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NFL Gameday 99 (PC) Review

Publisher: 989 Sports
Release Date: Summer 1998

Background Info

Last year, NFL Gameday '98 stole the show sales-wise in the Playstation market. Undeniably the success was due to the fact that Gameday went polygonal and Madden stayed with the sprites. The graphics were (then) revolutionary and the game played pretty well to boot. Now, 989 Studios (formerly SCEA) has expanded their horizons to the PC market with NFL Gameday '99. So how does the initial football release of the 1998 season pan out?

Presentation/Graphics : 88
The visuals in Gameday are a sight to behold--especially with a 3Dfx card. The players are nicely detailed and the uniforms, helmets, and logos look top-notch. The stadiums look much better than last year's Playstation effort boasting fans all decked out in the home-team colors, banners strewn about, and visible reserve players and coaches on the sidelines. Weather effects are tremendous and the field itself looks very realistic.

The default camera angle works nicely and zooms in so you can pick your holes on running plays, or out so you can see your receivers on passing plays. Replays are also included and every imaginable angle is available for your viewing pleasure. One minor dissapointment is the lack of player names on the jerseys. Considering how standard this feature is in football games these days, the fact that they were omitted is nearly inexcusable.

When it comes right down to it, the graphics do their job admirably and then some in Gameday and look much sharper and cleaner than its PSX couterpart of a year ago.

Presentation/Audio : 80
The biggest annoyance with last year's Gameday for playstaton was the boring, repetetive, inane stadium announcer. Gameday '99 took a big step forward by hiring on the seasoned play-by-play talents of Dick Enberg and Phil Simms to call the games. Modeled after the popular EA sports games that offers two-man commentary, Gameday has made the move to play-by-play quite smoothly. As in any game, they do often repeat phrases throughout the game, and Simms seems obsessed with the importance of the kicking game, but all in all, it never gets to the point of bother. Both men use players' names and have little spiels about how good the player reacted on that play. The expressions are generic however, so you won't hear real tidbits about careers or anything like that. Either way, the jump to play-by-play is leaps-and-bounds ahead of last year's (gameday 99 for playstation) commentary and 989 is to be commended for getting a solid staff to call the game.

In contrast to the nice new commentary scheme comes the stadium sounds. The customary "We Will Rock You" beat is still played before kickoffs and the grunts and groans don't sound any different. They don't sound half-bad but some music of some kind or some originality would be welcome. Stunningly, crowd noise is non-existent in Gameday so don't expect to be pumped up by a roaring crowd as the defense lines up for fourth and goal at the one yard line. On a humorous note, you see the players on the field lifting their hands up try to make the crowd cheer to no avail, and I laugh everytime I hear Enberg say "the crowd's on its feet for the start of the fourth quarter." The crowd is very noticibly absent and it really detracts from the atmosphere of the game.

Interface/Options : 90
The interface in Gameday is intuitive and provides all the eye candy you could ask for. From the main menu, you choose the type of game you want to play (exhibition, season, playoff, or network) and from there you can access just about whatever else you want from roster management to game speed. I didn't have any problems getting a game underway or fiddling with the rosters. All of the same features can also be accessed in-game as well making the interface as user-friendly as possible. A nice fly-by of the stadium occurs before each game and shows your players running out onto the field. This isn't much, but it is a nice touch.

Gameday has the standard fare of options from the get-go including the ability to trade players, perform a draft, sign free-agents, etc.. What you won't find is the ability to create your own teams, or a career mode of any sort. These options are becoming standard in other games and its disappointing that 989 decided to exclude it. One handy option is the ability to adjust the game speed. Last year's game was criticized for its slow game flow. Now, you can adjust the speed to suit your way of playing. If it takes you a bit longer to spot the holes, set it to slow. If you want the real thing, switch it to fast and get ready to react quickly.

Unfortunately, trading players is all up to you. The computer never initiates a possible trade and you can trade any player for any other player. Therefore, you could trade Brett Favre for Steve DeBerg if you want and the computer will do nothing to stop you. It would have been fun to have trades offered to you throughout the season and have to decide whether they would be in your teams' best interest, but no such luck.

The draft feature works rather well. It throws all players into the pool and you can draft your own team from ground up. This is standard-fare nowadays, but I didn't have any problems with it this year.

Ugh...statistics. Yes, statistics are kept in Gameday '99 and for just about everything you could ask for. The problem is, they are so unrealistic its not even funny. Nine games through my season as the Denver Broncos, Terrell Davis was leading the league with 1809 yards rushing. Second was Jerome Bettis with 124 yards. 124 yards in nine games? Please. Elway was leading the league with 1847 yards passing, second was Drew Bledsoe with 387. The scewed statistics are very unrealistic so don't expect to have Favre breathing down your back for the most yards in a season. Heck, he'd be lucky to break 500 yards.

Gameplay : 75
The trademark for the Gameday series, the idea of "Total Control" is out in full force in Gameday '99. Basically, this allows you to control exactly what type of move you want to perform at a given time. If you are the quarterback, you can use this to over or under-throw the receiver, lob the ball or gun it depending on the situation. If you are running, you can pick whether to stiff arm, hurdle, dive, spin or juke. When on defense, you can perform "swim moves" to get separation from the offensive linemen, dive at the ball carrier, or attempt a harder tackle to jar the ball loose. The concept works rather well and can be a God-send if you use it properly. The game is best played with a gamepad and I found that my Microsoft Sidewinder pad worked rather well and allowed me to pull off all the moves with relative ease.

