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NFL Fever 2003

Developer: Microsoft Game Studios | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 08/05/02 | Genre: Sports

Last year, Microsoft shocked the football community with NFL Fever 2002. While early on in development it appeared to be a disappointment, Microsoft released a very solid title. While some felt it wasn't as good as Madden or NFL 2K, I enjoyed many aspects of Fever. This year, Microsoft continues to build on last year's success and adds a new element into the title--online play.

Okay, so Fever isn't the only title to feature online play this year. Madden, NFL GameDay 2003, Sega Sports NFL 2K3 are offering this too. However, NFL Fever 2003 will be one of the first Xbox Live games. Xbox Live is Microsoft's broadband-only gaming experience. This will provide gamers an opportunity to play head-to-head against fellow Xbox owners all across the country. Unlike the PS2, all Xbox Live games will allow players to use a voice headset so they can talk during the game. This will help gamers communicate during the game without having to type in messages to their opponents--like in GameDay 2003--or only communicating between games (Madden 2003).

The Xbox Live service is currently in Beta and won't be available until November of this year. To add Xbox Live to your NFL Fever 2003 experience, it must be purchased for $49.99. This will include the headset, a years worth of online gaming, and a headset for use on all Xbox Live games. After the first year, the service is rumored to run $9.99 a month or $49.99 for each additional year. However, you will need a broadband connection to the Internet to utilize this service.

Enough talk about the Xbox Live features, lets talk about the other features of NFL Fever 2003. Just about every football game this year offers online roster updates, dynasty modes, create a player, etc. NFL Fever 2003 sets itself apart in the features department by providing users with HDTV and Widescreen TV support. Another great feature NFL Fever 2003 offers is the ability to link up two different Xbox systems to play an 8 player game.

Like last year's version, the gameplay in NFL Fever 2003 is rock-solid. Out of all the football games on the market, I find that Fever offers the best running game. When handing the ball of to your HB, the holes open up much better--allowing you to run for a gain. However, this does not mean that you are guaranteed positive yardage--but at least you can pick up the game and start rushing like an all-pro. The passing game is also solid. When tossing the ball to open receivers, they will usually catch it--just like in real life. If your desired receiver is being covered closely by the defense, you will have to look for second options.

The graphics are slightly improved from last year's version. One thing that disappoints me about the visuals is the poor player models. While there are some faces and bodies that resemble their real-life counterpart, numerous players and coaches don't look very much like the real thing. In fact, they kept a lot of the same player models from last year that didn't look very well either. What was going on during the development that caused the player models to suffer? It seems like the emphasis was placed on adding a towel into the game that hangs on the waist of several players. When moving, the towel will swing back and forth, up and down, in a realistic manner. The problem I ran into was when watching a replay, the towel would sometimes swing through my leg. While this is a minor complaint, I really wish NFL Fever 2003 would have mirrored the player models of GameDay 2003/Madden 2003, and NFL 2K3 closer.

Another area where Fever suffers is in its backgrounds. When playing as my beloved 49ers at home in San Francisco, I noticed some very unpolished and terrible looking mountains in the background. These look like something you would see in a 16 bit game. Did the developers forget to add the final backgrounds into the game? Also, players on the sidelines, camera men in the end zone, and fans all look very unpolished. Because the Xbox is the most powerful console on the market, it should be able to easily render these fans and players in a higher resolution.

In Fever 2002, the announcing team was pretty good for the first year of the franchise. This year, the announcers are not much better than last year. While no football game has been able to 찥rfecthe announcers in a game, I would have like to see some bigger improvements in how the announcers call plays. After about five games, I started to hear them repeat lines. Worse than this, their play calling is so scripted that they jump to false conclusions. For example, the announcing team may say: 촨e defense needs to clamp down on plays like this...ven though you have held the opposition to no first downs for a whole half! It gets worse, as the game ends, the announcers will continue to talk as if the game is continuing. Microsoft needs to address the announcing team in Fever 2004

Overall, it may seem like I am being extremely picky about the graphics and announcing in Fever 2003. While this does not take away from the gameplay, I expect an Xbox first party title to look, feel, and play better than the competition. Hopefully next year's version will rectify this. However, I am enjoying NFL Fever 2003 despite my minor gripes with the title. If you are looking for an Xbox title and plan to get Xbox Live, you will be hard pressed to find a better football title to own.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 09/14/02
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Screenshots for NFL Fever 2003

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