Playstation 2 Reviews E

ESPN College Hoops 2005
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (2004)
Reviewed: 2005/2/5
Rating: Everyone


screenshotTimes are tough for college hoops fans looking for a decent video game. They'd probably be better off pulling out the old Coach K for the Genesis. When compared to EA's March Madness (MM), College Hoops looks prettier but lacks the tight control. The smoothly animated players look sharp, but their moves have a "continuation" element that doesn't make you feel in total control.

The button scheme is comparable to MM, but the icon passing is assigned to R2, forcing you to release the R1 "turbo" function to use it. Hoop's gameplay is more defensive-minded than MM, so it's difficult to penetrate on the drive. When you do find an opening however, you'll be treated to some nifty rim-rattling dunks. The ball seems strangely "floaty" around the rim, but I do like how it can bounce up off the rim and go in the basket anyway. On defense, it seems like whenever you try to steal you're charged with a reach-in foul, and that's something you can't adjust in the option screen!

And then there's Sega's foul shooting system, which I didn't think could get any worse. It has. Now only a single button press is used, and making the shot apparently depends on some mysterious combination of how hard you push the button and how long you hold it. The instructions don't offer a clue, and it's frustrating to try to figure out what the game designers were thinking (or smoking).

Coaches are present on the sidelines, but they don't look anything like the real ones, and you can say the same about the mascots. Maryland's turtle looks downright emaciated! During timeouts all you see are the cheerleaders, although I will admit they are fairly shapely. College Hoop's ESPN license is largely wasted, represented only by some familiar music and that ever-present logo. The game lacks an NCAA license but it doesn't matter since the players look realistic and wear the correct numbers.

The commentary is serviceable, but it does sound odd to hear the players called by number ("Number four should not have taken that shot!"). The career mode is pretty weak because you only have a limited number of teams to start with, and if your favorite isn't on the list, what's the point? This would have been a good year for College Hoops to overtake March Madness, but apparently Sega was not up to the challenge. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 8 players 

ESPN NBA 2K5
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2005)
Reviewed: 2005/5/1
Rating: Everyone


screenshotDespite superior graphics and sharp overall presentation, NBA 2K5 lags behind EA's NBA Live in terms of gameplay. On the bright side, players move with fluid motion and react realistically to the action on the court. They can deliver the ball on the run, and the slam-dunks are very satisfying (especially when players hang on the iron). Best of all, the jump shooting aspect of the game is terrific, thanks to a very soft and forgiving rim. Unfortunately, player animations tend to have an "automatic continuation" element that makes the controls feel less than responsive.

Plays can be called on the fly, but their selection menus cover too much of the screen. In their tradition, Sega has incorporated a needlessly complicated foul shooting scheme that requires the use of both joysticks and a shoulder button - it's frustrating! NBA 2K5 shines in terms of presentation. Besides the familiar ESPN graphics and music, you get pre-game analysis with interesting commentary. Michele Tafoya reports from the sidelines, and shapely cheerleaders entertain during half time.

I like how coaches complain about calls, and you even get reactions from players on the bench. The idea of showing highlights during half time is good, but the still pictures are a lame substitute for video. ESPN 2K5 does have one odd feature that's quite disturbing. When a player is called for a foul, his rotating head is then displayed (as if on a platter) while his mouth opens and closes. I can't tell if it looks more creepy or hilarious, but Sega really dropped the ball there.

As you would expect, 2K5 offers a plethora of option menus and sliders to customize every aspect of the game (except for the rotating heads). Adding replay value, there's an interesting "24 by 7" mode that uses the actual system clock to offer new items and challenges each day, as you advance a player (and his rotating head) from the streets to the pros. Most sports fans will probably favor NBA Live, but ESPN is still a respectable effort. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

ESPN NFL 2K5
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (2004)
Reviewed: 2004/9/14
Rating: Everyone


screenshotAt long last, it appears that Madden's domination of video game football may finally be at an end. ESPN NFL 2K5 delivers a different style of football, but it plays nearly as well, looks far better, and has some surprisingly fresh features. With a price that's hard to resist, 2K5 retails for an astonishing $19.99, compared with $49.99 for Madden. ESPN's animation is more fluid and realistic than Madden, with running backs that squeeze through holes and receivers that leap for high throws. The players look great with or without their helmets, and even the cheerleaders and coaches look respectable.

