It must be made perfectly clear that anyone with a remote interest in sports games will never make a better investment than in ESPN NFL 2K5 at only $19.99. Sega has finally made it apparent that they are in the market to compete with EA, and they accomplished just that when they decided to launch their ESPN 2K5 sports line at $20 a month earlier than the competition.
At such a small price point, one would expect the game to feature only the basics. Such is not the case; ESPN is loaded with features rivaling that of EA's Madden 2005. Perhaps the most innovative and useful aspect of ESPN comes in the form of the new VIP system. As you play with your VIP profile loaded, the CPU keeps track of nearly everything you do. How often you run, to which sides you run, where you move your defensive players and which players you select pre-snap, the plays you choose, and more. Did a friend just totally destroy you on Xbox Live? Download his VIP profile and practice against it offline and learn all of your friend’s tendencies. You’ll win next time, 100% money-back guarantee.
"But that's why they play the game!"
ESPN gets better. Franchise mode's customization kicked my ass. I don't want to assign every player's workout routine for every day of the week leading to the big game on Sunday. If that's your idea of fun, though, the option to show your Center 6 straight days of film depicting him snapping a ball is available, otherwise you can turn the option off and have the week’s workouts all CPU assigned. When Sunday finally comes, run up the score as much as you can. The better you do, the more Crib points you attain. As you play games offline through various modes, you receive Crib points which can be used to purchase furniture, short movies, CDs, bobble heads and more for your "crib," or to purchase new cheats and free agents for use in the game. Now you can live as a superstar...and play as one if you so choose. 2K5 features the First-Person Football mode in which you play completely in first-person view through the facemask of the helmet. A simple gimmick that turns out to be loads of fun.
Who cares about offline play when online football is available, eh? Online play with 2K5 is perhaps the greatest thing to hit Xbox Live since Bahn and I were taking total control of the skies in Crimson Skies. With the revamped League and Tournament modes, you may very well spend the next 16 weeks fighting for a pass to the virtual Super Bowl. With trades, stat keeping, and of course, trash talking, the season mode is the perfect way to prove your superiority over your friends. Remember kids, use the "win button" (turbo + Y [shoulder charge] while running) and you too can rush for 200 yards a game! There is occasional lag while playing online, but rarely anything to disrupt the game play. Fortunately, Sega implemented a system in which drops and disconnects are held negatively towards a record online so don't have to worry about some fool dropping out of a game after you've just scored your 5th touchdown with Peyton Manning against ‘em. (I know all about it.) Also, if you’re playing online, use the new EQ option. Sadly, few use this wonderful new addition designed to even the selected teams out, resulting in online games being nothing more than Patriots and Eagles' "fans".
"It's a fumble."
Make no mistake, ESPN NFL 2K5 has its fair share of downfalls as well. When playing offline, the referees often make calls that are obvious miscalls and the CPU always challenges correctly forcing a bug in the game to give you a delay of game penalty when you’re on offense. Busting through the frontline while on defense with a defensive end on the easier difficulties is far too easy. I played my first season on Pro and managed 39 sacks with Dwight Freeney with three 7-sack games, and 3 sacks in the Super Bowl while playing on the Legend difficulty. Visual Concepts has fixed a few of the problems with last year’s version, though. No longer can a running back stop on a dime ignoring the rules of physics and switch directions like light hitting a mirror, and no longer do wide receivers drop everything thrown their way. To counter the relative ease of getting through the line, the quarterbacks now have a button that lets them evade sacks as they’re about to be hit. You can now change your defensive DB and LB schemes at will with the right and left triggers, making it easier to defend against the better wide receivers.
When Sega landed the ESPN license, they landed the rights to make one of the most interesting sports games I’ve played. With Chris Berman giving an opening before the game and highlights at half time and post-game, in addition to Sportscenter at the end of every week in Franchise, the ESPN license is used perfectly. Couple that with the amazing graphics of this game, one would think they were actually watching ESPN if you walked in on someone playing. Players look eerily similar to their living counterparts, right down to the skin tone and body build.
With 792,000 users purchasing ESPN NFL 2K5 during the month of July alone, the user base is huge, but naturally, is nothing compared to Madden’s 1.3 million in the first week of sales. This leads to a much smaller number of people actually playing online, but still more than enough to get your football fix...and you need your football fix. So go buy the game right now, pick up XBL while you’re at it and go post at this thread so I can teach you a thing or two.