While SEGA has continued to make many solid sports games every year, we should all be honest: EA has been killing them in sales and popularity. The ESPN license was added a few years back to gain ground, but the drop in price to $20 this year has helped draw in new gamers to the series. ESPN NFL 2K5 has improved in many ways from last year, and its flaws do not stop this game from being great overall.
ESPN NFL 2005 Screens(13)
The graphics in ESPN NFL 2K5 are great in-game. Player models resemble their real-life counterparts amazingly. The player textures look smooth with no jaggies, the helmets shine, and the jerseys have wrinkles. The graphics for ESPN personalities, however, are bland and ugly. Not much attention was given to them.
ESPN personalities are added in the game to further the realism. Chris Berman adds his usual flair as he does the pre-game, halftime, and post-game shows. Suzie Kolber talks after the halftime show about one of the coach's comments on his team's performance. Kolber also talks to the player of the game, which tends to be boring because the same things are said over and over. When a franchise is started with a team, Trey Wingo and Mel Kiper Jr. come on and talk about things going on in the league and about the draft. Presentation is one area that Madden is definitely behind when compared to ESPN NFL 2K5.
The announcing continues to be solid, but not much, if anything, has been improved. They provide great analysis when needed. The color analyst repeats things over and over that are so annoying. He does not repeat things that are easy to forget, only the things that are so noticeable that you want to hit mute and forget that he ever existed. ESPN NFL cannot stay stagnant in any area if it wants to compete better against Madden.
The presentation has been stepped up from last year's version, as the ESPN license was not used enough before. One of the reasons this license was obtained was to make the game feel like it was being broadcast on TV. The introduction will get you pumped up for the game, though it is too short and does not go into enough details. The announcers will just talk about one player from each team. Other nice touches to the game include ESPN on-screen graphics that show informative facts.
The audio did not receive many changes; just tweaks where they were needed. More realism was added to sounds that you would hear at the game, like player tackles. Dolby 5.1 helps add to that realism. The only big addition was the ability to play soundtracks in-game. Music on your hard drive can be played whenever you do things like get a first down. I understand that the audio was solid last year, but why were not more additions made?
Interface/Options : 85
The selection of modes to choose from was a mixed bag. Franchise mode and online play have become more addicting, and ESPN 25th Anniversary lets you revisit great moments in the NFL. Celebrity challenges are annoying and boring. First Person Football and Practice/Situation hardly improved.
Franchise mode is what most gamers will be playing. There are a few ways to prepare your team. Scouting can be done to see how your team stacks up against your upcoming opponent and what areas you need to improve upon. Weekly Preparation allows gamers to improve their players with things like watching film, lifting weights, doing aerobics, and other various tasks. Things like intensity and when players should do these workouts can all be planned out. Weekly Preparation is not a joke; based on how you prepare, your players can have their skills change accordingly. For all you casual gamers, training can be turned off before the Franchise is started.
Franchise mode is the only way to play a season. It is not like you have to do all the trades, signings, and workout schedules. They can be turned off. If you want to play a season, just go into Franchise mode and quit after one season. It is odd that the Season mode was not available to begin with, but it's not too much of a problem to start one up.
The other standard modes that are also included in the game include Practice/Situation and Tournament. Practice/Situation modes come with what you would expect: being able to practice with special moves, full team scrimmage, offense only, and kickoff. Tournament mode allows you to set up brackets and either play the computer or your friends to find out who sucks the least.
Not many changes have been made to the Crib. Now it has two stories to fill with goodies you win. This year's version includes items bought by points. These points are earned in the game based on statistics. The downstairs area is filled with things you buy with points, like bobble head dolls, big-screen TVs, and posters. The upstairs has trophies won by doing accomplishments, like not throwing an interception in a game.
Gameplay : 91
One of the best things about this series is the gameplay. Additions to the gameplay include Maximum Tackle, which lets you decide between regular and hard tackles. The right analog stick can be used to make your quarterback evade oncoming sackers.
