The players on the computer-controlled teams for the most part do a decent job on offense and defense, even on the game's default difficulty setting. When compared to NFL Fever 2003, the AI this year is definitely tougher, especially when it comes to stopping big pass plays. However, even with this new and improved AI, NFL Fever 2004 still just feels pretty stiff on both sides of the ball.
One of the more user-friendly options included in NFL Fever 2004 is the ability to save your progress at any point during play. So, if you find yourself in the middle of the second quarter and have to run off, you can simply save the game. When you return and load your saved game, you'll find that it returns you right back to the point where you stopped and saved it.
Visually, NFL Fever 2004 looks very similar to NFL Fever 2003. The player models, the stadiums, and animations haven't evolved noticeably. The player models in 2004 are identical to those in 2003, with a few slight variations for height and weight differences. Even the faces of the players are hit and miss. For instance, Rich Gannon doesn't look anything like his real-world counterpart, but several of his teammates, including Tim Brown, look spot-on. The animations of the players look fairly realistic, although there are a few quirky ones--like the way quarterbacks hold the ball way too high. The only main problem with the animations in the game, though, is simply that there aren't enough of them. This is especially true for the game's tackling animations, which often look more like one player simply pushing the other over. This contributes to the occasionally less-than-satisfying feel of the gameplay. On the other hand, the textures, lighting, and shadows used in NFL 2004 are still some of the most realistic looking for any of the Xbox football games. Still, for the fan who's been keeping track, NFL Fever 2004 is the third game in the series, and it still looks roughly the same as its predecessors. When compared to today's standards and what's being done in other football games, Fever simply isn't very impressive from a graphical standpoint.
The read and lead passing is an interesting addition that works quite well.
In the audio department, NFL Fever 2004 has a lot of different elements that, when combined, do a decent job of recreating the sounds and voices you'd hear from an NFL broadcast. Kevin Calabro and Ron Pitts provide the play-by-play calls and color commentary, which, for the first couple of games, doesn't seem too bad. Unfortunately, after a few more games the limited amount of dialogue starts to show through, as the announcer team shows little variety--even regarding team-specific comments. The sound effects in the game are convincing enough, especially when you have the game hooked up to a surround sound system, since the game includes Dolby Digital 5.1 support. Also supported is the ability to rip music to the Xbox's hard drive to create custom soundtracks.
While this year's version of the game is technically the best yet, NFL Fever 2004 hasn't changed that much when compared to last year's game. This means that if you're not a fan of the previous NFL Fever games, this one isn't going to change your mind. Ultimately, Madden NFL 2004 and ESPN NFL Football offer most everything that NFL Fever 2004 does in terms of gameplay, and then some, making them better all-around choices for most football fans.