As Sega and Visual Concepts take their last stab at the sports industry, gamers are subjected bliss as the games are released cheaper than your average DVD at twenty bucks. Four games into the ESPN lineup with one to go, Visual Concepts has yet to come out with anything short of fantastic.
ESPN NFL 2K5
Despite some inherent flaws in the game, SEGA's answer to Madden 2005 remains one of my most played games since the console release of Morrowind. (R.I.P. 300+ hour corrupted save) With a deep franchise mode, excellent graphics, and the obligatory Chris Berman half time show, the pinnacle of football simulation is now synonymous with ESPN NFL 2K5 in my mind. With the off season of my fourth season rapidly coming to an end and my 20,000th point scored in my most recent Super Bowl loss, I can safely say ESPN NFL 2K5 is a risk-free investment at a mere $20. For a more in depth look into the football sect of Visual Concepts, one need look no further than my review.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
ESPN College Hoops 2K5
Though fairly new to the NCAA scene, Visual Concepts produced a game that, for all intents and purposes, is by and far superior to its NBA counterparts. The Legacy mode of College Hoops is so involved that it would be a shame to stop playing and quit on your school of choice. With an initial choice of a few crap schools such as Dartmouth and Albany, your begin your NCAA season with, most likely, a bunch of losses. If you're lucky enough, however, an assistant that actually knows what he's doing signs on and scouting becomes a much easier task as talented recruits may actually want to sign up and join the squad. As you progress through the games and years, you'll want to keep going in hopes of either getting your school to the big dance during March Madness, or you'll eventually get the opportunity to abandon ship and join a team worth its ranking. Choose the latter and you can email schools as you look for a job or you can wait for the offers to pour as schools recognize your talent. Land the job at Duke (or other top 25s) and, at last, you'll be able to recruit the top high school players in the country; a luxury you'll never receive with, say, Albany. All of this is only a taste of the different aspects available to you in College Hoops' Legacy mode; just make sure you qualify for the tournament if you're on a team that's used to being in march madness every year or you're liable to get fired. The ESPN basketball's IsoMotion makes its appearance in College Hoops 2K5 allowing for more control of your jukes and moves. The control scheme is more user friendly than its NBA 2K5 counterpart, and, as you would expect in a college vs. pro situation, shots are harder to hit. ESPN College Hoops 2K5 is one of those games that you can sit down and play a few years down the line and still have a good time as you admire what you did with Dartmouth. (Assuming doing anything with Dartmouth is possible) For the NBA fan, you can import those players you'll miss so very dearly from your college teams when they decide to leave you and begin their professional career. Again, at $20, 2K5 is a more than sound investment. Finally you can play in the NCAA and not have to worry about failing class.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
ESPN NBA 2K5
So, as is the case with most people not currently in college, you're not interested in the NCAA? No problem-- Visual Concepts went ahead and gave us the NBA equivalent. With the standard, yet so very average, franchise, now called the Association, mode both expected and present, you'll once again have the opportunity to get your game on and bring your team to the playoffs. Though fairly easy to hit shots on the lower difficulties, it's still hard as hell to get to the inside cleanly and hit shots that have no business being hit. ESPN NBA 2K5 is one of those games that is difficult to just pick up and play with no basketball knowledge because playing as a ball controlling madman will not work. at all. Ask the Knicks; it takes actual skill to win. Playing offensively in the post is one of the more interesting aspects of the game, as you're presented with tons of viable options to use to get your shot off, each for various situations. If you play sloppy and try to do too much, however, you'll seldom have the possession arrow and, in all probability, get blown out. NBA 2K5 has the standard crappy hip-hop NBA sound track and the graphics, much like the entire ESPN series, are beautiful and realistic. (Exception being the NCAA 2K5 as a result of the actual likeness of NCAA players being prohibited.) ESPN NBA 2K5's incarnation of the "Street Ball" mode is perhaps the best time killer out of all the ESPN titles, challenged only by the pointless, yet so very fun, first-person football from NFL 2K5. Only taking a 5-15 minutes to complete, you're presented with the options to play one on one, three on three, half court, 21 and more. Despite a shallow and sometimes annoying Association mode, ESPN NBA 2K5 is easily the best basketball available today. When presented with such a great basketball game at $20 and absolutely no competition, (Have you PLAYED NBA Live?) there really is no choice.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5