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by Microsoft

While NFL Fever 2003 isn’t one of the big boys yet, it shows an awful lot of promise and potential. Being that it doesn’t quite measure up to a Madden or NFL 2K3, Fever is perfect for folks who are not heavy-duty football fans. This is a flashy, fast paced title with good overall mechanics. There are some gritty details missing, though, that will turn away those looking for the real-deal Holyfield.

Let’s not dwell, though, because Fever does do a lot of things nicely. Upon entering Fever’s arena, players have some various options. You can enter the practice mode to come to grips with the gameplay, jump into a single game exhibition, enter season mode, or jump online via the Xbox live service. The first two options are self explanatory, but the season mode offers two different options. You can either begin your own dynasty with a current NFL team or one custom built, or you can jump into a "Classic Challenge." This challenge consists of seven games against some of the NFL’s most memorable teams.

In addition, the main menu offers a general manager mode where players can institute trades, substitutions, and custom player creation. Also to be found is a user profile option that allows you to build your own plays and customize your settings for audibles, hot routes, and favorite plays. As far as customization options go, NFL Fever provides quite a playground for creative genius. Fever allows players to build their own teams from the ground up with their own uniform designs, rosters, and stadiums.

The X-box is no slouch when it comes to graphical power and Microsoft has created some slick visuals for us to enjoy. The animation is top notch as well. The players run jump and dive with fluid grace. As players are repeatedly tackled, their uniforms will show wear and dirt. Microsoft needs to notice, however, some standards that have been set in the industry. Madden set a great standard for the realistic representations of the players’ faces as well as their coaches. NFL Fever has made sure that the black guys are black and the white guys are white, but that’s not good enough anymore. The technology is there and that’s what the competition has been using for the last three years, so NFL Fever has some catching-up to do in this respect. Aside from these graphical nitpicks, the visuals of NFL Fever 2003 are generally quite satisfying.

Another high point of Fever is the solid control. Something that can really kill a sports game is fuzzy control, but all the tasks you ask of your players will be fulfilled with precision in this title. The older Xbox controller tends to hamper your quick reflexes with its bulky shape, but the newer design helps keep you in the game.

Sound in NFL Fever is not bad, but still not great. The commentators are mediocre and their quips will soon annoy. I would have liked the sound to help accentuate those exceptionally hard hits for flavor. Occasionally you’ll hear a player talking trash on the field, which is entertaining, but hard to understand.

By all accounts NFL Fever is a solid title, but what is holding it back from the next tier in football titles? There are several reasons for this setback, but none of them are unfixable. First of all if folks want an unrealistic representation of football they’ll pick up the Blitz series. Fever is marketing itself as an ultra realistic experience when in actuality that is not true. Two of the best examples of this are the speedy characters and "Blitz style" tackles.

I agree that a fast paced game is a more exciting one, but that pace should not be achieved at the cost of realism. The pacing in Fever is blistering. Technically each man’s stats affect his speed, but you’ll find even your tight ends going to the races when it shouldn’t be possible. It sounds weird to want to be caught, doesn’t it? I also am a fan of nasty tackles, but clothes-lining should really draw a flag don’t you think? Don’t get me wrong. It’s a satisfying feeling to stick out your arm and behead a quarterback, but it kind of cheapens the experience at the same time. Now if you’re not a hardcore fan of football games this aspect won’t bother you, but until Microsoft fixes things like this they can’t expect to muscle Madden and 2K3 out of the limelight.

Fever also is lacking when it comes to its classic teams. I first decided to take the field with an older version of the Detroit Lions, expecting to see Mr. Sanders strutting his stuff. To my horror all I saw was a blank portrait with a number. This is completely unacceptable. This feature isn’t even a new and untested one. The option of playing as one of the greats is a standard feature, and Microsoft really dropped the ball, so to speak.

As you can see none of these points are unrealistic goals for the next incarnation of NFL Fever. This year’s model has got all the building blocks of being a very serious contender, but they just haven’t come together yet. If Microsoft addresses these glitches EA and Sega will have no small crisis on their hands. As it stands, though, I would only recommend this title to those who are not so concerned with having an ultra realistic and comprehensive football experience.

Todd Allen   (09/27/2002)


Ups: Slick graphics and animation; good control; nice player creation depth.

Downs: Unrealistic at times; names on the classic teams please?!?

Platform: text