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Visual Concepts



E (Everyone)



Q3 2003



- Groundbreaking commentary
- Sleek ESPN presentation
- Impressive player faces and player bodies
- E-mail system is a great addition
- Gameplay is far better then 2K series



- Tackles are broken one too many times
- Franchise mode not as complete as it should be
- Crowd animations need to be better
- Statistics are a bit off



Review: Madden NFL 2003 (XB)

Review: Madden NFL 2004 (XB)

Review: NFL Fever 2003 (XB)



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ESPN NFL Football

Score: 9.0 / 10


espn nfl football xbox review           espn nfl football xbox review


All competing football video game franchises -- with the exception of Blitz -- have released their titles for this football season (as of this writing), and we’ve seen some rather unexpected surprises.

In the previous years of the 2K franchise (now the ESPN NFL franchise) repetitious bugs and gameplay problems held the success of the franchise to a minimum. Thanks to the gradual gain of experience, a handful of sleek new additions, and ESPN, this is the best of the 2K games yet.

The most profound enhancement from the previous 2K games can be found simply by reading the title. Ever since Sega brought ESPN on board a couple of years ago, all of the 2K games received more attention because of the worldwide popularity of




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ESPN. Now, ESPN has taken over everything. The title has been changed and the game itself has received a massive facelift to compete with Madden 2004 as the best football game. In retrospect, the 2K series was the third string quarterback. Madden was always the all-star, pro-bowler, MVP winning…you get the picture. Despite the numerous qualities Madden holds, the 2K series sold millions of


copies as well, due to its high fun factor. While Madden concentrated on the realism of football, Sega concentrated on the more pleasurable aspects.

ESPN NFL Football has particularly impressive graphics. Though the players’ faces look somewhat awkward on the field, recognizing the more popular players without their helmets on is easy. The actual player movement is, in my opinion, outrageously silly. On kick returns or any other type of long run, the leg movement of players is absolutely dismal. The legs were created much wider then any real players run. But then again, Sega isn’t appealing to football sim fanatics.

The stadiums look marvelous, and include all the new stadiums such as the Eagles’ new Lincoln Financial Field. The fans within the stadium, on the other hand, don’t blend well with the amount of detail of the stadium. Up close on fan cut scenes, the fans are animated to an extent never before seen. These cut scenes occur during key game changes. On an interception your fans begin booing and quiet down; while on touchdown passes explode, stand up, and celebrate with other fans. This is a welcomed addition, though more detail should’ve been given to the fan detail from afar.

As for the sound, ESPN excels far more then any of its competitors. The commentating is wonderful and filled with animated analysis by Chris Berman during the pre-game show NFL countdown, and at halftime with his report. A reported 40-hours of commentary was recorded by Chris Berman alone (excluding the two in-game announcers), and after playing the game, I can honestly say it's no exaggeration.


espn nfl football xbox review          espn nfl football xbox review

Speaking of the in-game commentary, there are no misses. It is as much informative as it is hilarious. On challenges and replays, the breakdown is almost always spot on. The replays show exactly what is being challenged and does follow exactly what the commentator is pleading.

The crowd sound is just as impressive as the commentary, with mood sways prominent in every situation. Converting that big 3rd down plays includes the eruption of the crowd; as well as the disappointed "Awe" when fumbling near the goal line. The sound on the field might be exaggerated quite a bit, with hits sounding like train wrecks instead of pads crunching. Despite of this, the player sound and hits are well conceived and much better than the 2K series. Voices of the players can be heard during audibles and during the play, sometimes guiding you towards where the play might go.

Now for the biggest factor in determining a football game: the gameplay.

Last year's 2K3 received hundreds of complaints from many different places. From the length of a dive tackle to the responsiveness of the AI, Sega heard it all. Now they had the option of leaving these problems alone, like many series do, but Sega isn’t like any other company. These problems were all confronted and eradicated by ESPN NFL Football. Those fifty yard leaping tackles are gone, the cornerback motionlessness is gone, and many other problems are gone. What’s left is a complete football game with great gameplay. The old play selection menu is gone due to the complaints regarding multiplayer. While playing with a friend, your play was vulnerable to plain sight, degrading the value of playing with friends. The AI responds very well, sometimes to the point of frustration. In Madden, Vick would step out of the pocket and run for a gain of twenty yards every time. Not in ESPN NFL Football. When trying to do the same maneuver, you’ll find two lineman and two linebackers on your tail ready to knock the ball out of your hand when taking one step over the line of scrimmage. This creates a more realistic approach not seen in prior 2K games. If there is one part I’d immediately change about the gameplay is the tackling system. You’ll find it a rare success to bring down a running back with one person. Almost every time you try and tackle a player, they break the tackle. In a given game there are 200 broken tackles. A very annoying and tedious problem that demands change in the future ESPN Football game. The only way to tackle a runner is with the help of two players or a repetition of hits.

Though there isn’t anything close to an "owner mode" seen in Madden, the Franchise mode of ESPN NFL Football will last a long time. The sleek e-mail interface in the Franchise mode is irreplaceable and wouldn’t be as much in-depth without it. The e-mails you receive range from a congratulatory message from the owner to injury reports to deadlines to opponent scouting reports to weather alerts and countless more. The e-mails make your future judgments and changes to your team much more thoughtful.

Previously, in my Madden review, I stated that Madden was "the one game to own come this football season." Despite the surprise of ESPN NFL Football, I stick to my earlier judgment due to the minor flaws in the game. If you want a more action filled football experience without the technicalities of Madden (and of course the infuriating commentating of John Madden) then pick up ESPN. Madden 2004 may include more realistic gameplay and statistics, but ESPN is a much more satisfying experience when breaking down the purpose of games in the first place. To be fun.

- Eric Lahiji
(September 21, 2003)


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