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February 16, 2005
ESPN NFL 2K5 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
14/1/2005Take TwoVisual Concepts1-8GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
785KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneNo

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He's not going any further.
American Football really is a sport which you will probably either love or hate here in Australia. It's not an easy sport to understand, and the lack of TV coverage doens't help. Spend some time to watch the game and understand the rules, and chances are you'll end up loving the sport. In terms of video games there are two alternatives, EA Sports' Madden or Visual Concepts' NFL 2K games. In the past the Madden titles have outsold the Visual Concepts games by a ratio of approximately 10:1 in America - that was despite virtually identical critical acclaim and review scores. In order to change the ledger Visual Concepts took the bold move of reducing the launch price of their games to only $US19.99. It was a move that worked with this latest game selling in much higher numbers drastically reducing the sales margin. Fortunately this lower price point has carried through to PAL territories where the title is available at the very reasonable $AU49.95 here in Australia. The question remains though, is ESPN NFL 2K5 really as good as many suggest?

I'm going to start this game with the discussing game modes on offer. As is normal these days, ESPN NFL 2K5 includes modes such as Practice, Tournament, Quick Game, Situation, and Franchise. A First Person Football mode is something unique to Visual Concepts' title and, as the name suggests, allows you to play the game in a First Person Mode placing you inside the helmet of one of the players. It's not without it's slight awkwardness at first, but is certainly a mode that you can get used to and is a welcome addition. New to this title is a ESPN 25th Anniversary Mode which is essentially a classic moments mode where you can play classic situations from the last 25 years of NFL.

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Going for the goal.
Gameplay in ESPN NFL 2K5 is certainly entertaining. If you've ever played an NFL video game then you know what to expect, pick your formation, pick your play and then go for it. I'm not going to go through the rules here, I'd need about another 20,000 words and 3 days (plus the rest). Needless to say NFL titles have absolutely every nuance of the sport covered and most importantly itís a fun title to play. Whether in offense or defence you'll have a ball, and with support for up to 8-players it only gets better with the more people playing the game.

What makes ESPN NFL 2K5 so interesting is the all new VIP (Virtual Identity Profile) mode where the game keeps track of your performances and statistics during games such as favourite formations, passes, running plays and so on. This information is saved and can then be used by your friends to "practice" while you're not around giving them an insight into your play style. Initially I though this was just a gimmick, but it really does work. One of my friends is a big running game player and playing against the CPU using his profile demonstrated this style.

The Crib is another excellent feature in this title. By completing certain milestones the game unlocks new features such as outfits and videos. One of the most interesting unlockables is the VIP's for several celebrities such as Jamie Kennedy and Carmen Electra to name just a couple.

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Menu presentation is excellent.
In terms of gameplay issues the Maximum Tackle doesn't seem as well developed or exciting as the Hit Stick which appeared in EA's title. Kicking, while not horrible, is a little more awkward then in EA's title. The big omission from this title however is the online gameplay. Yet again PAL gamers get the short stick and miss out on this almost essential feature. Having said that Madden NFL 2005 also dropped this feature in the PAL version.

Graphically there are some positives and negatives to ESPN NFL 2K5. The use of the ESPN license has allowed the developers to incorporate some wonderful visuals in terms of menus and on-screen information. Chris Berman and Suzy Kolber headline an update ESPN broadcast complete with halftime & post-game show, player of the game award, SkyCam and game analysis. While the menus and on screen details are wonderful it's the in-game graphics that really stand out as stunning. The player models and animations are equal to, if not slightly better then, Madden NFL 2005. Everything is fluid and no matter how far you zoom in the game maintains the highest quality possible.

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Run, Forrest, run... ermm sorry.
Audio in this title is very high in quality. The sound effects such as crowd atmosphere, crunches and hits sound particularly realistic while the music adds to the overall atmosphere. It's the commentary, however, which really shines. Dan Stevens and Peter OíKeefe provide commentary which is not only insightful, but also at times quite amusing and always interesting to listen to. Sure it has the odd slip up, but this is up there with the best of them.

Perhaps the biggest positive with this game is the price. With a RRP of only $49.95 in Australia, and many shops selling it for much less then that this really is great value, even without online gameplay. It's a crying shame, however, that the ESPN license now shift over to EA, not because they won't use it well, but because Visual Concepts were just gathering steam to push innovation and excellence in competition with EA. ESPN NFL 2K5 is a worthy addition to any gamers collection.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSThis is a very impressive NFL title, ESPN license adds visual flare.
SOUNDVisual Concepts know how to make great sound, this is no exception.
GAMEPLAYLess realistic but a bit more fun then Madden. That's says something.
VALUENo online gameplay but at under $50 NFL 2K5 is excellent value.
OVERALLESPN NFL 2K5 is the perfect game for those not wanting to pay full price for a NFL title, but are looking for a bit of fun. In fact, this game is choc full of fun so there's no reason not to own it.

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