It may take a few games for Madden veterans to adjust to the new controls and playbook, but it's well worth the effort. Tecmo Football veterans will appreciate how tapping the 'A' button lets the runner break tackles! ESPN's gameplay is slightly more arcade-like than Madden, but the teams and players still perform in a realistic manner. I do have an issue with how difficult it is to set up certain special formations. For example, assigning a receiver double coverage is so complicated that you probably won't get it registered before the computer snaps the ball.

What really pushes ESPN over the top is its innovative features. For the first time in many years, the chains will occasionally be dragged out to measure a first down, and this whole sequence looks great. Players carry on with each other after plays, and there's an amazing number of user-selectable after-touchdown celebrations. Sega made good on its ESPN license, with familiar music and flashy graphics like you'd see on a live telecast. There are even impressive half time and post-game shows that accurately detail the action of each half. The highlights are shown as still pictures instead of video clips, but that's understandable due to memory limitations.

As impressed I was with these shows, I was absolutely floored when I saw Suzy Kolber interview a player after the game. That's just too cool. If ESPN has a weakness, it lies in its whiney play-by-play. Unlike Madden, ESPN doesn't use professional commentators and it shows when they mispronounce player names. In general they call a good game, but they get cut off whenever you press a button. Overall ESPN is a brilliant package that should make Madden fans think twice. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

ESPN NFL Football
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (2003)
Reviewed: 2003/9/20
Rating: Everyone


screenshotFrom the outset, ESPN Football looks like a Madden killer. A sequel to NFL 2K3, Visuals Concepts has produced for Sega the best-looking football game you can buy. With fluid animation, players that remove their helmets, impressive TV-style presentation, and a top-notch running game, ESPN is a legitimate challenge to the Madden dynasty.

There are plenty of innovative new features, but most prominent is the "first person" mode, that puts you right on the field, looking out of the helmet of key players. It would seem impossible to pull off, but with the help of a "slow mo" (aka "bullet-time") button, it can be pretty exhilarating. I'm not sure if I could make it through a whole season playing this, but it's definitely an entertaining diversion.

The next thing that grabbed my attention was the professional TV-style presentation. With all the cut-away scenes, statistical analysis, and visual highlights, I was actually expecting a commercial to come on. The cheerleaders are pretty scrawny, but the fans and sideline players look terrific. Unlike Madden, players actually take off their helmets here and talk to the camera! Chris Berman does a nice half-time show, going over the highlights from the first half (although the fact that still pictures are used instead of video reveals the limitations of the PS2).

The entertaining commentators are the same ones from the NFL 2K series, and they talk non-stop and only occasionally say something inappropriate (for some reason they get pretty excited about extra points). Another innovative new feature is the "Crib", a virtual house that holds all of the trophies, memorabilia, and mini-games you open as you play through a season. The action on the field isn't bad either.

The running game is exceptionally fluid, and runningbacks regularly drag defenders and break tackles. The innovative "speed burst" control lets you tap the X button for extra speed or hold it to charge up. You can execute every move imaginable including stutter-steps, chop blocks, rips, and hook slides. The play calling screens have been overhauled to look just like Madden, so Madden vets will have no problem making the transition.

ESPN Football makes an outstanding first impression, but repeated plays reveal some imperfections. The passing game is much weaker than Madden. Passes that seem uncatchable somehow get pulled in, and many good passes get dropped inexplicably. Also, the AI (artificial intelligence) will often leave you bewildered - Madden definitely has a smarter CPU. If you compare ESPN to Madden, it's really a toss-up. ESPN is definitely flashier, but Madden is slightly more realistic. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 8 players 

ESPN NHL 2K5
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (2004)
Reviewed: 2005/3/29
Rating: Everyone


screenshotIronically enough, it was the cancelled hockey season that inspired me to purchase a hockey game. I'm not an NHL fan, but I love winter sports and hockey games usually make for a good time. There's something about the sport's bright rinks and distinct sound effects that I find hard to resist. I couldn't decide between ESPN NHL 2K5 and EA's NHL 2005, but since they were cheap, I picked up both. After playing them back-to-back on several occasions, I have to give the edge to ESPN NHL 2K5.

Its graphics are about the same quality as EA's offering, but the animation is far more fluid. Consequently, the puck is easier to follow and maintain control of it. The replays are also silky smooth, and a real pleasure to watch. Scoring is not difficult, thank goodness. There are plenty of "loose puck in front of the net" scoring opportunities, and I was able to perform my signature "one timers" with surgical precision. At times, I felt like I could score at will, but that's probably because I'm so awesome.

