NFL FEVER has been an afterthought for most gamers since the series debut for the 2002 season. In a world dominated by MADDEN and Sega's 2K series, most Xbox gamers tend to overlook NFL FEVER. Well, it's probably for the best as FEVER really hasn't been able to stack up to either series in the past. But with the 2004 season getting underway soon, and the rush of new football titles hitting shelves, will NFL FEVER 2004 have what it takes to compete in the overcrowded market?
NFL FEVER 2004 offers all the standard modes you'd assume to find in any football title, from season and dynasty modes to exhibition games; you can even play over Xbox Live. The practice mode consists of three different options: training camp, chalk talk and open practice. Training camp is basically like the minicamp mode from Madden, where you learn to pass, run and block. Chalk Talk serves up advice on how to play, and open practice has you squaring off against your own team in a scrimmage game.
NFL FEVER 2004 can be pretty simple for just casual football fans. There are numerous different control styles available in the game, and casual fans can pick the one button mode while they get adjusted to the game. Play selecting is also easier for casual fans, as the playmaker mode allows you to select from pre-selected plays that are designed for either a running play or passing play.
For the more savvy fans, there are two other styles to choose from. The trigger passing is basically where you look at a receiver by pressing any of the face buttons, and hitting the right trigger will fire the ball at the receiver (according to how hard you press it, of course). To me, the triggers are kind of hard to use (maybe it's because I've played MADDEN way too long), so I prefer the next option, the read and lead passing. This style gives you complete control of the pass, so you can underthrow or overthrow receivers. Using the right analog stick, you control a yellow indicator that controls the placement of the pass. It may seem a bit difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is actually pretty fun.
The graphics for this year's version of NFL FEVER look a lot like last year's. In fact, other than just a few minor tweaks, the game looks almost exactly the same. One of my biggest beefs about the last two incarnations of this game was that some of the players didn't look anything at all like their real-life counterparts. Unfortunately, we still have players that look nothing like who they're supposed to look like. The game is animated well, but the tackles seem to be missing something at times also; while some of them look cool, others look like the players are just pushing each other over.
One cool thing about NFL FEVER 2004 is the ability to save the game whenever you want. If you've got to run out for a bit and don't want to leave the system on, you can save your game in the middle of the quarter. It's a nice addition and one I wish had come sooner in other games.
While NFL FEVER 2004 does have its faults, the game isn't half bad. Problem is, in the football genre you need to do better than half bad to compete with MADDEN. FEVER 2004 is a pretty good game, but it would have to take something great for fans to give up their other football games to give this one a try.