Microsoft
Microsoft
Sports
1-4
08.26.03

NFL Fever 2004


Xbox Live enthusiasts rejoice! Microsoft has added a brand new gimmick to this year's Fever!

Microsoft has been dedicated to delivering a sub-par Xbox only football game every year ever since the Xboxís November 2001 launch. In 2002, NFL Fever 2003 was released and the result was basically NFL Fever 2002 with Xbox Live play. This year the guys behind Fever are at it again with 2004, and while this iteration is significantly better in some areas, it is still the same basic game except now it has a new feature dubbed XSN Sports. XSN Sports as many of you know stands for Xbox Sports Network. The purpose of this network is to allow players to sign-up at the official website of XSN, make a team along with team members and then go onto their Xbox, put in the information they put in on the website and compete against other teams in tournaments. Upon doing this they can then see their teamís ranking at the XSN Sports site. It is a nice addition to the game and it is a simple inventive idea that many other publishers (like Sega) will probably follow for their games.

Gameplay

Fever 2004 offers all the modes you would expect to be there including Dynasty (with fantasy football as well), Practice Mode, Xbox Live play, System Link play, multi-controller play, and General Manager. Xbox Live play isnít quite fun as you would imagine as there are normally very few people playing the game (or at least when I play), and for some strange reason when I would try and play online all the people I would play against would be as clueless as to why the computer players would do this, or they would do that. Veterans of the game will probably have most of their fun in Live though because when there is someone to play against they can talk lots of trash and add a new depth to the game. Those of you wanting more of a competition should also sign-up for XSN Sports. The A.I. teammates on your team, or the other opponents team for that matter varies from being completely impossible to complete a pass to the receiver because they have the uncanny ability to block the ball no matter how damn high it is, to your team member receives the ball and makes a mad dash for the touchdown with no interference.

The players themselves may move very sluggish at times, and it is hard to tell if this is intentional or if the gameís framerate is slowing down. What ever the problem truly is, it slows the gameplay down to a boring crawl at times. The game is fairly easy to comprehend, but doing the training courses first would be best so you understand all the control modes and features. Besides that, it is fairly fun. Something you will learn is when the quarterback throws the ball you select who you want to throw it to with Y, B, X, A, or the black button. Then with the right analog stick you move a cursor to somewhere on the field aiming there assuming that is the path of the receiver than snap it with the R trigger. This tediously long way of throwing the ball isnít for everyone though, and should probably only be done by veterans of the game. Then there is the way of playing like the rest of us where all you have to do is push a button to the corresponding receiver. On the defense end of the game, it isnít very complicated and for the most part the computer teammates will defend the ball well unless you yourself screw up in some way. This can make it very, very hard to score and seem unrealistic though because the opposing team may only gain one or two yards at a time.

Graphics

Graphically Fever 2004 is a mixed bag, it hasnít changed much from 2003 and I would argue that this is pretty bad. The teammates weight and size are either on the big or small side of the weight spectrum. They are never in between. The players animations can be very clunky at times, and act more like sumo wrestlers than they do lightning fast football players like they would in Madden or Segaís football games. The detail on the models themselves arenít bad, but you would expect more for an Xbox exclusive game. The players are adequately animated, but can be jerky at times which can actually effect the gameplay. The playerís faces look fairly realistic but they range from looking nothing like their real counterparts to looking like them completely. In most instances the players faces will even look the same; just with different tints of colors. The stadiums are fair looking, just not as detailed as they could be. The crowds donít move or anything and the overall feel of the stadiums is that it is completely boring.

Sound

The sound is the gameís best feature. The sound options are almost limitless and you can tune down whatever you please, or crank up whatever you please. The sound can truly be appreciated if you have a pretty good sound system, but using just TV speakers doesnít seem as grand since you canít use the Dolby sound. The crunches and grinds of the players, the roar and taunting of the crowds, the thunderous brass music, if you close your eyes you may start to believe you are actually there! The announcers do a pretty good job, almost as good as any other football game, but they might repeat themselves or get annoying at times. Between plays the coach will also give you advice on what to do which is always helpful. The game also has a option for custom soundtracks, but you really donít need them because you can only listen to your custom tracks on the options and menu screen.

Bottom Line:

NFL Fever 2004 isnít for everyone, and I would really only suggest you to buy the game if you are a Xbox Live enthusiast or you are curious about the XSN Sports features. Otherwise save your fifty bucks for Madden or Segaís ESPN Football.

-John "JohnXE" Olin




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