PC ¦ PlayStation 3 ¦ Xbox 360 ¦ Wii ¦ DS ¦ PSP ¦ Others ¦ DGC Grade Table

ESPN NFL 2K5 PlayStation 2

Published by Global Star Software
Developed by Visual Concepts
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99

In the latter stages of 2003 we reviewed ESPN NFL 2K4 for the Xbox and it's fair to say that the game still remains one of the greatest NFL games on any platform. Many NFL fans here in the UK will have been frustrated by how long it's taken the latest game in this series to arrive in the UK especially as it received rave reviews when it was released in the US last year. Even more worrying though is that since the game was released in the US last year the ESPN and NFL licence is now exclusively owned by Electronic Arts meaning that this will be the last game in the series to be adorned by both logos.

There's no point in beating around the bush and before we go any further let's just say that Visual Concepts have done another superb job with ESPN NFL 2K5. Everything that made NFL 2K4 a great game has returned and the weaker areas of that game, not that there were many, have been improved. The game modes on offer are Franchise, First Person Football, ESPN 25th Anniversary, Practice, Situation and Tournament. The Crib, which rewards all your achievements, also makes a return. You'll all know what most of those modes entail so there's little point in being too descriptive although the ESPN 25th Anniversary mode might need some explanation. Obviously this mode has been created to celebrate 25 years of ESPN and fittingly there are 25 classic NFL scenarios for you to take part in. These scenarios range from the 1967 encounter between the Cowboys and the Packers, where the temperature was -13° and the pitch was frozen solid, to the Packers encounter with the Eagles in 2004. These scenarios drop you in mid-game with a specific challenge to complete. They are actually very enjoyable and a great inclusion.

On starting the game for the first time you're asked to create a VIP (Virtual Identity Profile). This involves you entering your name and picking your favourite team. Not only that though it enables the game to keep a record of how you play. You can even share this profile with a friend and have them play against an AI opponent that mimics your style of play. You can even play against your virtual self if you want to. The US version of the game allowed you trade VIP's via the Internet. Sadly though the European version of the game doesn't support online play so for us this aspect of the VIP isn't possible. Nevertheless though the VIP is still a great feature and will allow you to analyse your own weaknesses if nothing else.

NFL 2K5 manages to improve on the great NFL 2K4 in quite a few ways. You'll notice how the receiver from the quarterback collects the ball far more successfully (and realistically) than in NFL 2K4. The passing in the game in general feels better and allows for a game that flows more realistically. The defensive side of the game also feels better (the new tackling options are excellent) and allows you to customize on the fly with greater ease. Those of you who really like to sink their teeth into the Franchise mode will be impressed by the new coaching options that are available in the week leading up to a game. You can tell your coaches to use films (or tell your players to watch films of their next opponents), to instruct your players, arrange team meetings and run player drills as well as giving your players the day off. You don't have to dabble in these tasks if you don't want to but they are excellent inclusions and make you feel more involved with the off the field activities. The way the game shows you the impact of your alterations is also most welcome and it's very satisfying when you can see you've improved the morale and focus of your team.

Since the PlayStation was launched in Europe, NFL games have consistently become much more visually impressive. NFL 2K5 is probably about as good as a NFL game is going to get in terms of visuals. The player models are excellent and generally the whole thing is top notch. I like the way you're given close ups of your spectators and coach during the game and when you couple these with superb action replays and tactical analysis it really is just like watching the real thing on TV. Whilst on the whole the game looks superb though there are a few rough edges. In the player interviews for instance you can see cardboard cut-out crowds that look a little ugly (which are nowhere near the quality of the close-up shots you get of the crowd during the game). The frame rate is generally very good but in some areas outside of the main action it does drop a little. Overall though the game looks great.

ESPN NFL 2K5 is pretty much the same as NFL 2K4 in regards to how deaf gamer friendly the game is. The tutorials are all in text which is great because if you're a novice to the NFL it allows you to concentrate on the basics. As with 2K4 the game has been presented in the style of TV sports show with presenters and multiple commentators who discuss events within the game amongst other things. None of their comments are subtitled which is a shame. It doesn't prevent you from enjoying the game in anyway but it's a shame you aren't aware of what's being said because it's all been done really well. Even player interviews take place after a game but sadly they're not subtitled either. All the valuable information is in text though including everything in the franchise mode so apart from not being able to fully appreciate the superb presentation in the game you'll have no other problems.

For fans of the NFL, ESPN NFL 2K5 is a must have because it's simply one of the best NFL games ever created. I still play the Xbox version of ESPN NFL 2K4, which was an excellent game also, and I'll definitely be picking this up on the Xbox too. Those of you who haven't yet purchased a NFL title should really consider this game. Global Star has released the game at the lowly price of just £19.99 which is excellent. Even at £39.99 this game would be highly recommended because it's just so playable and impressive. The only thing missing is the online game which may or may not be an issue depending on your opinion of online gaming. As a single player game though it's pure class and a shining example of what a sports game can be. Visual Concepts next game might not have the ESPN or NFL logo attached to it but to me it won't matter what's it's called because as long as it's of this calibre I'd buy it no matter what.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10

Visual Concepts have created another superb NFL game that is definitely one of the greatest virtual representations of the sport to date.

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Being a sports game there are quite a few omissions but you're still going to be able to enjoy the game as it's the TV style presentation that's missing for deaf gamers and nothing that really conveys any important information.