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NFL Fever 2002

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:   Microsoft
Publisher:   Microsoft
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Football
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

1-12-02

If the name NFL: Fever sounds familiar, you may have heard it a few years ago in the PC gaming world. Microsoft burst onto the scene a few years ago with the Fever series and managed to actually top yearly powerhouse John Maddenís Football. However, since EA has decided that the "only update the graphics and not put anything new in the games" theory was costing them sales, Microsoft wonít have an easy time attempting to compete with multiplatform series that are established, like the NFL2K series or the Madden series. So how does Microsoftís first attempt at console sport games compare to the competition? Can Microsoft pull a Cinderella season like the Bears had this year? Lets put it this way: tie game, Microsoftís ball, they kick for the game-winning field goal, and miss wide left.

The first thing one notices about NFL: Fever is the graphical power. Fever has a major advantage over Madden and NFL2k as its developed strictly for one set of hardware. We see the Xboxís potential shine in this game. Stadiums look excellent, and the field itself is detailed. The player models look great and are by far the best looking in the video game world. You can see the mesh on the jerseys, you can see the reflections in the helmets, and you can even see the wear and tear on the uniforms. The wear and tear effect is done well, as your 150 yard and 2 TD running backís uniform will be covered in mud, dirt, and grass stains but your kicker and punterís uniform will look pretty much clean as they havenít taken that many hits. If eye-candy is the only thing that matters to you, you need this game.

The in-game commentary is fairly good. It doesnít suffer from the awkward periods of silence as seen in Madden and isnít filled with idiotic inside jokes like NFL2k2. The announcers do a good job calling the play by play and provide adequate color comments, but they do suffer from sounding too artificial. The best way to describe it is to imagine someone saying "GANNON! Throws-to-RICE! For-a-15-yard-gain." In general, it doesnít flow nearly as well as the other games, which contributes to giving Fever a rushed feeling. However, just the fact that thereís constant chatter makes it worth it. The in-game music is excellent, from the techno and base beats from the opening menu and in-game stadium music to the NFL films orchestra tracks that are played in the dynasty mode (think to those team yearbooks ESPN shows during the off-season).

The area other than graphics where Fever shines is in the presentation of the game. In the actual game, thereís only one camera view (basically the default view for every other game). While that may seem boring at first glance, Fever bombards us with an array of television style shots before every play. To name a few, sometimes youíll see from behind the QB as the huddle breaks, sometimes youíll see a ground level at the line of scrimmage, or sometimes youíll follow the linebacker. The replays are done with angles closer to the ones seen on the weekly TV games and donít look like something out of the Matrix like Maddenís did. For example, my receiver caught the ball on the sidelines and got slammed out of bounds by a Defensive Back. The replay showed my receiver being slammed into the cameraman who was filming the replay. The player of the game feature is actually done well. Unlike the competition, Feverís actually goes by players who made key plays and not raw production numbers. If your DB makes an interception and runs it back for a 40-yard game winning TD, chances are heíll get it over your running backs. One of my defensive linemen received the honors because he recovered a fumble when the Packers were trying a 4th quarter comeback. Comparing this to 2k2 or Maddenís theory, where almost every time the player of the game is your QB, RB, or top WR (whichever has the overall better performance stat-wise). The only glaring flaw I see here is the lack of an instant-replay challenge.

No football game would be complete without a Dynasty mode anymore. Fever does away with the single season option and gives you a choice to go in a fantasy season to unlock secret teams or to go into Dynasty mode. The Dynasty mode has some innovative bells and whistles that put its competition to shame. First, player stats improve from game to game. Say your rookie WR has 3 straight 150+ yard receiving games with 5 TDís. More than likely his stats will jump up. Now say your 3rd year QB starts performing like Ryan Leaf. His ratings will drop quicker than a botched pass. The off-season draft throws in a timer mode, like in real life. It works to streamline the draft process, and this is helpful especially if there are more than one users playing in the Dynasty. The really awesome feature lies in the hall of fame. NFL: Fever recognizes the top of the top group of players by allowing them to pass on to the heaven of football, the NFL hall of fame. You can look back and see the stats of everyone whoís in the hall. Also, Fever has every record imaginable stored (so you can break it). Want to try to break Marioís all time yardage mark? Go for it. Want to shatter Riceís all-time receiving yards? Good luck! To make it even better, having their numbers retired forever memorializes standout players. It really amazes me that no game has put these features in as fluidly as Fever has. The only major flaw in the Dynasty mode is the time setting. You can only run 5-minute quarters (though this may actually be a good thing considering the gameplay).

While Fever may sound like itís a great game, the largest flaw is in its gameplay. Simply, the game has an overall rushed feel to it. The controls take a while to get used to. The configuration borrows from the other games, but re-arranges everything. The passing controls obviously arenít polished. Instead of getting a bullet off to my open receiver, the QB decides to randomly lob the ball as high as he can throw it, allowing every DB and LB that dropped back to surround my WR. The standing theory on the net is that Microsoft put an emphasis on the larger than life plays. Thatís great every so often, but every 3 or 4 passes is just plain annoying. The running game is based too heavily on the speed back and doesnít give enough credit to the power backs like Alstot. Its very strange to see the Billsí Travis Henry sprint for a 30 yard game untouched from pure speed, but see Tampa Bayís Mike Alstot get jammed after 2-5 yards by the first hit. The shoulder charges donít work that great unless you time them perfectly. The stiff-arm is ok, but is nowhere nearly as effective as it should be. Jukes are a joke. Basically, running consists of jamming the turbo and running a circle around everyone. The Defensive controls take a while to get the timing down. They seem to be operating on a different game. The defense seems more sim-based, but it doesnít flow with the arcade style offense. The multiplayer fun factor is good if your buddies can get over the controls. Because there are enough arcade elements, this game should be extremely good if you have gaming parties or live in a dorm.

Fever doesnít know what kind of game it wants to be. This glaring flaw makes it seem very unpolished, as it contains major simulation elements and decides to couple them with major, glaring arcade elements. The Blitz-like turbo doesnít pair well with the realistic animations. The larger than life emphasis can really destroy the game as it takes away clear touchdowns and turns them into interceptions. The fact that every game turns into a shootout or a complete blowout really irks me. I thrive on defensive teams, yet defense isnít worth a damn if every game turns into a shootout. Microsoft needs to seriously add some polish, especially to the passing game. All in all, they need to take a step back and figure out where they want this series to go and concentrate on getting it there. This hybrid theory does not work and Microsoft needs to give it up after the first try.

Highs:

  • Graphics
  • Hall of Fame, Retired Jerseys, records
  • In-game presentation
  • Multiplayer

Lows:

  • Controls take too long to get used to
  • Actual gameplay is trying to be both simulation and arcade
  • Feels unpolished

Final Verdict: 

Donít let the decent rating fool you. This game is definitely not for everyone and I heavily recommend that you RENT before you buy. I cannot stress that point enough. If you canít stand NFL2k2ís style of play, I seriously doubt youíll even like this. The only game I can think of to compare it to would be the revered classic Tecmo Super Bowl. Blending arcade football with simulation football may seem like it can work, but NFL Fever seems to have bobbled that idea. Microsoft may have missed a game-winning field goal with this game, but if they can do some serious training (meaning IMPROVEMENTS) this series has the potential to explode.

Overall Score: 7.8

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