NFL Fever 2004
With football franchises like EA Sports Madden and Sega's newly named ESPN NFL Football putting out high quality titles year after year, breaking into this arena can be more difficult then trying to get around a 300 pound lineman. Even more challenging would be pushing that lineman back and sacking the quarterback, which Microsoft is far from achieving. They have however, patched up a number of problems associated with previous gameplay and delivered a solid game that can compete against the bigger titles, but unfortunately, doesn't have the polish needed to overtake them.
When Microsoft released their NFL Fever series three years ago, they needed to distinguish themselves from the titles that have spent years refining their gameplay and working out bugs. Unfortunately, Fever had a number of bugs of it's own to work out and was only able to stand out with the online capabilities introduced last year. This year however, the gameplay issues/annoyances have been reduced significantly and make it a more appealing option especially for those who use Live! online features.
The main complaints for NFL Fever 2004's gameplay have been reduced to nitpicking with few noticeable problems. Even play selection has been improved with recommended plays from the coach offered in addition to the other numerous plays offered. Other more standard options are also included, like the ability to see the play overtop of the actual field before the play starts, solid control over the players, and an AI that actually attempts to run the play selected.
In addition, the graphics have been improved with added animations that give a more realistic experience. Although not quite the quality of Madden 2004 or ESPN NFL Football, there will be few complaints, as the players look great and fluid on the field. The audio also performs well with hard-hitting effects, creating a rounded football experience.
Where NFL Fever 2004 overtakes the competition is with its online capability. XBox Live! clearly gives Microsoft a huge benefit for those who enjoy online gaming and takes full advantage of it here. As expected, the multiplayer online games play almost seamlessly with minimal lagging. Games are easily created and joined with plenty of players already online to always have a variety of opponents to choose from. In addition, tracking of stats and tournament scores can be followed using the PC, so players can have constant access.
Although behind the more established football games as far as gameplay and even graphics, NFL Fever 2004 does close the gap this year. What puts it into contention is the online capabilities that adds a step up over anything else available. If you aren't going to take advantage of the online functions, Madden 2004 or ESPN NFL Football will offer more solid games but NFL Fever 2004 is the hands-down winner if you plan to play online.
Download NFL Fever 2004
Fever has somewhat recovered from its disappointing sophomore season. It feels less arcadey, and the birth of xsnsports.com (where players can create leagues and tournaments) is an online gamer's dream. But when you're up against ESPN and Madden, you've really got to sweat the details--and that's where Fever fails. Problems plague the player models, the camera is too high, the Dynasty mode is still shallow, and Fever's announcers make Madden's demented ramblings sound smart. A stronger showing, but I'm calling for another year of practice.
While Fever does plenty right, it has its problems. The graphics fail to impress (by Xbox standards), and the overly tough kicking game needs improvement (it's not realistic to routinely miss extra-point attempts). Overall, fever gives a fine showing, but it's just not memorable enough to draw you away from the fierce competition.
Fever certainly looks nice, and I'm a big fan of the coaches' audible interaction (they offer useful scouting advice). Actual game-play, however, leaves much to be desired, with less-than-intuitive playcalling and dull atmosphere only making things worse. Choose this over Madden only if the xsnsports stuff excites you.
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