One area where ESPN does falter somewhat is its body checks, which seem awfully soft compared to EA's game. ESPN's fights, while annoying after a while, are probably the most realistic I've ever seen in a hockey game. Instead of looking like two stiff robots jabbing at each other, the players really throw their weight around and usually end up falling onto each other in a heap. The game's commentary is sensational. You never know what's going to come out of these guys' mouths, and they sound like they're genuinely enjoying themselves.

Even so, I prefer to turn down the music, commentators, and especially that damn horn, in order to crank on the on-ice sounds. I find the crunching of the ice and "clicking" of the punk very relaxing. Recognizing that most gamers are just casual hockey fans (if that), ESPN incorporated an interesting new "party mode" for one to four players. In this collection of mini-games, you can challenge friends to collect icons, traverse an obstacle course, or engage in a free-for-all shootout. It's not worth buying the game for, but it certainly adds to the replay value. In the final analysis, I think it's safe to say that ESPN NHL 2K5 is the best hockey game on the market right now. . © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

ESPN NHL Hockey
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/3/27
Rating: Everyone


screenshotIt's an age-old question: Can a modern hockey game even compare to those classic Genesis NHL games of the past? Of course not, but ESPN Hockey makes an admirable attempt. In fact, this is the best new hockey game I've played in years. Why? Because ESPN isn't afraid to sacrifice some graphic detail in order to ratchet up the fun.

The field scrolls mainly up and down, and the camera is pulled way back so you get a good view of the rink. This makes passing easier, although if you're on the far right or left side, you still can't see your teammates on the opposite side. The gameplay itself is quite exciting, with lightning fast slap shots and skillfully executed one-timers (my specialty).

ESPN Hockey strikes a good balance between arcade and realism, and the controls are dead-on. I have heard that the season mode is somewhat lacking, but to be honest, I'm the kind of guy who prefers to just play against friends with the penalties OFF. I don't even know who the players are, but I certainly can appreciate seeing a player check another into the first row!

One aspect that's pretty lame is the fighting - these guys punch like girls! The TV-style presentation is nice, but all the fancy graphics sometimes disrupt the flow of the game. The announcers keep up with the action well enough, but rarely say anything interesting. I like ESPN Hockey. Purists may nit-pick, but casual gamers with enjoy the nonstop action. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Endgame
Grade: C+
Publisher: Empire (2002)
Reviewed: 2002/8/19
Rating: Teen

screenshotIf you like light gun games, then you'll probably enjoy Endgame. It's a no-frills shooter, but it's fun and provides plenty of shooting satisfaction for your money. The story centers around a redheaded woman who knows some corporate secret, so now an army of white-collared Republican executives is out to get her. Like Time Crisis (Namco), you'll take cover behind scenery, and need to hold down a button in order to stick your head out and shoot. Control is dead-on. But the best thing about Endgame is that you're constantly running from place to place, so the game never feels repetitive or boring.

The smooth sensation of movement is done to good effect, and the game is fairly long by light gun game standards. You'll travel through 20 locations spanning the globe. Many of the locations have been covered by previous light gun games, including a subway, train, warehouse, and snowmobile stage. I swear the warehouse looks exactly like the one from Area 51 (PS1). The characters in this game move realistically, but are pretty chunky by PS2 standards. The main character looks like she's wearing an adult diaper!

The scenery is about average, but features some nice lighting effects, and you can shoot up just about everything. It's especially satisfying to shoot out all the windows. Enemies react according to where they're shot, and you can hit them multiple times. There's no blood in this game. If Endgame has a fault, it's that it's too plain. There are no power-ups or special weapons to spice up the action.

The game does feature a few hidden play modes however that open up if you advance far enough. One is the Mighty Joe Jupiter game, a mini light gun game starring a cartoon space hero reminiscent of Blasto for the PS1. While it isn't much of a game, the dialogue is hilarious! You can also open a two-player/double gun mode. Endgame isn't anything spectacular, but it certainly gets the job done. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Escape From Monkey Island
Grade: F

screenshotThe original Secret of Monkey Island (Sega CD, 1993) was a charming point-and-click pirate adventure with a clever sense of humor. Many regard it as a classic but rest assured this ill-advised sequel is not. Escape from Monkey Island is set on the same island as the original game but rendered in a 3D style. The graphics are stylized but not particularly detailed or interesting. The music isn't bad, offering a tropical blend that's pleasantly festive.

