NFL GameDay 2004
In its heyday, the NFL GameDay franchise was one of the most respected football titles to grace the PS One. As an avid football gamer, the annual helmet-bashing battles between GameDay and Madden for football supremacy is still fresh in my mind. But in the last couple of years, as the PS2 has tightened its grip on North America, the football video-game landscape has changed considerably. Sure, the Madden franchise is still dominant (some things never change). However, currently, its fiercest competitor no longer comes from 989 Sports, but rather from our friends over at Sega. Nonetheless, refusing to take a seat on the bench, 989 Sports once again enters the fray in the form of NFL GameDay 2004.
In light of its competition, NFL GameDay 2004 introduces a few new features to spice up the game play. One of which is pressure-sensitive control. Whether you're spinning or juking on offense or getting ready for the big hit on defense, the harder you press down the button, the more exaggerated the move. It's a cool new feature and it works well. The game also features a fairly robust online mode for those of you who want to kick some booty in cyberspace. Online play includes message boards, email, stat tracking, and support for a USB headset, which enables you to not only communicate with other players, but it actually allows you to use it to call various plays.
But when you come right down to it, it's the play on the field that matters most and unfortunately this is where the game fails big-time. I would have thought by now that 989 Sports would have cleaned up most of the problems that we've seen in previous versions. Sadly, I am mistaken. The game still exhibits an assortment of AI anomalies, including poor defensive back coverage, an uneven running and passing game, and a CPU opponent who still doesn't quite understand the proper usage of time-outs. If you're lookin' for some good arcade game play, then you might be willing to overlook these problems. But if you're interested in a realistic simulation of football, GameDay continues to disappoint.
Thankfully, it's not all bad news this year. NFL GameDay 2004 does feature much improved graphics. The player models and stadiums received a much-needed facelift with a much higher level of detail and color. The lighting effects are still not quite on par with its two main competitors. Nonetheless, together with its improved animations, the visuals are more what we would expect of a next-generation sports title. Once again, Dick Enberg and Dan Fouts return for the play-by-play and color commentary. Sadly, the play-by-play still lags behind the action and Mr. Fouts still spews his same old inane observations (shut up already!). And as far as the music goes, let's just say that if I wanted to hear a rock concert, well, I'd go to a rock concert (shut up already' again!).
I find it hard to believe that there are sports gamers out there who would actually pass up EA Sports' and Sega's respective football products in favor of NFL GameDay 2004. But I guess if you're a GameDay fanatic, I wouldn't hesitate to encourage you to give this game a look. For everyone else however, it's a no-brainer 'I advise you to stay far, far away from this perennial bench-warmer.