This is Microsoft's third attempt at producing and developing their NFL Fever franchise for the Xbox. Sadly, they aren't that far from their first NFL Fever Xbox game, NFL Fever 2002. Each year, NFL Fever gives up more ground to the other two other Xbox football franchises, Madden and ESPN NFL Football formerly known as Sega Sports NFL Football. Has the addition of the XSN Sports feature help make up ground from the past few years?
Graphically, Fever is right on the heels of Madden and ESPN. The weather effects could use some work. The footprints left during the rain just seem planted there. NFL Fever 2004 is not the best flowing game. Some of the animations don't flow and seem to affect how the game flows. Overall, nothing major to complain or gloat about here.
The football sound effects are great. All the grunts and hits can be heard. The crowd noises flow right with the game. Some teams even have their own crowd chants. As far as the play-by-play, like with most sports games, it gets a bit repetitive, and sometimes Colabro and Pitts seem as if they were reading from a script and turning the page between reading a player's full name and the commentary.
Interface/Options : 80
Microsoft seem to bet the XSN Sports feature would entice a lot of football gamers to pick up the title. XSN works with Xbox Live. XSN allows gamers to setup leagues and tournaments while keeping track of team stats. On the XSN website, users are able to post messages while the commish' is able to edit league and tournament settings. This is a really neat feature only if you enjoy playing NFL Fever 2004.
Other game modes include the usual practice, dynasty, single game and online play via Xbox Live. The practice mode really comes in handy when you are trying to get the timing down using the Read-and-Lead passing option. The training camp feature also helps you get use to executing your offense. The other features here are pretty similar to last year's NFL Fever game.
Gameplay : 70
The overall gameplay feels almost unchanged from the previous NFL Fever games. The AI is decent in making logical choices in choices of plays in different situations. There are no team specific playbooks. This can lead to teams playing similar styles of football.
The Read-and-Lead feature is another feature that was heavily marketed by Microsoft. This feature allows you to have total control of how you want to deliver the ball to your receivers. The Read-and-Lead works by moving a target to a position on the field and then holding down the trigger button, which determines the velocity and trajectory of the ball. This feature takes some time to get used to and master, but once you have it down, it feels very rewarding to complete passes, such as when you intentionally under throw and your receiver comes back and makes the catch. Have no fear; if the Read-and-Lead isn't your cup of tea, there is still a trigger, and the traditional one-button passing mode.
One particular feature I enjoyed was the ability to tell my defensive players prior to the snap to cheat to a particular side in anticipation of a run or pass. This can lead to big plays both offensively and defensively if you decide to cheat toward a run up the middle while the offense goes for a long pass down the field.
NFL Fever 2004 allows even just the novice gamer to just pick up a controller and start playing without having to know which formation and play mean what. The game allows you to pick plays by distance, such as short, medium or long yardage.
Well, seems like good so far right? There are a few gameplay issues that hinder the enjoyment. There were a number of times where my receivers dropped wide-open passes. The DB AI was supped up this year and dropping wide-open passes isn't necessary. Throwing passes over 15 yards results in the ball sometimes just floating. Most of the time, the DB will jump straight up and knock it down to the ground.
Overall : 75
The NFL Fever franchise started from their own 20-yard line while EA and SEGA were already near midfield when NFL Fever 2002 was released. Unfortunately, even with NFL Fever 2004, the franchise still hasn't reached midfield.
Bottom line, the longevity of NFL Fever 2004 is a bit difficult to judge. If you enjoy the type of gameplay from the past NFL Fever games, in combination with Xbox Live and XSN Sports, this game could keep you playing throughout the football season. On the other hand, all that other stuff means nothing if you don't have a taste for NFL Fever-style gameplay.