“We are watching Fox.”
This year, mobile football simulations seem to have come of age. Jamdat, THQ, and now Sorrent have all released football simulations within a few weeks of one another. These games approximate the console football game experience to various degrees, each making certain compromises to accommodate the mobile platform’s smaller screen size and inferior control. Fox Sports Football 05’s compromises include doing away with special teams entirely and, like Jamdat’s offering, limiting your squad to seven players. What’s been included is a decent passing game, a slightly less-impressive running game, and a create-a-team feature. The resulting game is good, but it cuts too many corners to make it your first choice for football.
When you start a game in the exhibition mode, you’ll be able to choose from the NFL’s full complement of 32 teams. Although Football 05 doesn’t include player names or ability grades, each team is rated in four aspects–passing, running, pass defense, and run defense. These statistics have a clear impact on your performance in all of the game’s three difficulty levels.
In the season mode, you’ll need to create your own team and distribute points among the four aspects. You won’t be able to play as any of the real teams that are selectable in the exhibition mode. You instead choose your team name and then pick which of the 32 team helmets you’d like to adopt as your own. After that, you’ll simply be playing scheduled games against real-world teams. This is in no way more gratifying than playing out a season as an actual NFL team. Of course, since player rosters aren’t included in Football 05, simply naming your team “The Patriots” and choosing the appropriate helmet is effectively the same as being able to play as the real deal. Of course, you’ll be exposed as an imposter when you eventually have to face New England’s best.
In the actual games, Football 05’s gameplay is pretty straightforward. You have a good selection of passing plays and a somewhat more-limited selection of run plays. After the snap, you can have your quarterback hand the ball off or target a receiver by pressing the corresponding key. On long pass plays, however, receivers are often far out of view, meaning you’ll be throwing blind. This is also a problem in other mobile football games, and it’s a product of the limited screen size of the handsets. Perhaps a split screen, showing the receivers on one half, might have ameliorated this issue?
Where Fox Sports Football 05 shines is on defense. Whether you’re going for an all-out blitz, or dropping some defenders back to intercept or knock down passes, Football 05 gives you pretty good control over the action. If you’re gunning for your opponent’s QB, it’ll be up to you to steer your defensive lineman into his path. You’re not just selecting a play and letting the AI execute it.
As previously mentioned, Fox Sports Football 05 doesn’t include special teams. This sacrifice was likely made to foster a sense of immediacy, as punting is by no means the most exciting element of football. However, the omission of field goals is pretty limiting. When you’re within range of the uprights, it’s disappointing not to be able to get those three points. Furthermore, automatically getting the extra point after you score a touchdown feels like a hollow victory. Football 05’s presentation is a high point, at least from a visual standpoint. The game’s menus are clear and attractive, particularly those used for play selection. The game’s player sprites, at least on our test LG VX 7000, actually looked like humans, which is more than can be said for the sprites in some other football games. During passes, the ball travels realistically through the air, though the game lacks catch animations. For this reason, it’s hard to tell if a completion has been made until the defensive players react.
The game’s audio doesn’t play a major role. In fact, it’s almost entirely absent, except for the Fox Sports theme that plays over the splash screen. That bit of music is loud and recognizable, and unfortunately it’s all you can expect from Football 05 in terms of aural stimulation.
Fox Sports Football 05 is a playable, fun game. But football fans on the hunt for a strong, complete game of NFL-style football will likely be a little disappointed by some of the design decisions.