ESPN NFL 2K5 Is Still The Greatest Sports Game Of All Time


Every year, Electronic Arts releases a new Madden game. However, the studio’s habit of passing off old features has grown tiring for me, and I’ve wound up looking to the past for my kicks (and touchdowns). I’ve found myself playing ESPN NFL 2K5, a game that really did everything right, and showed everyone what a sports game should be.

Not only did the game, at a modest $20, cost less than Madden, it still offers a more in-depth experience than any Madden game of the past 10 years. Even the graphics don’t look all bad for a game released during the PlayStation 2 and Xbox era. What made this game really special was its high level of immersion – both on and off the field.


On the field, ESPN NFL 2K5 opened every game with the voices of Commentators Dan Stevens and Peter O’Keefe talking about the atmosphere in the stadium. The commentators actually sounded like they were at the game. When a guy batted a ball down, O’Keefe would say the player’s name and do a brief analysis on the play. The sound effects were great as well, right down to the grunts of linemen as they collided with each other.

During the Super Bowl, coaches would gather at midfield, where you could hear them actually talking to each other. On-field audio was key in making you feel like you were part of an actual NFL game, and even just hearing referees explain the coin toss to players added an unparalleled level of realism. Players would also talk trash to each other after big plays and scoring touchdowns, it was wonderful.

When injuries happened, you could hear the players point to the injury and say things like “I think I broke it.” 2K really went deep into making sure everything from the broadcast to how players and coaches interacted with each other felt true to what we see with the real thing on Sundays. The game also featured an under-the-helmet first-person camera where you could literally see what the players see; when you threw the ball and the receiver caught it, the camera would change to them and you would see the field through their facemask.

As we know, no facemask is the same so different players offered different views and it was really awesome. The game was smooth and set at a great pace. Never did a cornerback come out of nowhere to intercept a ball, nor did fumbling ever feel cheap in the game. Everything felt well balanced, perfectly set up to drive you through multiple seasons in the game’s franchise mode.

2K5 just hit differently (pun unintended). Madden has utilized ESPN integration in the past, but nowhere near the level of ESPN NFL 2K5. In-between games you could hit the select button and watch about a five-minute episode of SportsCenter that was programmed into the game hosted by a 3D Chris Berman. It was kind of uncanny, but also unbelievably immersive.

During the episode, Berman would recap certain games as his voiceover would be placed over highlights and man were they detailed. They would show full scoreboards with each team’s record and player stats, Berman would toss it to Trey Wingo for any free agent signings and Trey would say the player’s name and read off the contract info. If a deal was low in salary, Wingo would suggest the player signed for less than they expected, adding a little shock factor to the low deal they took.

Wingo would also break down injury news. If one were to happen to a star player, he would mention how the team might be scrambling to fill the hole left by them. Like a real-life coach, I’d tune into these programs because they present a nice scouting report for me, and helped me prepare for the next game. If a guy was constantly being featured who I thought was not much of a factor, I would start defending or attacking them differently. It really felt like 2K5’s ideas would influence the future of sports gaming, but it was not to be. EA bought the NFL license and now 2K can no longer make simulation-style NFL games.

It’s a massive shame. Madden has gotten really stale and is viewed by many (including myself) as nothing more than a $70 roster update. It never used to be that way. They used to have things like position battles and a weekly radio show that would automatically play upon entering the franchise mode menu after every game. But knowing how EA are with their sports series, they will continue to put out an ever-decreasingly updated iteration of much the same game every year.

There are so many things current and future sports games should implement, and ESPN NFL 2K5 has the blueprint for many of them. Until 2K, EA or another developer taps into the goldmine of great ideas here, then the game with Terrell Owens catching a ball in Eagles gear will always reign supreme.


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