It seems that with each passing year, football games get more in-depth, every year updating the rosters, the graphics, the commentary, and the overall quality of the game. This year is no different. With the release of ESPN NFL 2K5 and Madden 2005, gamers will have a tough time deciding which game is worth their money.
No doubt the biggest surprise of the football video game season was ESPN NFL 2K5 being released early and for a cost of only $20. While the gameplay and the majority of the graphics have not changed since last year’s version, what has changed is the ESPN presentation.
What specifically has changed is the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows as well as including of SportsCenter as opposed to last year’s NFL Prime Time. ESPN spared no expense to include the likeness of Chris “The Swami” Berman and Suzy Kolber modeled into the game. Seemingly unchanged is the play-by-play and color commentary, reciting the same phrases as last year.
While game play hasn’t changed much, the actual in-game presentation has. If a player gets injured, the game will cut to show the injured player on the field and show the trainers rushing out. Also, depending on the severity of the injury, it will show the player walk off the field on his own, hobble off with the help of the trainers, or be loaded onto the back of a golf cart and driven off the field.
A major disappointment from this year’s version though is the Weekly Prep, which allows you to control the player’s training schedule and more-a clever idea, but poorly implemented. Weekly Prep is poorly documented (there’s hardly a mention of it in the manual) and it really does not seem to have any noticeable difference on player performance in a game. It is best to leave this turned off in Franchise Mode options. I give this game a 3 out of 5.
Now, we turn to the King of Football, Madden NFL 2005. While Madden is a very decent game making strides every year, I can not help but feel that the 2005 version is nothing more than the 2004 version with updated rosters and the addition of Xbox Live. The presentation has been updated a little bit, but not by much. The biggest addition to this year’s version is the EA Sports Radio Show hosted by Tony Bruno.
Also, unlike ESPN’s game, the computer’s AI is weak, as demonstrated in the fact that the defense will never catch on to your pass routes. To test this out, I threw to the same guy every single time for an entire game, and the computer was never able to intercept it.
Even though the EA Sports Radio show is not exactly good, it is also not bad either. The hosts will discuss some of the previous week’s action, and then an interview with an NFL Coach. Supposedly, the topics on the radio show will effect your player ratings, but I have yet to see this actually happen. It lasts on average for five to ten minutes and it is a decent distraction, but it gets old after a while.
Finally, we have Xbox Live. While I have not played a game online yet, I am glad that this year those who want accurate rosters don’t have time to change them every time someone gets traded: they can log on to Xbox Live and download the new roster set. I give Madden NFL 2005 a 4 out of 5.