Technically the game is a complete mess. You'd expect an improved user experience from a modern system but the control scheme is incomprehensible. Instead of paging through dialog choices via the directional pad, you use the R1 and R2 buttons. When there are only two options it's hard to tell which is highlighted! The controls are not responsive at all, with frequent pauses that make you wonder if your command even registered.

Moving between contiguous areas is bewildering. Your direction changes upon entering a new screen, causing you to immediately exit the room you just entered. That initiates a lengthy load screen, and you'll be seeing a lot of those. Even more so than the original game you're forced to perform the most unlikely sequence of arbitrary actions to solve each puzzle. Typically this requires scouring the island, talking to everyone you see, and collecting worthless objects like a popped inner tube.

The original game could get by on its sense of humor - a quality sorely lacking here. The prose is remarkably banal and unfunny, marching out one corny platitude after another ("See you later" "Not if I see your first"). The main character Guybrush Threepwood sounds more like some pencil-neck geek than a seasoned pirate. I really hate this game. Fortunately the series would get the treatment it deserved later with the excellent Monkey Island Special Edition Collection (Xbox 360, 2011). © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Evil Dead Regeneration
Grade: C
Publisher: THQ (2005)
Reviewed: 2006/11/10
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotThis bargain bin title is pretty much what I expected - not great but still worthwhile. As long as you keep your expectations in check, Evil Dead Regeneration will satisfy your craving for a bloody, irreverent beat-em-up. It's perfect for the Halloween season. Of course, it helps if you're a big fan of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies (as I am). Unlike the ill-advised Evil Dead: A FistFul of Boomstick (Xbox, 2003), which placed our hero Ash in a boring little town, Regeneration features a bevy of dark locations, including an asylum, cabin, cemetery, and catacombs.

The action is fairly standard as you slice up ghouls with your chainsaw and blast them with your shotgun. A new aiming system makes it very easy to get a bead on moving targets. The finishing moves (initiated by a single button) are mildly amusing, but man, I wish you didn't have to finish off every freakin' enemy! A notable new addition is Sam, Ash's diminutive (and butt ugly) sidekick. Since Sam is technically a zombie, you can abuse him in any number of humorous ways, like tossing him into a burning oven or kicking him into giant fans. After the gory mess that ensues, Sam reappears no worse for wear (except for his attitude).

Regeneration's visuals are fair, but the camera is clumsy and the collision detection could be better. The cut-scenes are fairly elaborate, and many are rendered using the same distinct visual style as the films. The audio track is the highlight of the game, with Bruce Campbell once again lending his voice to supply Ash's clever wisecracks. Evil Dead Regeneration is pretty easy in terms of difficulty, thanks to a generous number of save points. The game doesn't really break new ground, but it's easily the best Evil Dead video game I've played. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Eye Toy
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/1/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAnd now for something completely different! Eye Toy includes a camera that you set on top of your television, allowing you to be the star of the game! I'm not exactly new to this technology, having played some similar demos on my PC. But Eye Toy takes the concept to the limit, offering super responsive control and an amazing assortment of games. Personally, I think Eye Toy is mainly a novelty, but I have to give Sony Entertainment Europe credit for running with the concept and assembling a remarkably high quality game.

Although your image isn't exactly crystal clear, your interaction with the on-screen graphics is responsive. Some of the games include kung fu fighting, window washing, setting off fireworks, bouncing a soccer ball off your head, boxing a robot, eliminating ghosts, and various dancing contests. You begin each by adjusting the camera so your upper body is centered on the screen. The Kung Fu game is the best of the bunch, letting you punch little ninjas that attack from the sides, and breaking boards in the bonus round. The "repeat this move" dance games are tiresome, and come off as second-rate Samba De Amigo (Dreamcast) clones.

A few games like the fireworks-laden "Rocket Rumble" are terrific fun, but others like "Ghost Eliminator" feel more like a chore. In general, most of these games are repetitive and won't hold you attention for repeated plays. The stylized cartoon characters are charming and funny, giving the game a distinct personality, and when you make a high score, the game takes your picture!

The one aspect I strongly dislike about Eye Toy is the cumbersome menu interface, requiring you to "wave" at large buttons on the screen for a few seconds to enter a choice. Especially with all the confirmation prompts ("Are you sure?"), it gets really old. Overall, Eye Toy is a lighthearted game that's great for kids and parties. I don't think it has much long-term value, but if it's the first time you've played anything like this, you're in for a real treat. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Moby Games, YouTube