PUBLISHER: Sega Sports
DEVELOPER: Visual Concepts
DATE RELEASED: 09/03/2003
Football videogames have been a big part of my life ever since 10 yard fight was on the NES back when i was first starting to experience the pleasures of videogaming. Im 29 years old and still gaming hard as ever and enjoying the present day's technology to the fullest while in pure gaming bliss with these next generation sports titles.
Sega has always had a nitch for football videogames, Joe Montana Sports Talk football just to name one is still embedded in my memory as one of the coolest football videogames for its day. With technology of the current next generation systems we have today brings more life and atmosphere to sports videogames more then ever.
Gameplay is where this game shines, its not only fun to play but very challenging at the same time. ESPN Football 2k4 was fine tuned this year and it shows. The passing game has been tweaked, no more unrealistc dropped passes like last years version, recievers will still drop balls but it will be because of a hard hit or because the pass was out of reach just a tad to much to make a clean catch.
The running game is fantastic, you'll need to take some time to get the controls down along with getting a hang of using the charge button but once you do you'll see that this game clearly has the running game down pat....its fun and very exciting to run the rock in this game. One thing i did notice was the cpu broke a bit too many tackles when they really shouldnt but if you take the correct angle during your attempted tackle the ball carrier will go down but still the breaking tackles is a bit off balance and unfair, adjusting sliders can take care of this some what.
The definsive AI has also been greatly improved, the cpu defensive players will adjust to offensive audibles as you call them on offense and double team your top notch recievers during certain situations which i thought was really nice. Defensive coverage seems really smart for this years game, they will team up and double cover a guy that has the ability to make a big play and you'll see the defensive players shift when you send a man in motion. Another nice thing is seeing recievers bump and run when a play starts, this gives the game a real nice feel to the real life game of NFL football and gives the recievers a real chance of getting open like in the real game of NFL football.
The offense and defense AI is smart and clever making the game very challenging but yet very enjoyable. I did see a few linebackers run out of their zones a bit to much during a few plays, not sure if its a glitch or their way of covering certain plays..either way over all the AI of the game is smart and challenging.
This year Visual Concepts brought in the ability to challenge plays, though still rough in some areas it is indeed a nice addition to their series. Madden's Challenge system seems more sophisticated then ESPN's play challenge system though but hopefully next year they can tweak this a bit more since most of the challenges are given away by the commentators comments before the refs even finish viewing the replays.
Franchise mode is stellar as always. There are a ton of off season and pre season tweaking that can be done with your team. Along with firing of coaches if your coach is doing a poor job of running your team..you can keep tabs on potential players coming up from the college ranks. There is a clever email system that informs you of off season and in season news along with comments and advice of up coming opponents and possible trade offers,etc.
There is also a cool new mode called Crib mode where basically you have a house where you can view your awards,trophy's,bobble heads, jerseys,etc and other things you've unlocked from breaking milestones in season and franchice mode. This extra feature brings more replay value to the game.
They also included a Training Mode which is nice and helps get use to the new features of this new ESPN title..it really helped me understand and get the feel of the new controls of the running and passing funtions.
The new first person mode is cool and is fun to mess around with but its not polished enough to make it good enough to use through out a season. It needs alot of tweaking before it can be used for franchise mode or season mode. To me its more of a novelty then a mode, its fun to play with but your view of the field is way to small to be of any real use.
Online play is pretty much the same as last year with some fixes that were added to stop cheaters from pausing,etc during matches to avoid a loss on their record. Everything runs super smooth on Live because of the broadband only that is required by xbox live.
Sega and Visual Concepts have been bringing us the NFL 2k series for a few years now first starting on the dreamcast. Each year they seem to improve the game enough to warrant the $50 dollar price tag. Not only do they give you a good amount of improvments each year but they seem to reach a new level of realism year in and year out. Sega bought the ESPN license and this was the best thing they could of ever done. Not only does the newly renamed ESPN NFL Football 2k4 from sega bring a ESPN style presentation but the atmosphere of this game is second to none...all in ESPN glory.
