general feel of the in-game action is similar to the NFL 2K series that is now entering its sixth season, and that by all means isn’t a bad thing. The default pro setting is pretty simple for the seasoned 2K gamer, with a fairly simple running game and an improved passing game that finally allows for the long ball completions that were eating at 2K fanatics for previous seasons. Fortunately, gameplay sliders are completely customizable, so finding the right level for you can be found with a few drags in the options section.

The most unique new gameplay feature is the “VIP” option. Likely inspired by the EA Sports BIO that was introduced last year, the VIP takes tracking one step farther. After several games under your VIP, it tracks every single tendency you can imagine. Your formations, run/pass tendencies, even the default guy you tend to go to on defense, all tracked and logged. Now here’s where it gets interesting, you can save ghost “VIPs” of yourself and trade them with your friends. Go into a quick play mode and play your friend’s VIP — even if he or she isn’t there. You get to scout and play your friend offline while at the same time your friend can do the same, then when you play each other — well let’s just say the competition will be taken up a notch.

Everything else you’d come to expect is here, situation modes, classic situations, franchise, quick play, and pretty much everything you would expect — but did I mention you get it all for 20 bucks? The only possible complaint would be that after six seasons, the similar style may start to wear thin as far as the in-game action.

Score: 8.0

Graphics

One word: Unbelievable! If you played last year’s version, you know that Visual Concepts when heavy on improving the visuals last year and took the ESPN presentation to a whole new level. This year they added even more ESPN flavor, and improved player models even more. Watching replays can be simply hypnotizing, and quite frankly I don’t need to delve any further, it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful games ever created — and 20 bucks!

Score: 10.0

Sound

If you want to drop the Madden vs. 2K card (which I managed to make it to the 3rd category without mentioning, thank you very much), it is highly likely this is the category in which Madden will dominate. No recognizable music, typical bland commentary, and the now overdone player taunts don’t add much excitement to the game. The saving innovative grace are the halftime and sideline reports from Chris Berman and Suzy Kolber. Very little stuttering and an impressive mix of complete sentences that mix player names with what happened on the field, which come off very smooth and realistic.

There is an ability to add your ripped music in the Xbox version, so if you put yourself to work, you can add some flavor to an otherwise weak soundtrack.

Sound: 6.0

Control

The only new control feature to talk about is the right thumbstick, which can now be used to duck your QB out of the pocket and avoid a sack. Everything else is what you’d come to expect from any modern football game. While there is nothing new, there’s nothing really to complain about either, and in fact any new innovations could likely frustrate the diehard gamers that Sega likely has at this point.

Control: 7.5

Replayability

Xbox Live league play is here, the VIP feature allows you to play your friends both on and offline, and even if they’re not in the room next to you and you’re OFFLINE. Extremely deep franchise mode allows you to control everything. And for 20 dollars, the fine folks at Sega are being way too generous here.

Replayability: 10.0

Balance

Pretty much everything I’ve already mentioned, you can play it offline, online, against a friend, on your own, customize the sliders, a complete football game experience. Simply put, what more can you really ask for in a sports game?
Balance: 9.0

Appeal

Of course, the big question to all football gamers is: Madden or ESPN? The simple solution: Buy them both if you must, but definitely pick up ESPN for the price tag. I’ve had late fees more expensive than this game, and I also plan on buying Madden 2005 as well. Two superior football games for $70-80 (80 if you buy the Collector’s Edition of Madden on PS2), for most fans, it’s a price worth playing. Get ESPN now and come mid-August, get Madden if you feel you the need.

Appeal: 8.0