ESPN NFL 2K5 (XBOX)

In a welcome move, Take Two Interactive announced it is bringing back the 2K football series to the console-verse with All Pro Football 2K8. The game is slated to appear on “next-gen” consoles only, which is an interesting move given the established userbase of current-gen systems. While resource might be a factor, it would have been nice to see Take Two bring the game to the PS2 at a minimum. Then again, the company might be doing this to blow the socks off Madden’s thus far less compelling visual presentation. The last two Maddens on 360 have offered very few upgrades, and no matter how many polygons EA boasts, there is something missing in these Maddens that have got hardcore fans scratching thier heads.

Anyone with a general Economics background, however, isn’t surprised by the lack of innovation from EA. After spending millions to secure the NFL and ESPN licenses, it’s only natural EA seek to recoup those losses through minimizing its game labor. Otherwise, the move would make little financial sense. Still, exclusivity has not stopped other companies from pumping out successful football games. Midway’s reenvisioned Blitz was a surprise — if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend playing it — though football purists should be warned of its sometimes obscene and offensive content.

While it remains unclear exactly WHO will be in Take Two’s gridiron return, what is clear is Visual Concept’s brilliance in engineering exciting gameplay and equally compelling presentation. Personally, 2K did ESPN a far better presentation than what EA has done with it. The 2K series really imagined televised gameplay, and NFL 2k5 shined because of it. If Visual Concepts can deliver that same level of polish in 2K8, it’s very possible EA could see declines in its next Madden game. Review scores for recent Madden releases have started to fall (finally!), and it’s a good sign that writers on EGM and even sellout IGN are starting to derail EA’s lack of improvements with the title.

Here’s hoping Pro Football 2K8 delivers Madden the BIG wake-up call I’m sure NFL 2K6 would have done had EA not muscled away the NFL license.

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