ESPN is written all over this game and this a good thing. This game really makes you feel like your watching a real NFL football game on ESPN by its sweet presentation. From the second you boot up the game to the time you turn off the game ESPN is plastered all over this stellar title and they do a nice job of representing their new ESPN license.
Menu's are top notch and mimic the real thing from the ESPN tv station. Chris Bermanís Pre game & halftime show flows with realism to bring this game to a whole new level and adding much flavor to this already polished game.
Graphics.....Wow!, if someone were to ask me about the game's in-game graphics i would answer with one word "wow!". This game is spectacular in the visual department and the player models are the best ever in a football videogame hands down, it makes Madden 2004's graphics feel like a 4 year old game. Sega took the time to tweak the xbox version and add some bump mapped textures to the players and this really brings the realism of the players to life. Not only that but the lighting in the game is fantastic and very convincing. Stadiums are all well rendered and look great. Sideline players and people are all over the place making you feel your not alone but rather in a real NFL game with people all around intrested in the game thats being played.
The afternoon games draw shadows on the players and field like no other football videogame, with the sun half way down the lighting just feels so life like. Dome stadium lighting is no slouch neither, the glar from the lights on the players and helmets look so good you could mistake this videogame for the real thing on tv.
The animations are amazing as well. Very very fluid animations and tons of diffrent animations through out the game. Lots of gang tackle animations and end zone celebration animations are very sweet looking and hype up the game and make this game look as life like as a real NFL game on a sunday afternoon.
The crowds are still sprite based but when you make a huge play for your team the camera will zoom up close to the fans in the stands. Everything comes to life with fans having their shirts off and painted letters on their beer belly's and fans cheering with excitment because you just scored a TD.
Another cool feature is the sideline cut scenes, when you score a TD or make a big play the game will zoom in to the side lines and show your teamates and coaches cheerng and getting excited. Same goes for bad plays, the camera will zoom in the stands and side lines when you make a bad play and show the fans and players in a dissapointed manner because of the bad play.
Finally and i say finally a football videogame has a special pre game show for the superbowl. If you make it to the superbowl the start of the game starts off with your players running out onto the field through smoke and the huge balloon helmets. Huge ballon players are on the field for the pre game show along with the National Athem playing while the players stand in line during the athem. I wish there was even more of this but i cant complain as Sega Sports is the first to do this with such style. Next year i hope they give some more atmosphere to the playoffs as well and not just the superbowl..after all the playoffs are the heart and soul of NFL Football.
The sound in ESPN NFL 2k4 is still the king. The commentary is astounding and very very impressive. You dont year many repeats and the commentary just flows with the game so well, nothing comes close to ESPN NFL 2k4's commentary. As you run a play you can hear the players grunt and make very convincing sounds as they bang and bash one another. You will hear defensive players talk trash right before the snap bringing the hype into the game. There is absolutly nothing wrong with the sound in this game, infact i'd have to say its the best in any sports game to date.
As a long time Madden die-hard i must admit i've been taken over to the Sega side of football this year. There is just to many improvements for me to keep sticking with madden any more.
Sega and Visual Concepts did an amazing job of recreating the feel of real NFL football this year and took football videogaming to a whole new level. Alot of football gamers are still under the evil spell EAsports Madden and its a shame because they refuse to give ESPN NFL 2k4 a try. To each is own but i know one thing...there is a new football videogame king in town and it goes by the name of ESPN Football 2k4.
- Gameplay is fun and exciting and feels well polished
- Graphics are the best ever produced in a football videogame
- Presentation is stellar, no other sports game comes close
- Breaking tackles is a bit to frequent
- Play Challenge system is rough and unpolished
- First Person Mode is more of a novelty then a mode
Score: 9.2 out of 10
Review done by TGD
Edited by TGD, 18 October 2003 - 12:36 PM.