One loser, one middling, one that rocks (PC Football games)

by Alan Zisman (c) 2000, First published in Vancouver Computes, January 2000

Microsoft NFL Fever 2000
Platforms supported: Win95/98
Requires: Pentium 200, 32 meg RAM, 50 MB drive space
About $30

Electronic Arts Madden NFL 2000
Platforms supported: Playstation, N64, Win95/98 (Rumours of a Mac version)
Requires: Pentium 166, 16 meg RAM, 30 MB drive space
About $60

January means football to a lot of people?US-style football, at least, since the CFL season ended way back in late November. If you haven?t had your fill of football, or if you want to keep the season going, you might want to try out football sims on your PC.

If you haven?t looked at PC football games recently, you?ll find the current crop more realistic than ever?better 3D, announcing, and crowd noise combine to give a look and feel that more than ever lets the action on the computer screen resemble the action on your big-screen TV?but with you controlling the plays.

Once again, we tossed a pair of new sports games to a teen test panel?in this case, Joey and Jas, both 15 years old. They looked at Microsoft?s NFL Fever 2000, a new game in its first version, and Electronic Arts? Madden NFL 2000, the tenth annual version of this sports dynasty. Both games were tested on a 400 mhz Pentium II with a Voodoo 2 graphics accelerator.

As challenger, for its first time on screen, Microsoft has wisely had modest goals for NFL Fever. You can?t follow a team through multiple seasons, trading and drafting players to build up your franchise. Instead, you get your choice of the 31 current NFL teams, and get on the field to play.

3D graphics are nicely detailed?perhaps better than Madden?s, at least on the field. Our testers were disappointed with the lack of detailing on the arenas and the crowds. Joey reported ?There are no players on the benches?in fact, there are no benches.? Similarly, while Microsoft touts ?real crowd noises?, the test panel found the announcing uninspired.

The game?s focus is on getting you up and playing quickly. Jas found it easy to play?he reported ?Just pick a play, press a couple of buttons, and it goes. It?s easy to catch a pass?. But he went on to suggest that despite the fast gameplay, it was sometimes hard to control?he reported that pressing his up button didn?t move the players up, but rather in an unexpected zig-zag.

The boys found NFL Fever 2000 a good try for a first effort from Microsoft, especially given that it sells for half the price of EA?s product. Jas rated it a B-, while Joey called it a C+. They?re looking forward to future versions to iron out the glitches.

This is Madden?s 10th anniversary product?it originated way back in the Apple II era. It offers a host of features?you can built a team over time, or try your hand at a set of ten great games from football history. You can create your own custom players, though unlike EA?s NHL 2000, you can?t import faces. A player here can have your name, but not your appearance.

Still, the proof, as EA says ?is in the game?, and playing Madden is an odd combination of reward and frustration. Unlike the Microsoft game, it takes time to learn to control passing in Madden. Jas suggested that it was difficult to know when to throw a pass. It was, however, much easier to kick a field goal than in the Microsoft competitor.

The boys liked the plays?they reported ?they are very detailed. You know exactly what?s going to happen?. And they were impressed with the individualization of the players. ?Fatter guys are slower runners, just like in real life?. Still, they were surprised to report that the graphics had taken a step backwards from the 1999 version?last year?s version seemed clearer and more detailed, Joey pointed out.

While the detailing in the arenas and the crowd stand out, Joey felt like the commentary in this game also needed improvement. Too often, with both games, comments simply don?t match what?s happening on the field.

Both boys rated this game as a B+. For an example of a football simulation that rates an A, they both pointed to NFL 2K for Sega?s new DreamCast, which they agreed was ?totally realistic?. Joey commented ?It?s not too often that you see a game system game overpower a computer, but NFL 2K whoops them all. It totally rocks?.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan