NFL GameDay 2004
System: Playstation2
Publisher: Sony CEA 
Developer: 989 Sports
Released: August 2003
Genre: Sports (Football)
Memory Card, Multi-Tap for up to 8 players, Network Adaptor for online play, USB Headset

Review Written: September 19, 2003

Does anybody remember back when NFL GameDay was the football game to beat. It ruled the early years over Madden on the PSone, but for the past few years the series has been floundering on the PS2 and never has really gone up to par against the heavy hitters of Madden and ESPN NFL Football. This year’s game has some major new additions that diversify it from the competition, but the series still has a way to go before it can be what it once was.

GameDay still uses the same engine as used in last year’s game, and it controls fairly similar to the other gridiron games. You can do all your fancy running moves like juke, spin, and stiff arm and they’re all mapped to the same buttons as they are in Madden and ESPN so that nobody should have a problem adapting to a whole different football game. One great implement in the two aforementioned competing pigskin titles is that they both added defensive moves to break past blocks, which made big blitz plays very effective. Unfortunately, none of those moves are to be found in GameDay and you have to rapidly press the X button in hopes of breaking past the O-Line if you want the slimmest hopes of sacking the QB. Also, it’s notable to mention that 989’s game doesn’t have the challenge system incorporated as its two main competitors do. It is little things like this that the GameDay franchise are always a few years behind to include in their games that make the difference.

All the pre-snap hot routes and audibles are also in tact so you have total control over any last minute adjustments. You can call these using your traditional button commands, or else you can make use of the new USB headset support to call the voice commands into the headset. It’s a pretty interesting concept, but just be sure to be pretty precise saying the commands. There were numerous times where the game didn’t recognize my command and it prompted me to the quit game menu. It gets tedious going to that menu over and over again, and you’d think some ‘command not recognized’ message that appeared during gameplay would be more appropriate.

Actual gameplay runs almost identical to GameDay’s college counterpart, GameBreaker, and nearly all the qualms I have with that engine are still apparent in this game too. The main gripes I have are that the running game is way too easy where the d-backs almost always leave gaps for you to burst through the middle with ease so you can average about eight to ten yards each carry. Also, just like with GameBreaker, whenever I scramble with my QB out of the pocket I notice there are no defenders in his path half the time which allows me to run for a hefty amount of yards each time. Also notable is the play action plays are pathetic, where the QB has the worst fake handoff animation I have ever seen, the comp never fooled me once out of all the times they ran it.

Now this wouldn’t be your typical football game if all the standard modes weren’t available, and I’m here to assure you that all the common modes expected such as practice, exhibition, tournament, and standalone season are all here waiting for us to play. GameDay also has the common Franchise mode that lets you play numerous seasons in a row, building a football dynasty. All the fun stuff you can do in-between seasons is still in tact like going through the scouting combine and making your picks in the draft, or even importing your graduating class from your GameBreaker saves. I am disappointed you can’t renegotiate player contracts if they decide to retire out of the blue. Once the star player decides he’s gone, he is out of there for good.

Online play returns for the second year in a row for the GameDay brand, and I have to admit it has the best online offering than what the competition has to offer. This year the developers over at 989 and Red Zone implemented USB Headset support so you can chat in real time during gameplay. Besides doing just standard one-on-one match ups you can also set up tournaments, add users to a buddy list and track which 989 sports titles they are playing online, and read and post in several message boards right there from your television. 989 also uses an in-depth point system to rank all the user profiles based on how well they perform in their games, and you can also track your stats online at their website. I love all the comprehensive online options that are in here, and it stands out the most and makes up for some of the lackluster gameplay to a certain extent.

Graphically, GameDay isn’t really nothing to marvel at. In fact, I can say it has the least impressive graphics than all the other football games this year. The player models look decent, and are proportioned to their real life attributes, but they lack the polish and don’t look as detailed as the player models in the competition. That and everything has that dreaded “jagged” presentation, and that doesn’t complement the frequent slowdown that happens in almost every running play either. Don’t get me started on the butt-ugly cheerleaders either.

The saving grace to the graphics is that there are some great animations for tackles where you’ll see players get pulled from behind and flip over in mid-air. The presentation is also a couple of notches better than GameBreaker where there are actual in-depth pre-game shows that highlight the key players for each team and I do like the play of the half feature where the commentators make note of one major play at the end of each half.

This year, the developers upped the commentary team to three members. Ian Eagle is the new member to color commentary as he joins Dan Fouts and Dick Enberg on play-by-play. The three do an all right job all together, but their tone gets rather monotonous, as they just say things that are blatantly obvious like in Madden. Then there’s the sideline reporter, Lani Minella who sounds horribly robotic and gets cut off at random points for no reason whatsoever. This year 989 also shelled out the big bucks for a licensed soundtrack with plenty of major artists and bands contributing such as Papa Roach, Audioslave, Disturbed, and Fear Factory to name a few. I like the selection of rock tunes, but I get this odd feeling that developers are doing this as a way to avoid development time of making their own set of tunes.

Online play is where you’ll be spending most of your time playing. All the extras in the 989 Sports Network like message boards, buddy lists, and email make things far better to communicate than the other competitors, and it makes the online experience a bit more enjoyable as a whole. You’ll also be spending a bit of time creating your own players, teams, and playbooks. The Franchise plays out as you expect it too, but it’s pretty bare bones when compared to the ones found in Madden and ESPN Football.


Graphics: 6.8
Sound: 7.9
Gameplay: 7.5
Replay Value: 8.0

Overall: 7.5

It won’t kill you to make GameDay your football game of choice this year, just a whole bunch of adapting. If you manage to get past the easy to manipulate defensive AI, sub-par graphics and commentary, then there is still a fun football game to found. Its online offerings also blow away what the competition has to offer. So if you managed to keep that in mind than go ahead and give NFL GameDay 2004 a shot this year.

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