ESPN NFL Football
Sega's football franchise trained its guts out this off-season. I welcome the new Madden-esque playcalling menu and the healthy injection of ESPN telecast elements into the game's presentation. Yet, even with these changes and enhanced running game, ESPN NFL Football remains second-string behind Madderr, its Franchise options don't stack up to Johnny boy's title. And while I applaud the attempt at first-person football, this so-called revolutionary feature is disorienting, not to mention boring, when you play any other position than quarterback.
There's a lot to like about this game: Solid controls, the ESPN presentation, the cool fan close-ups, and the good (but repetitive) announcers. The first-person mode, however, is a beautiful-looking disaster. Manually swinging your view around or anticipating a blitz proves far too hard. Gimmick aside, the heart of this game delivers.
Sega's ESPN is packed with goodness--most notably the ultraslick ESPN presentation, awesome eight-players-at-once online play, and snappy commentary. However, the unforgiving running game takes a lot of getting used to if you usually play Madden. Still, a solid pigskin offering.
Download ESPN NFL Football
In the world of football games there is Madden and there is everything else. While Sega's latest NFL2K game, ESPN NFL, doesn't disprove that adage it certainly tries, and in many ways, nearly succeeds.
This latest Sega football game builds on the strong and agile controls of the 2K series but manages to enhance some of the gameplay balance issues that plagued last year's version and throws in a couple of neat new features to boot.
You can, pardon the pun, tackle ESPN in several different gameplay modes from quick pick-up games to practice, season, franchise, season, tournament or even multiplay.
One of the interesting aspects of this latest Sega football game is that it allows you to play the game in a first-person perspective, an equally daunting and thrilling mode that is handled surprisingly well. Basically you are looking out of the helmet from kick-off to touchdown. Besides the graphics change and some minor control differences the major change for first person is a threat indicator that flashes arrows to show you where potential tackles are coming from. Without the indicator first-person would be over in a painful second. The mode also allows for slow downs to help figure out where to pass and the like. Although first-person sounds gimmicky, Sega's skillful handling of the mode makes it a genuine addition to the game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the franchise, which has you playing multiple seasons as you try to build a better team. In this mode, you'll have to do everything from scouting and signing new players to checking out the competition.
The game's other major new edition is The Crib, a much ballyhooed, but truly gimmicky virtual apartment that does little to add to the game. Basically, The Crib is a new way to package all of the add-ons and unlockables into one room. The Crib is basically a player's home where you can check out top scores, play trivia or listen to music. You can also redecorate the place with unlockables' that's right' this game allows you to be a pro linebacker and a interior designer. Think of it as Feng Shui meets Hail Mary. Yes, it's as bad as all that.
Gimmicks aside, ESPN NFL is a superb football game. The graphics and level of realism are just unbelievable, although the Xbox version is a hair better and framerates seem a tad smoother. In general though, both versions of the game features gameplay that is smooth, natural looking and just plain out fun. Passing has been tweaked to include something called Maximum Passing, which allows you to have more control over where exactly the ball is thrown, not just to whom. Online play is just about lagless, allowing up to four players to duke it out on the gridiron.
All said, ESPN NFL Football proves that there are still plenty of contenders for the title of 'best'? football game. Look out Madden, someone might be landing a dive tackle next year.
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