NFL Fever 2000
Windows - 1999
Description of NFL Fever 2000
Bad, easy football
Bad football games are all too easy to make. The challenge in creating a good football game stems from the wide breadth of audience. Some people want to manage a team. Others want to coach. Some people like to throw the ball and others like to run it. You just can't make everyone happy. Whether you like, love, or simply enjoy NFL Fever 2000 depends largely on your point of view. In other words, don't watch a Sylvester Stallone movie if you want comedy.
NFL Fever weighs in as the lightweight in the computer football world. Team management takes a back seat to coaching. Coaching takes a back seat to reading defenses before passing the ball. More than anything else, the ability to knock a player to the turf after gymnastic flips, turns, and pirouettes takes precedence in this wonderfully entertaining game. If you're impressed with style over substance, this may be the best football game ever. If you're bothered by rule inconsistencies and the need to track the statistics of your star linebacker, you won't get much from this game. But for pure arcade fun, eye candy and over the top action, this game scores.
Sweatband Cheat Sheet
My father coaches football, so I grew up knowing the difference between a nickel and a dime before I knew how much each was worth. I knew what the shotgun was before I ever shot one. And I knew that a fullback was made for blocking, not all that touchdown stuff that John Riggins popularized in the early '80s. Fortunately, this game assumes, or at least rewards, this type of knowledge. Interestingly enough, it doesn't really punish you if you don't know this sort of stuff. How? During the play-calling sequence, Matt Millen will make a situational recommendation. If you need short yardage, you will see six or so plays meant for small gains. If the clock is winding down and you have a 14 point lead, only running plays are offered. If it's 3rd and long, nickel and dime packages dominate.
If you choose to neglect Millen's advice, you can pick your own plays by selecting the offensive and defensive scheme (such as Pro Set, 3-4, or 4-3), and then pick individual plays from each line. You see six plays at a time (which is much better than Madden's three) and each play is easily identified as a passing or rushing play. Defensive alignments show not only the lineup, but also the responsibilities for each position. Once you've moved to the line of scrimmage, you can view the scheme and adjust your plans accordingly. Whether that means calling an audible or moving a player to another position, you have complete control over pre-snap decisions.
Offensive plays are balanced between rushing and receiving, though pre-snap planning proves only moderately useful once the ball is in play. In the real world, the rush sets up the pass (or the pass sets up the rush). Actually, it doesn't matter what sets up what, because as long as you can do at least one thing well, you can figure out how to do the other. Most computer football games slant heavily toward passing, and I find that a bit repetitious. NFL Fever provides a fair balance of rushing and passing; if you really want to rush the ball, you can. But don't expect to pound out a drive through rushing alone. As in the real world, if the defense suspects a rush, they can stop it by crowding the line and blitzing the holes.
Bringing Back Barry - Part I
Rushing in NFL Fever works just like the Detroit Lions, with four basic results. The interior rush is by far the least successful play to call, rarely providing more than one or two yards. The off-tackle rush will get a few more yards per carry, but seldom provides for gains of more than 7 yards. The third type of run is the "caught behind the line of scrimmage" rush that brings back memories of Barry Sanders and lowers your yards-per-carry average into negative numbers. Finally, the improvisational rush provides the most satisfaction. This is usually the result of an off-tackle play that bounces the runner to the outside and down the line of scrimmage. If you want to rush the ball, don't be afraid to bust the play and run for daylight.
Passing is a bit easier to learn but more difficult to master. After snapping the ball you tap the 'A' button to light up the receivers. Simply press the button that corresponds to the open receiver and move the chains. At least in theory. In practice, you must identify the open receiver and throw the ball with the right amount of oomph to reach the player at the perfect moment. If you've ever wondered why the NFL suffers from a lack of quality at the quarterback position, try going through five reads with the game set in "fast" play mode.
Where Have You Gone, Jack Pardee?
The computer controlled AI opponent must be a fan of the Run and Shoot. A balanced attack simply doesn't exist when the computer calls 14 passing plays for each running play. Although you can predict that the computer will pass the ball in a given situation, picking the correct defense doesn't guarantee a defensive stopper. Though this tendency becomes predictable, it doesn't become tedious, as defending a pass still requires good defensive execution. In fact, I think for pure fun, I'd rather defend a pass than a grinding run. It's much more exciting to bat away a ball, chase the quarterback down for a loss, or even hammer the receiver at the precise moment he catches the ball. Defensively, the computer usually picks the right package for a given situation but not to such an extreme that a 3rd and long running play will trick it.