Despite its ease, the running game in Gameday is quite fun. Players have a split-second to decide whether to run up the middle or take it outside. By following your blockers, you can bust some long gainers if you're patient enough. Your standard set of jukes and jitters are available and can be very effective if used properly. The problem is, the running game is still too easy to exploit. A simple spin move will break most tackles, and when you successfully stiff arm someone, they respond as if you just shot them out of a cannon. Even on higher difficulty settings, I found myself running for over 200 yards a game as Terrell Davis. Often times, forgetting the play and bouncing it outside will yield big yardage. Although the player ratings differ from running back to running back, most of them run the same way which makes for some unrealstic outcomes. I'm sorry, but Barry Sanders doesn't drag linemen: he makes people miss.

While the running game is fun and easy to learn, the passing game is not what it should be. Where should I begin? How about with the fact that it takes WAY too long for the quarterback to release the ball. This causes a plethora of frustrating sacks that could have been avoided if the game were more realistic. Also, if your QB is on the run avoiding defenders, don't even think about passing because he'll stop to pass and get leveled. Not only is this infuriating, but its just plain wrong. Steve Young lives outside the pocket, yet he is nothing more than mincemeat on the run in this game. More fun can be had trying to control the receivers after passes. For some reason, receivers all react the same way to the ball coming their direction. As was a major problem with last year's game, making catches in a crowd almost never happens and all the receivers seemingly have one inch verticals as they attempt to out-jump the defense for the ball. Receivers must be wide open to catch the ball in most cases and the ball jars loose too often when the defender hits them. Long passing plays are nearly impossible to complete because the defenders seemingly move faster than the ball and the receivers couldn't possibly make a catch in traffic. If you are hoping to make an amazing diving catch with Jerry Rice, you can forget it.

Defense in Gameday is equally dismal as far as realism is concerned. Way too often computer-controlled receivers have no one within fifteen yards of them when the ball is thrown even when a Nickel package is called. As effective as the passing game is for the computer AI, the running game is abysmal. The typical game on high difficulty settings yields about fifteen yards on twenty carries for the opposing running back whether it's Barry Sanders or Lawrence Phillips. The sad part is, most of the fifteen yards came on one run on a 3rd and long play where for some reason, the offensive line left all of your defensive backs on their backs. An interception or fumble for either team might happen once in four games and when you line up your defense for a punt, the safety always goes back to return it. It is this kind of unbalanced gameplay that really hinders what could be a great game.

With all of the gameplay problems, the game had better be easy to control. Luckily, Gameday doesn't dissapoint here. If the "Total Control" option is too complicated for you, you can set the game to normal and the computer will decide which move is most prudent for the given situation. Also, the players are quick to respond to your keystrokes and react fluidly and life-like. Last year's Madden game had what people referred to as "slippery" game play. All the players seemed to be running around on ice (i.e. they wouldn't come to complete stops). That is not a problem in Gameday, and the players cut and change direction smoothly.

Difficulty : 65
There are four levels of difficulty in Gameday '99: Rookie, Pro, All-Star, and Hall of Fame. Frankly, I couldn't tell much difference in computer AI in any of them. In Hall of Fame, the defenders do seem a little bit faster and it is somewhat more difficult to break tackles, but the same plays that you use to succeed in Rookie will still work for you in Hall of Fame.

The computer AI seems pretty smart as far as play calling is concerned. Often times on 3rd and 10 you'll see them in the Nickel or Dime formation readying for a pass. Or on 3rd and 1 they'll be crowding the line of scrimmage. Where the AI really drops off the map, however, is with clock management. One game I played went into overtime and the opposing AI had the ball at my 20 yard line. Without using any time-outs, the computer lined up for the field goal but couldn't get it off in time so the game ended in a tie. You also won't see any computer time-outs called until you're in the final minute of the game. The idea that coaches would manage like this is terrible.

Multiplayer : 60
One intriguing aspect of Gameday '99 is the inclusion of free multiplayer play over the internet. The web address,, offers matchmaking and is generally very easy to use. In the past, it wasn't possible to actually play over the internet although you could play in "coaching" mode. Madden '99 isn't going to allow this either and its easy to see why. The game is just too intricate to be played smoothly over the internet. Through several games, I've noticed that the host has no apparent lag problems, but the other player's lag is so substantial, the game is unplayable. In a game that require quick reactions and thinking, its impossible to play when every thing you do occurs a few seconds after you press the button. If they can get a patch out or something to resolve this, it would set a new standard, but for now, it's pretty useless.

Overall : 72
Gameday '99 has great potential to be a contender, but there are just too many AI flaws and lapses of realism to warrant a good review. Luckily, it's only the beginning of the football season so there will be much more to choose from. Now that Madden has gone polygonal, it should retake the crown of pigskin games this year, no contest.

By: Tim Maxwell 9/12/98

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

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