In celebration of the start of football season, this week’s entry is NFL Fever 2004 (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia). Released for the original Xbox, it was part of Microsoft’s push of sports games onto the platform – there were 4 NFL Fever titles released, with this being the final entry. While sports games are typically not something I seek out, I find Microsoft’s entry into the console market fascinating and so I had to try this relic from that time.
Since I had limited time with the game, I jumped into some quick tutorials and then a quick game. The tutorials were fairly basic but they give you gist of controls (running, passing, tackling), and were easy to skip though or come back to if required. After that, it was on to the single game mode. I picked the 1990 Eagles (a nice touch that some ‘retro’ teams were included along with the current lineup at release time) and of course squared off against the 93 Cowboys. Controls were pretty good in general, passing and running felt intuitive from the beginning, but I will admit that there was a strangeness to the timing on the field that I wasn’t able to pin down. I was either moving a bit too fast or a bit too slow based on controller input and it felt – well, wrong. Overall the game was fun for what it was, but other than the retro teams, it didn’t wow me.
Visually this is a great showpiece for the original Xbox. Characters are detailed and animate well, and the field looks great. Menus are clean and clear and communicate very well what you need to do. This is definitely some of Microsoft Game Studios best visual work on the platform.
Solid sounding hits, roars from the crowd, and believable announcers make sound effects a bright point here. There are some licensed music tracks for the menus, which were acceptable especially for the time, but they got a bit stale during my time with the game. I didn’t check to see if the game supported custom soundtracks, but if it does it’d be a welcome addition.
Overall, this is a solid title from my layman’s perspective. The controls feel good, there are a ton of modes and teams, and the whole thing feels very polished. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information online about the series so it’s hard to say how well it did for Microsoft financially. The NFL license went to EA in 2004 and has been renewed since – killing any opportunity for competition and leaving NFL Fever as a historical artifact of Microsoft’s first console.
Verdict: Back on the shelf. Nothing against the game itself, but sports aren’t really my thing.