The only AI problems I found in the game were related to special teams play. During a kickoff, the coverage should run down lanes to ensure a player doesn't cut back against the protection for a speedy touchdown. I found that I could run to the sidelines and lure most of the coverage into one third of the field. If you have a fast special teams return man you can cut it back and make impressive gains. This happens a bit too easily for my taste, but it does provide the added risk of a safety on the kick return. Speaking of which, if the ball is kicked or punted and rolls into the end-zone, you can't pick it up and run it out; the touchback is called for you. This flaw happens surprisingly often, though it doesn't really impact the outcome of a game. Finally, the computer kick returner doesn't always run away from the coverage and will get caught when he could have stretched the return out another 20 yards by heading for the sidelines.
I enjoyed playing through an entire season. If you elect to play as the Eagles but get tired of losing every game, simply play as the Dolphins when their game time comes up. If you're playing a lightweight such as the Browns, you can elect to simulate the results and manually control a more interesting match up. Alternately, you can skip the regular season and go right to the playoffs. Each team's record is kept throughout the regular season so that you can see the divisional and overall records as the weeks progress.
Picking Dyson over Moss
If you don't like the way that the Eagles are playing, use the Team Manager to trade away the future for the present. Actually, the Eagles are a bad choice here, as they have no future. Let's choose another team, say, the Titans. You can trade Yancey Thigpen and Eddie George for Randy Moss (rectifying last year's mistake). Or, if you're certain that your favorite player has better hands than the NFL experts at Microsoft have deemed, simply increase Ricky Williams' receiving ability to 100%. For a better time, deplete the defensive line of your least favorite team. I chose the Arizona Cardinals (actually, management depleted the line for me, so it took less effort than for other teams). For the coup de grace, add your own players to the roster of free agents and sign with the team of your choice. Look for Ty Brewer coming to the Dallas Cowboys any day now. Of course, his 6'4", 225 lbs. looks a little more healthy than my 6'4" 225 lbs.
If one thing stands out as lacking from the game, it's stats. As your running back plunges into the end zone for a first quarter touchdown, you'll see stats such as yards per carry, touchdowns, and total yardage. But halftime stats show only the global view of the game. You can't see individual stats for players. While it may not actually change your game plan ("Let's stop Moss!"), it does take away from patting yourself on the back for averaging 7 yards per carry with your favorite running back. And because you only see individual stats when a player scores a touchdown, you'll never know how your quarterback is doing unless he bootlegs into the end zone (the stats are shown for the receiver on pass plays). To make matters more vague, stats are kept for one game at a time, so you can't see how you've performed over the course of a season.
Bringing Back Barry - Part II
Stadiums are modeled in exacting detail, though weather effects are more for atmosphere than functionality. The computer throws the ball with abandon in Green Bay on a windy, snowy day without difficulty. Sideline player density is determined through a slider bar, though players stand immobile. The referees aren't as much a part of the game as you'll find in Madden 2000, but I see this as a good thing. A quick visit to the Microsoft web site promises updated team rosters, though this download has yet to appear. I suppose they too are waiting to see what Barry Sanders will do.
I can go into detail about what's missing from this title, but this only tells part of the story. As I mentioned earlier, what you want from the game will largely determine how satisfied you feel after a few hours of play. Visually, this is the best football game I've seen. I don't mean things like high-polygon count, environment maps and frames per second. Rather, this game grabs you with clothesline tackles and the occasional mid-air flip. Player movement is more realistic than anything I've seen. Players survey the field, point to holes at the line of scrimmage, and move with a more human-like appearance than you would imagine. The subtle nuance of slowing down from a full stride to a stop is accurately portrayed by the player leaning back in the stride and lowering the arms to a walking gait. Large players look like large-boned men, not small men inflated like balloons. Celebrations look smooth and humanlike, not manipulated by a puppeteer.
The Best $20 Game I've Seen
I strongly recommend this game. You won't find one with a higher "fun factor" than NFL Fever 2000. While you may long for strong statistics and a better balance of rushing and passing, you won't regret this purchase. Buy this game. At $20, you can't possibly go wrong.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
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