ESPN Football 2K4 - NTSC
Developer: Visual Concepts
Released: September 2, 2003
ESRB Rating: E
ESPN Football 2K4 represents a growing trend in the gaming industry, a trend which is slowly blurring the line between real-life sports, and virtual sports. The 'ESPN' brand now attached to Sega's 2K series has added stunning visual and audio presentation to an already stellar series of games. This year's iteration comes with a few notable enhancements like First Person Football and The Crib.
First Person Football [10/10]
I can't say I bought this game because of First Person Football. Nor can I say that I'll keep this game for First Person Football, but I will say that First Person Football is an excellent idea that was well executed by the team at Visual Concepts. Playing defense in this mode puts your in game camera in the helmet of any player on your team. Playing offense in this mode puts the camera in the helmet of which ever player is touching the ball. This perspective lets you feel the frustration, struggle, and ultimately, the glory of actually playing any given position in the National Football League. The controls remain intact, and with the addition of a head swivel control, you can easily see most of what's going on around you. Color coded warning arrows appear on screen to indicate the position of a potential tackler, and things go into a really cool 'Matrix' slow motion effect when the action gets intense.
Player Models [10/10]
NFL players are, in general, big guys. This point comes across well in ESPN Football 2K4. The player's bodies, uniforms, and faces all match very well with their real-life counter parts. One of the most impressive aspects of this years' game is the addition of Gang-tackling. With the addition of this subtle feature it is now less likely that a ball carrier will break away for a long gain. The added touch of realism also makes it more difficult to tell this difference between this game and an actual NFL broadcast.
The ESPN license included not only Chris Berman doing the Pre, Mid, and Post game analysis, but a stunning visual presentation as well. The camera angle is perfect, allowing full view of everything important. There's a fully 3D modeled 'Crib'' where a player experiences all the goodies unlocked by accomplishing different goals. Inside your 'Crib' there are different rooms. One room in particular is home to a few mini-games and a custom juke-box. Yeah, a custom juke box. You can set-up a custom play list consisting of tracks stored on your Xbox hard drive and tracks from classic Sega games. There's even a fully 3D modeled version of the ESPN studio. Nice.
Game-play Offline [10/10]
The offline game play is awesome. Coupled with the ESPN presentation the classic NFL 2K game-play could only get better. The play calling interface has changed to the traditional three-box scheme, and the game is no worse for it. The controls are as tight and intuitive as ever, and now, after years of complaining, the developers have given us separate 'intercept' and 'bat ball' buttons on defense.
Game-play Xbox Live [6/10]
For some reason, some genius at Visual Concepts decided to change the game-play aspects of ESPN Football 2K4 when the game is played online. Most players agree on the following: It's too hard to tackle; it's too easy to break tackles. Even on the difficulty of Legendary, an average running-back can break three to four solid tackles. Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes, Marshal Faulk? Don't even think about tackling any of these guys unless you have your entire defense ready to dog-pile them. The huge advantage given to the offense online can, thankfully, be offset by adjusting the game difficulty sliders. All the requisite Xbox Live! stuff is here. Downloadable rosters, voice-chat, you know, the good stuff. Unfortunately, the updated rosters can't be used on Live!.
Overall (not an average) [9.5/10]
Innovative features, stunning presentation, awesome graphics, and, your own crib to store all your goodies. Not even a dodgy Live! experience can drag this incredible game down. Madden fan? Give it up do0d. 2K has it locked.
ESPN Football 2K4 - Kiden Approved