- Platform: PlayStation 2, Xbox
- Published by: 2K Sports
- Developed by: Visual Concepts
- Genre: Sports
- ESRB Rating: E For Everyone
- Number of Players: 1, Online Multiplayer
- Release Date: July 20th, 2004
We are drawing closer to the start of the NFL season, this is always an exciting time of year for me personally. I played football at both the high school and college level, I’m about as big of a football fan as there possibly could be, so it makes sense that I always look forward to new football video games, or at least I did until EA got exclusive NFL Licensing rights and pretty much killed the competition by garnering a monopoly in the market. To this day, when someone brings up the all time best NFL game of all time, ESPN NFL 2K5 is always the front-runner in this topic of conversation. The main reason that people still talk about it being the best, is because it still offers features you cant find in the latest edition of Madden, ESPN NFL 2K5 came out in 2004 and it still plays as tight as ever, sometimes its a real joy to break out retro games and play through them, this is one retro game that I seriously couldn’t stop playing.
To those that might not be that familiar with the NFL 2K series, they were originally Sega’s answer to the Madden games, Sega needed a sports division for the Dreamcast because EA refused to publish their games on the console. So Sega developed the Sega Sports division and the rest is history. The interesting thing about the ESPN 2K series is that they were selling all their sports games at an incredible $19.99, and this was at a time when new games were $49.99. Needless to say ESPN NFL 2K5 took a hefty chunk away from Madden that year, not only did 2K5 release earlier than Madden, but it was less than half the price. A lot of people, myself included, bought a copy on PS2 and Xbox. I bought all the 2K Sports releases that year, EA actually had to reduce the price of Madden 05, but they didn’t match the NFL 2K5 price of $19.99, instead they opted to sell for $29.99. It wasn’t long after NFL 2K5 took such a chunk of the NFL pie that EA bought the exclusive NFL Licence and forced 2K out of the NFL gaming business.
The presentation of ESPN NFL 2K5 was unmatched, even by today’s standards. ESPN alum Chris Berman, Suzy Kolber, Mel Kiper and Trey Wingo were all featured in the game. Berman would give highlights at every halftime, and if you played on the Xbox version, you got fully visual highlights, something Madden still struggles with today. The announcers for the games were also much better than the announcers on the Madden games, while the Madden announcers were very repetitive and often didn’t seem to know what was going on, in NFL 2K5, the announcers were always right on point. Sometimes the on the field presentation was so realistic, people would often think I was actually watching an NFL game, as opposed to playing one on a video game console. Since ESPN was a real sports institution, having the people from the channel added to the realism that the game created.
The controls are still as tight as ever, I think the way you control your defense pre-snap is still much easier and far superior on NFL 2K5 to this very day. The running game is much more realistic and the way the Quarterback reacts and throws is much more realistic. The graphics are still very nice to look at, especially if you play the original Xbox version, which has some bump mapping and the uniforms get dirty when the players are tackled in the rain or mud. Hot routes are simple to use, the playbooks are all authentic and at the time the game was originally out, you could take your franchise online and compete, this is something that Madden games are just now starting to implement. There was also a first person mode, which was tough to get down, but it actually made you feel like you were in the game. It’s not a feature that I’d use all the time, but it was great for a laugh with friends or just something to mess around with by yourself.
The VIP system was also something unique at the time, you could save your buddies online profile and compete against his ghost even when he wasn’t around. The computer would simulate his play calling and style exactly, so you could play against your friends, even when they weren’t around. This was very helpful for me at the time because I was ranked in the top 100 online, so I’d practice against the top 10 profiles non stop. The other new thing that NFL 2K5 did was The Crip, this was a place to put all of your trophies and achievements that you unlocked in the game, needless to say my Crib was stacked with Baltimore Ravens swag and it was a purple and black paradise. You could even customize your music, so if you scored a touchdown, you got to choose what song would play. The online league was also something that was far ahead of its time, I was in four different leagues and won a championship in two of those leagues.
There were also celebrities you could play against, if you wanted to play against Carmen Electra’s team, you’d just wait in your Crib until one of them called you. There were four or five to choose from, including Jamie Kennedy, Steve-O, David Arquette and Funkmaster Flex. The celebrity teams were all very stacked and tough to beat, but you won some pretty cool swag by defeating them. ESPN NFL 2K5 still stands as the deepest and most loved NFL game to date, if you have never played it and consider yourself a football fan and a gamer, you need to find a used copy for $1 and pop it in and see what all the fuss was and is still all about. Sadly, you can’t play this game online anymore, but the sliders all adjust and you can get quite the challenge from the computer.
In closing, I was blown away by how well the game has held up, I bought it new in 2004 and here we sit in 2012 and the game has a lot of aspects that play better than the newest Madden games. When you consider that ESPN NFL 2K5 actually had gang tackles and realistic physics back then, its hard to wonder how great the game would be if we ever saw a new version. EA’s contract with the NFL runs out in 2013, so we will have to wait and see what happens, but I’m interested in seeing what the NFL fans and gamer’s have to say on the subject right now. If 2K Sports were to put out a new NFL game, would you buy it? Please sound off on the comment section and let us know. Enjoy the NFL season!