Jamdat Sports NFL 2005 Preview
We take a peek at Jamdat's upcoming NFL game.
Los Angeles-based publisher-developer Jamdat's been pretty busy for the past couple of months. Besides taking its first steps toward going public, it's lined up the National Football League and the NFL Players Association for Jamdat Sports NFL 2005, which means that the latest iteration of the game sports all 32 NFL teams and their complete rosters (well, as complete as possible, given today's hectic free agency climate). A heady licensing deal is all well and good, especially for professional sports games that rely on fan interest, but Jamdat has also put a ton of work into the game's design by revamping its pigskin product from top to bottom. Thus far, the results are striking.
It's fun to play with real teams and players in a sports title, and NFL 2005 lets you initiate any head-to-head matchup you choose. However, you can opt instead to play seven- or 16-game seasons with set schedules. All of the players' abilities are loosely based upon their real statistical outputs, but the effect of statistics on gameplay has been weakened considerably this year. The last version of Jamdat NFL featured 11 players on a side, which generated a lot of problems on small mobile screens. For this go-around, Jamdat elected to go with seven players on a side to reduce the physical and visual congestion on the playing field.
This means that NFL 2005 isn't a true football simulation. But would you really want to try playing with Madden-esque X's and O's on a cell phone? Jamdat is betting that you probably don't, so its choice of simple playability over faithful NFL reproduction has suffused the entire game. There are no penalties or boundaries on the field, for instance, and all of your available football plays are grouped into easy, functional categories on both sides of the ball (like run, short pass, and long pass).
This is not to suggest that NFL 2005 doesn't provide a real football experience, however. In fact, the early version we played strikes a great balance between realism and accessibility. Each play category has a handful of different options, all of which are essentially scaled-down (but very viable) NFL plays--and all of which are illustrated by small diagrams to improve your understanding of what's going on. At the same time, Jamdat uses an at-a-glance system of color signals and icons to indicate the potential success levels of your available actions. Basically, circles underneath a particular player turn green, yellow, or red to indicate his chances of completing a play. If your quarterback's under duress and his intended receiver's covered, both circles will be red, and your chances of tossing a pick will go up precipitously. On the other hand, if your running back breaks through a big hole, his circle will glow as green as a virtual contract extension. Ball carriers offscreen are represented by a small icon that changes colors according to how close he is to being tackled; when a tackle is imminent, the icon turns into an exclamation point.
At the present time, NFL 2005's graphics and sound appear well suited to getting the bone-jarring action across, at least on the LG VX4400. The players move with a surprising amount of animation for a mobile title. For example, blocking players actually enter a "tackle state" where they visibly shove each other back and forth, and receivers leap into the air to catch errant passes. In addition, the field is quite detailed, right down to the hash marks on the field. We're hoping that the release build will use more sound, but the small effects sprinkled throughout the preview are effective.
Jamdat expects NFL 2005 to be available for download just in time for the NFL season kickoff this fall. Stay tuned for the full review.
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