Some problems existed last year that led to many gamers throwing their controllers in disgust. Way too many passes were being dropped for no reason, but this happens much less frequently now. The running game in ESPN NFL 2K4 was great when gamers were on offense since they could get tons of yardage, but maddening when facing it on defense. While many games will still have running backs going for 100-plus yards a game, it is much harder to do this time around. Thankfully these problems have been fixed.
The VIP system is a unique take on profiles. The VIP basically takes an insane amount of stats about how you play. Hot routes, audibles, how you run with the running back; it's all there. These stats told me what I had long suspected: I blow on 3rd down conversions. VIPs can be downloaded so that you can figure out your opponents' tendencies before you play them in Season or Tournament mode online. It's interesting when you play your own VIP, because it plays very similar to your tendencies. VIPs should not be forgotten as they can give you a big boost in improving your game. What puzzles me is why there are not as many stats on downloaded VIPs compared to the ones not downloaded. It makes the files easier to download, but Xbox Live uses a broadband connection. That should not have been a problem.
The problem with this year's game is that it feels too much like last year's game. Die-hards of the series that play this game for the first few hours may wonder why they even bought this game if it plays so much like its predecessor. There were not many changes needed to begin with, but ESPN NFL Football has to keep up with Madden by continually improving gameplay. This is one of the signs that the game came out to early, but many of the new gamers to the series will not know this.
First Person Football lets gamers play through the eyes of a football player. Not much has changed in this year's incarnation. Gameplay remains similar to last year; the only real changes are being able to hit the either clear button to get a third-person view of the field before the ball snap and a slightly better camera. Many gamers will not play this innovative mode because it is so hard to get used to. Gamers are so used to playing from a third-person perspective that it feels awkward to play in any other way. With a few more changes, this mode could have drawn in more gamers.
Online mode had a few nice additions. Tournaments let gamers compete to see who the winner will be with a minimum of four competitors. In Season mode, online gamers choose a team and compete in a full 17- week season schedule. Stats from leagues and tournaments can be viewed online in Web sites that actually look like ESPN's Web site. Online play seems to be smoother overall, but it all depends on the connection. ESPN Messaging has also been added to let gamers send messages between each other.
The ESPN 25th Anniversary provides an interesting feature that has been seen in a few other sports games. The games that were either the best or had the most controversy in the past 25 years were chosen. Depending on the game, players will either have to recreate what happened, try to win the game their own way, or make the loser win. Memorable games include the Heidi Bowl and everyone's favorite Fourth and 26-playoff game. One thing I did not like about this was that the announcers treated the games without any change in voice. In the Super Bowl game where Eddie George was a yard too short in the end zone, it sounded like it was a regular season game, not the potential winning play of the game. In next year's addition, it would be awesome to have the best games selected for each team. They may not have a game for my Lions, but maybe they could use their only playoff win since the NFL formed. Overall it was fun to play some of the best moments in NFL history.
To target mainstream gamers, ESPN came up with celebrity challenges. Basically all you do is play against a celebrity who has a dream team of all-stars. Celebrities include Carmen Electra and Jamie Kennedy. Each celebrity has certain tendencies, like whether they play conservative or always go on fourth down. You get prizes for beating them. This mode should only be played when you have nothing else to do. As Jamie Kennedy was giving me a complete beat-down, it was amazing how annoying he was. After almost every play his picture would pop up and he would say something stupid. You would think that a comedian from TV would actually be funny, but then again he is on the WB. If this feature is brought back next year, I hope that they get better celebrities to play against, like athletes or better actors and actresses. Their dialogue needs improvement too. This feature would definitely warrant playing if those changes were made.
Replay Value : 94
Many new additions to the game give ESPN NFL 2K5 great replay value.
Gamers that like to micromanage teams will enjoy the control they get in
Franchise mode. First Person Football is a unique mode that brings in hours
of gaming if you can actually get use to playing through the eyes of an NFL
player. Though certain modes have not been improved much, such as practice
mode and the Crib, this game will still hold your attention for many months.
Overall : 92
ESPN NFL 2K5 is a awesome deal for $20. Though many areas have not improved, so many others have. The additions of the VIP, online seasons and tournaments, and weekly schedules make this game hard to pass up.