previews\ May 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

NFL Fever 2004 - XB - Preview

E3 2003 – Hands On


When NFL Fever 2004 is released in August, it will also mean the launch of XSN, Microsoft’s ambitious project in on-line sports video game leagues.  NFL Fever 2004 is a much better upgrade, both in graphically and in gameplay from its predecessor, and the XSN component just may steer buyers away from the previous kings of the gridiron, Sega’s NFL 2K and EA’s Madden series. 


Just as they are doing to the rest of the XSN sports games, Microsoft has simplified the controls of NFL Fever in order to gain interest in its on-line competition aspect.  Players should immediately feel at home on the controls, preventing them from becoming discouraged from early competition.  Masters of multi-buttoned controllers shouldn’t fear however, the control scheme is designed to allow for incremental improvements in gameplay as other buttons perform more advanced moves. 


The game is considerably more customizable than the 2003 version, with play-calling menus and passing options available in several forms.  Those not familiar with the pigskin may have trouble navigating I-formations, Shotguns, and Pro formations, so Microsoft made running to the right as simple as choosing the run option, then the run to the right option, yielding several plays from sweeps and tosses all in the desired direction.  Those of us who prefer calling from within the formations need not worry, as that option is available as well.  The passing options have also been expanded for more advanced gameplay.  The standard one-button passing is still available (press the button of the icon floating above the receiver), but NFL Fever also features an opportunity to follow your receiver from more of a QB’s perspective.  Imagine Peerless Price setting up on the right side and being highlighted by the B button.  Pressing the B button focuses the camera on Peerless allowing the QB to see more of the right sideline.  This simulates the quarterback scanning through his available options instead of seeing the receivers in a more traditional spectator view.  This does make blindside sacks happen a whole lot more, but blindside sacks are a huge part of NFL football.  To further complicate matters, NFL Fever also has a Read and Lead passing option where a cursor follows the targeted receiver and can be moved for precision passing.  If a defensive back is pressuring Terrel Owens on the sideline, move the cursor towards the inside and hit Owens where he’s open.  Only the adept will be able to master this system, but once they do, think 1972 Dolphins. 


NFL Fever also features more animations on the field and improved sound.  Coaches will bark out suggestions if you keep getting beat in a certain area.  They will even let you know about weaknesses in your game over spans of games. 


The goal of all the XSN sports games is to promote on-line play.  As XSN developer Brandon Stander puts it, “We’re going to take competition beyond the game.”  No doubt it will be easier for fans of the game to be competitive outside of the game if their competition is ongoing. 


NFL Fever 2004 hits the field in August of 2004.

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