If games were given credit simply on how much they
improve, then there is little question that NFL Gameday and NCCA Gamebreaker
would be huge releases. This series just died when it entered into the new era, losing the
dominance it earned during the early Playstation era. The depressing thing here is that no
matter how much it improved, it still never stood a chance.
This is not a deep, involving football sim. This is the football
game for newcomers. It's blatantly easy, and die-hard fans of Madden or the
2K series will laugh the entire time they play. That doesn't mean the strides made
here are useless. This is the arcade brother of the two big franchises.
Passing is absurdly easy, running up the middle is usually guaranteed yards, and money
plays are here to abuse once found. It's still very much NFL Gameday too. The
physics are just off, allowing for absurdly powerful juke moves and turning without any
speed loss. Wide receivers catch everything, not matter how hard they're hit.
What Gameday does right is defense. That doesn't mean the AI smart; on the
contrary actually. Gameday makes playing defense fun and manageable for the
person holding the controller. Following and sticking to a receiver is easy enough for
anyone who just picks up and plays. Tackling is handled with enough brutality to make it
With all the flaws, this cannot be taken seriously as a sim, but as a middle of the road
title, somewhere between NFL Blitz and the Madden series, it fits in
just fine. It has a small section of the market to itself, with an accessible and somewhat
real experience for newcomers. This is especially commendable when you remember just how
awful previous years were, even in 2003.
The graphics engine has been beefed up to a decent, if
unremarkable, standard. Players are animated fine, and the faces are there, just not very
spectacular. Aliasing is an issue, even when playing in progressive scan.
It's especially noticeable when navigating the front end, as a zoomed in player jukes his
way to nowhere on the screen. The menus are dry, offering the usual assortment of game
modes sports fans expect. The biggest complaint is the franchise mode, which requires
players to be "the coach" in that they can be fired at the end of any season.
Unless you manage a winning season each year, you're going to be kicked out, and there's
no way to change that.
The three-man commentary team is excellent, keeping up with the field action without
falling behind. Their phrases are limited and do become annoying after multiple games. On
the field, you're going to expect the usual rounds of grunts and stadium music.
With a few more years, Gameday may have finally made its way into the realm of
respectability. That's not going to happen, as the 989 team missed the 2005 season and EA
now owns this section of the market. If you still like the feel of the 32-bit Gameday's,
then this is the version you're looking for. You'll be better off pretending the other
games were never released on the PS2.