Developer: Microsoft (?)
Nearing the end of every summer for the past few years, companies such as Electronic Arts pumps out a new football series usually numbered one year past the current year. I think the logic behind that is marketing new products. I know I read about it somewhere. Anyways, say if it was the summer of '97, then EA would ship Madden '98. Get it? So what is Microsoft doing in the picture? In a sports field dominated by EA, Microsoft looks to expand its monopolistic empire beyond the operating system and application departments. Adding to their well-toned gaming section is NFL Fever 2000, a rookie in the field of football sims. An underdog, for once. How does the game fare? How does it compare to the goliaths?
As far as the market is concerned, MS has struck first by releasing Fever 2000 before Madden 2000 or Gameday 2000. In addition to an accelerated release date, the product also sports a lean price tag of $19.95! Amazing! That's nearly half the price of its competition... unless of course EA decides to follow suit, but that's extremely doubtful.
When I first ran Fever 2000, I looked first for the difference from my all-time favorite football arcade game, NFL Blitz. Both support 3D acceleration, and compared side to side, I would say the quality is equal. While NFL Blitz has a cleaner rendering of the field and the arena, Fever has more detailed player models and animation. With all the graphics eye-candy pumped up to the max (heh heh, and advantage in owning a powerful TNT2-Ultra graphics card), I can see the number (7) and the name of the quarterback (Flutie) of my favorite team (Buffalo) on the uniform. Plus, all the football stadiums have been custom designed to include every city, including the new expansion teams. The stadiums look a little flimsy for some reason, though, thus the edge here goes to NFL Blitz. It's an older generation game, yet the graphics equal the current generation Fever.
Now personally, I believe the most important aspect in ANY game is the gameplay. Graphics are nice, so is 3D sound, but they're nothing when compared to gameplay. Take example my favorite pasttime game, Minesweeper. Even Solitaire has better graphics! But the gameplay is what makes me go back again and again. NFL Blitz had the best gameplay of any sports game I've ever played (Hardball 3 comes a close second). It included hard hitting action and easy to control characters. NFL Fever caters to the other side of me. The strategic, grind it out on the ground side of me. With Blitz, I can comeback from a 21 point deficit in 2 minutes by airing it out. With Fever, I try to take the advice of great coaches and hand it off to my tailback time after time. I control the clock, I kick field goals and punt the ball on 4th downs. I establish a running game with Antoine Smith before connecting Flutie to Moulds for my TD pass. In other words, NFL Fever is a football simulation, designed around the gameplay of real-world football.
As a sim, Fever manages to sneak in some Arcade action. You can set the quarters at 5 minutes or 3 minutes each instead of the standard 15. Also, I can seemingly always be able to pull of 2 or 3 HUGE plays against the computer every game. I guess Fever is trying to land inbetween the sim and the arcade of football, but in the core, it's still a simulation. 10 yards to a 1st down, tons of standard playbook plays and formations for you to pick from, such as Shotgun or I-Form for offense, or 3-4 or Nickel/Dime for defense. Of course, if you hate to scroll through the millions of playbook options, play-by-play announcer Matt Millen will pick out plays that he thinks are the best for your situation. A word of caution here. It's a bit flawed. For example, it was 3rd and 21 (yeah, so I got sacked, shuddap) and Millen advised me to choose a fullback rush?! Uh... no thanks, I'd rather pass in this situation, thank you.
Defense wise, I admit I get clueless here. Most of the times I just do what Millen suggests me to do, and most of the time, it works pretty well. What it's like on the field is that you get to control one player, and with different buttons you can toggle which player you would like to control. Same for offense. You start off controlling the quarterback, and the game gives you the option to fake some "hut hut's" to try to draw the offside, or yell "BLUE THIRTY-FOUR! GREEN SIXTEEN!!" and some other worthless options against the computer. Sometimes when you fake too many "hut hut's", your dumb offensive linemen will twitch and you'll get flagged for false start. Dammit! Anyways, after you snap the ball, you can choose which receiver to pass it to via a network of buttons. Once the ball is in the air, you get to control the receiver that the pass was meant for, and fine tune his path.
Special team kickers are controlled by an arrow and a powermeter within the arrow to determine the direction and strength of the kick. Pretty standard stuff here. At the beginning of each game, the visiting team will get to pick the coin-toss. Heh heh, no controversy here, because the ref is controlled by the computer. Even though it says you must call it in the air, I've waited until it landed to call it. It really doesn't make a difference, because you can't see the coin anyway until the game zooms in on it after the heads or tails decision has been made. Oh, one thing I thought was pretty nice was that your controlled character will actually execute the play automatically if you're not controlling him. That came in handy one day when I was stuffing myself full of McDonalds Chicken McNuggets during half-time only to be caught offguard. Thankfully my players automatically executed the play while I wiped my hands and regained control half-way through.
The game menu allows individual game play, or a full season. You also have the ability to create your characters and tweak the stats of your team. You can pump everything up and control the super-team if you want to. However, I find that kind of boring. It just isn't very fun winning 54-0 every time. The season is automatically generated, and you get to select teams to play every week. If you rather play one game for your favorite team, you can simulate the rest and move on to the next week. Again, pretty standard stuff.
What I found disappointing was the fact that there were no option for Internet/LAN multiplayer! The only way you can whoop ass against your worst enemy is if both are on one computer. That really kills the re-play value of Fever 2000, because after conquering the league and winning the superbowl... then what? I was also disappointed at some of the lackluster hits. All the tackles feel like soft pillow for some reason. I would smack my linebacker into the opposing tailback attempting an outside sweep, and all I would get is a weak "umf!" as both players fall to the ground. And the game doesn't allow late hits! Well, it does, but it's even weaker than the regular tackles, and the only "umf" you'd get is from your own player. Oh well, I know that's a personal preference, so I can't really take that as a negative of the game. It's just that I got so used to smacking the opponent after the whistle in NFL Blitz that I missed it when I sufferered through a boring Tennessee-St. Louis game.
Overall, NFL Fever 2000 really isn't a bad game. It's fun and has more options than NFL Blitz. The player can jump, boost, stiff-arm, spin, or lower-shoulder, while in defense you can swim, spin, or twist around the opponent in searching for that QB sack. Heh heh, plus, it was developed early enough that Barry Sanders is still a Lion! Heheh... even though Barry may not be playing anymore, his career has been extended for one more season thanks to NFL Fever 2000. For twenty bucks, this game is worth buying to tide the football enthusiast over until Madden 2000 comes out. I have no doubt that Madden will blow Fever away, but... will it have Barry Sanders??
Final Grade: B
The Scale is as follows: