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ESPN NFL 2K5 hits the field for another phenomenal football season (NFL 2K5 Review)

Sega and ESPN Videogames are taking their NFL competition seriously this year. Not only have the publishers released “ESPN NFL 2K5” a few weeks before its main rivals, but they have also dropped the game’s suggested retail price to $19.99US in a bid to haul football fanatics to their camp this season. Does the game have enough firepower to bring down the Madden NFL franchise, which has dominated the football scene for over 15 years, or will the title fumble early on?

Available on the PS2 and Xbox, ESPN NFL 2K5 features seven game modes to choose from including the franchise mode (where you get to control every aspect of your team, which involves roster manipulation and unique coaching features) and the ESPN 25th Anniversary mode (which lets you take charge of 25 classic NFL situations that have occurred in the last 25 years of the sport).

Visually, the game looks stunning and is the best looking sports title to date. Everything in this game is so well detailed that you can almost smell the artificial turf in the stadiums. The player models are well detailed and articulate with precision, which makes their movements look so realistic that you get the feeling you’re actually watching a televised ESPN event.

The game’s audio portion is also top-notch and features quite possibly the best play-by-play commentary in a video game. Commentators Chris Berman and Suzy Kobler describe the plays perfectly and aren’t too repetitive when compared to other sports titles. The sound effects are also quite realistic and compliment the visuals accordingly. ESPN NFL 2K5 includes the custom soundtrack feature which lets you import your favourite tracks in the game.

For those who aren’t too familiar with the sport, the game offers an excellent tutorial mode that lets you practice the title’s offensive and defensive maneuvers. You will need to complete every move perfectly in order to progress to the next challenge. All of the challenges are accompanied by an easy to follow step-by-step description of the moves you must accomplish to move one. Thanks to the tutorial, you’ll be playing like a seasoned veteran in no time.

One of the most interesting features of ESPN NFL 2K5 is the Virtual Identity Profile System, or V.I.P. System for short. This system lets you save your friends’ profiles in order to compete against them when they’re not online. The V.I.P. System mimics their strategies, maneuvers and reasoning, thus creating a virtual image of your opponent to study and train against from before the big game. This is a great way to learn your opponent’s weaknesses in order to defeat that friend of yours who always ends-up having the upper hand against you.

ESPN NFL 2K5 kicks-off the 2005 battle of the gridiron with a worthy lead against heavyweight Madden NFL 2005. Will the underdog keep the reigning champion at bay this year? Or will Madden NFL 2005 take home yet another championship? The race should get even more heated in a few weeks when EA unleashes the new version of Madden football to the masses. But if you’re looking for a fun and exciting NFL title that won’t unbalance your monthly budget, then ESPN NFL 2K5 fits that description to perfection.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally Published in the Metro Marquee in July 2004

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Ninja Gaiden fans prep-up for the perfect storm (Hurricane Pack Preview)

Since its release earlier this year, Tecmo’s Xbox exclusive “Ninja Gaiden” has amassed rave reviews due to its jaw dropping visuals, fast and furious gameplay and innovative storyline. Now things are going to get a whole better for Gaiden fans on Aug. 02 when Tecmo unleashes its first Hurricane Pack downloadable content that will give gamers a whole new perspective on Ninja Gaiden.

The new booster pack of sorts will be launched in conjunction with the second phase of the Master Ninja Tournament, which pits the world’s best Gaiden players against each other for the highest score. The new content will signal the start of tournament. It’s been made clear by Tecmo that players do not need to participate in the tournament in order to download and play with the improved content.

Available only to subscribers of Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming service, the new content will spice-up the already stellar title with new enemies, enhanced weapons, better enemy AI (artificial intelligence) and new camera angles that will make things even more challenging for gamers used to the original gameplay formula.

The camera angles will be tweaked thanks to the addition of a manual third-person view that will enable players to switch views to suite their combat needs. Gamers will now have full control of the camera. This in itself is a major improvement to the game as many fans complained that the camera angles could be unforgiving in various combat-related instances.

Also included in the download is a tweaked gaming engine that will speed-up the action considerably. Dubbed the Action Engine, the new component will turbo charge everything including your character and enemies. If you thought Ninja Gaiden was fast-paced, get ready for another jolt of extreme ninja action.

As for the new enemies, the game will include several new foes. Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki stated in a previous interview that several lesser villains were eliminated in the original iteration to make way for the new enemies. Your new adversaries will include giant Egyptian like triceratops creatures that will try to annihilate your character using massive spike laden clubs. As you can imagine, the folks at Tecmo were pretty imaginative with character design.

The only disappointing point about the upcoming Hurricane Pack is that it will be only offered to subscribers of Xbox Live. It would have great for Tecmo to send booster pack disks to retailers so that non-Xbox Live users could get the opportunity to experience this new level of Ninja Gaiden excitement. The download will probably show-up on a demo disk at some point, but thus far the download will be exclusive to Xbox Live members.

Will the new downloadable content make Ninja Gaiden a relatively perfect title? I guess will just have to wait and see. But no matter how you enhance the game, Ninja Gaiden remains one of the best titles of the year thus far. If you haven’t experienced Ninja Gaiden yet, now would be the time to treat yourself to this amazing title.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming – Originally published in the Metro Marquee in July 2004

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A fast and furious rallycross challenge – (RalliSport Challenge 2 Review)

Microsoft Game Studios and Dice have returned to the rallycross scene with the release of “RalliSport Challenge 2” for the Xbox. The relatively unknown sport has become quite popular for gamers. Early this year, Xbox owners had the opportunity to challenge the rally circuit with Codemasters’ solid “Colin McRae Rally 04”. Will RalliSport Challenge 2 capture this year’s rallycross title, or will the game end-up in second spot behind Colin McRae Rally 04?

RalliSport Challenge 2 features five different race types. The “Rally” game lets you race on your own through a point-to-point stage where the goal is to end-up with the best possible time. In “Rallycross”, you must challenge three other drivers on various obstacle-filled terrains. The “Ice Racing” game type lets you race across slippery breakneck surfaces. The “Hill Climb” option gives you the opportunity to shift-up through steep inclines and around treacherous corners in order to rack-up the best possible time. And finally, the “Crossover” mode gives you the opportunity to switch lanes with your opponents during laps.

The game looks absolutely stunning. RalliSport Challenge 2 delivers amazing visuals thanks to the use of dynamic lighting and shadowing that create photo realistic environments and models. The lighting interacts perfectly with what’s happening on screen, creating a jaw dropping affect that immerses players in the game. Like Colin McRae Rally 04, the game’s attention to detail is quite spectacular.

RalliSport Challenge 2 plays more like an arcade title when compared to Colin McRae Rally 04. The controls are a lot smoother making the vehicle more responsive, but for some reason the game doesn’t feel as realistic as Colin McRae Rally 04. Your vehicle can be steered by either using the left thumb-stick or by using the directional pad. The right trigger button acts as your gas pedal, and is pressure-sensitive like it’s really life counterpart. The left trigger is used for breaking and to shift your car in reverse motion. For gamers who like to drive with a manual transmission, the “x” and “b” buttons are used to gear-up or down shift your vehicle.

The audio in the title is quite remarkable thanks to the use of authentic sound effects that resemble the true grittiness of the sport. The game’s soundtrack features a slew of decent tracks by some relatively unknown artists. Luckily, the game features the custom soundtrack option that lets you throw in your favourite tracks into the mix.

Xbox Live fanatics will also be pleased to know that RalliSport Challenge 2 features a dedicated online mode. To maintain a stable frame rate with all with all details on, the game limits your challenges to four players. Up to 16-players can join-up by simply removing the game’s collision detection. The Xbox Live function of the title alone will keep gamers satisfied for quite some time. The multiplayer aspect of the game can also be enjoyed offline with four player split screen competitions.

Racing fans looking for an accurate simulation of the sport should pick-up Colin McRae Rally 04. But if speed and intensity is what you thrive, then RalliSport Challenge 2 is exactly what you’re looking for. The arcade-style racer is a must play title for racing fanatics and shouldn’t be looked over when searching for a title in the genre. RalliSport Challenge 2 is a definitive four out of five star title.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com. – Originally published in the Metro Marquee in July 2004

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