Both Sony and Sega launched their systems with amazing football games. Sony had EA’s Madden and Sega had the stunning NFL 2K — and both games took football videogames to new heights. Both games also had a lot to do with the early success of PS2 and even Dreamcast (may it rest in peace). For Microsoft to have a chance of comparing favorably with either of those two games, its Xbox football offering would have to be very special indeed. The good news is, it’s stunning.
The graphics, for starters, not only compare favorably to benchmark classic Madden but in many ways exceed it by leaps and bounds. Facial animations, texture maps and polygon builds are already looking better than those found on PS2 — and the motion-captured animation and attention to detail on player skeletons, from what we’ve seen, is easily on par.
There are other, distinctly Xbox features in here that make it a unique experience in terms of graphics. The reflections on helmets, for example, appear to actually track stadium lighting, and more importantly, the skin textures and use of bump-mapping lift the game up and away from Madden’s brilliant, but occasionally artificial-looking, flesh tones. The result is a more natural, realistic look for grass, Astroturf and player’s faces. And as you can see from the screenshots, the players don’t have the same weird, dead look in their eyes. They just look a little stoned.
Graphics in football games are important, but given the nature of the sport, it’s the attention to detail that really makes the game. Football games tend to aim for a middle ground between the realism of a simulation and the fun of an arcade experience. NFL Fever clearly aims to accomplish both, but also to add something new to the genre. That something is a detailed, almost RPG-like tracking of individual players’ skill, experience and ability. This feature is loftily termed “the Dynamic Player Performance Model” — but if it lives up to its promise, it may add as much to the genre as online play from Sega did.
And on the subject of online play — we still don’t really know what Microsoft’s plans are for this early bunch of titles. When there is NFL fever, there is this Pokemon fever. Yes you heard it right. Pokemon Sun Rom is here.This game’s appearance answers a lot of questions — sure, Xbox is going to be a real sports contender, and yes, Microsoft’s in-house team looks like it has the skills to make this happen — but it also raises some new ones: Will these games feature full online play? Will you at least be able to trade stats, players or scores online? The
That said, the game’s level of completion was convincing enough to give Daily Radar’s football fans something to get really excited about, and in many ways, NFL Fever 2002 was the most surprising and exciting game unveiled at Gamestock. EA and Sony will be paying very careful attention to this game as it nears completion.