STAFF REVIEW of NFL Fever 2004 (Xbox)

Tuesday, August 19, 2003.
by Queasy Buddy

NFL Fever 2004 Box art Just how big will online console gaming get? One of the indicators of it success is hinged on how well Microsoft?s XSN sport series does. The new XSN online capabilities, exclusive to the Xbox will raise the bar for all of its competitors. The ability to make leagues and challenges on the internet using a pc will surely spice up the Xbox live experience. The 2004 version of Microsoft?s football powerhouse will ultimately be known as the year that online console gaming finally caught up to the PC. But with so much emphasis placed on getting the Xbox live experience improved and launching the XSN on the right foot, the natural assumption would be that the single player game mode would take a step back.

Well let me tell you, after playing and managing my team in the dynasty mode for hours, Fever appears to be its normal self-improving self. Ultimately the new toy is going to be the improved online gaming. In the coming years it will be interesting to see to what extent this catches on with the general populous. Some of the new and improved features you will also notice in Fever, are the highly detailed player models that reflect the size and physiques of real NFL players and include variable accessories such as gloves, wristbands, face masks, taped fingers, mouthpieces and animated towels. Also improved is the way the Momentum-based motions provide some of the most realistic animation of any football video game to date. Also the commentary and crowd respond more intelligently to what's happening on the field. If gamers' home teams are playing well, the fans will let them know. Also in this years version of Fever you can take a franchise to super bowl glory with the new more in debt Dynasty mode.

The gameplay of NFL Fever 2004 doesn't really seem to play like an "ultra-realistic NFL experience" type of football game. There are some definite arcade elements to this game. One thing to always remember about NFL Fever 2004 is that this game is ALL about big plays. Long bombs to your speedy receivers, huge run offs by your franchise running backs, and wild plays in between will run off huge score totals on any of the skill levels. The controls of NFL Fever 2004 are nearly identical to any other football games for Xbox, including Madden and Sega's editions. Running the football, or taking control of a receiver with the ball is definitely the best part of the gameplay, as you are able to juke and jive your way around the opposition with remarkable precision. The Dynasty mode of the game is solid, but I have my beefs with it. For example, if you keep injuries turned on, you'll find a slew of unrealistic career-ending injuries. In the three separate seasons I ran through, my team always lost one player in the first season to a career ending injury. In fact in one year playing with the San Diego Chargers, I lost BOTH my quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Drew Brees for their careers to injury after only one season. So word to the wise, just turn injuries off, because the sim engine doesn't handle injuries well. Undoubtedly this 2004 edition is a huge upgrade over the 2003 edition. Improved gameplay and the best feature of all, XSN on-line gamplay, offer a very fun an competitive football experience. The sim engine is a bit out of wack (if you put the clock on 10 minute quarters you get scores of 71 to 30) and the warped torso effect gets on your nerves from now and then. Also When it comes to running the ball, Fever might be a little bit too hard. Even the biggest holes in the line get filled up quickly by streaking linebackers and linemen that slip off blocks at the perfect time.

The graphics of NFL Fever 2004 are at their most impressive during the taunts and replays. The replay graphics show off the power and muscle of the Xbox system. But, how important are replay graphics? Well, not THAT important, but definitely part of the overall equasion. The graphics during the in-game play are much improved over the 2003 edition, however, there still seems to be this "warped torso" effect with players - especially the larger sized players. All of the lineman in the game look like they have giant pot belly?s and it seems like they haven't seen a gym in their life ... hardly the truth in today's fitness driven NFL. If this warped torso effect were fixed, the graphics in the game would be very impressive. As it is the stadium models are very accurate (not perfect) but accurate, and the field graphics (end zone, 50-yard-line logos, etc) are very impressive. The motion-captured tackles and sacks are impressive and offer some "wow" factor during some big hits.

The most significant thing about the sounds of NFL Fever 2004 is the on-field chatter of the players. Microsoft has been able to really create a realistic auditory environment where you feel like you're in the trenches fighting for yardage. The commentators call the action quickly and with interesting comments and also offer mildly amusing play-by-play. But let?s say you have a good run at the end of a game, the commentators might yield comments like, "The defense has to find a way to stop that sooner or later," or "They need to make some adjustments. That is one thing Microsoft should work on, the timing of the comments said. But other than that, Fever 04?s sounds impressive.

If you're looking for a solid football game that offers fun arcade style NFL action, then NFL Fever 2004 is the game you should buy. Overall, this game and franchise is headed in the right direction, and is a fine title to add to your Xbox collection. Fever has earned their audience, and only time will tell what affect XSN Sports series may have. LOOK OUT; the boys are back in town? and they mean business.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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