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NFL Gameday 2001 (PS2) Review

Background Info


Why would 989 Sports release NFL Gameday 2001 for the PlayStation 2? The regular season was in the closing weeks when the title hit the shelves, giving Madden 2001 by EA Sports a solid month to collect some sales. Nonetheless, the title was released without fanfare. Little was known about this title before its release, and now that it has been released it's earning a reputation as one of the worst football titles in recent memory. In reality, the game is nothing more than a port of the PSX version, which was bad enough. But consumers expect more from a PS2 title than a PSX title, and Gameday 2001 fails to deliver. Miserably.

Presentation/Graphics : 40
Much has been made of the graphics in Gameday 2001. I've seen several reviews complaining about how the quality of the graphics are just a hair better than what the PSX could do. Well, that statement is both correct and incorrect at the same time. The stadiums and stadium-related artifacts are some of the best yet in the 128-bit console football war. The grass fields look more realistic than its direct competition, Madden 2001. The crowd in particular is the best to be seen in any sports title. Even the player models are decent. While they are somewhat bland and not too diverse, they get the job done.

Where the game takes a leap back to its 32-bit heritage is with the limited animations. Players all run similarly, tackle similarly, receive similarly, and throw similarly. The few frames of animation were acceptable on the PSX, but on the PS2, we've been treated to some fine football animations thanks to EA Sports and Madden 2001. You can forget about animations of players breaking tackles or spectacular one-handed catches. Coupled with the poor animations is a collision detection system that makes the Patriot missile look like a can't miss defense system. When quarterbacks drop back in the pocket, their throws are identical; every pass is a perfect lob down the field. The ball takes a high trajectory over the field and lands not in the receiver's arms, but on the surface of an invisible box enveloping the player. The ball than instantly transitions from being caught in mid air to resting in the player's arms. Unfortunately, secondaries don't have the same luck with grabbing a ball. Not only can receivers run right through defenders, the ball often does as well. When compared to Madden, Gameday is a joke. The difference in quality is night and day. Strike 1.

Presentation/Audio : 75
There is nothing objectionable about the sound in the game. In fact, the sound is probably the best feature in the game. When it comes to sports games, this is not a good thing. Dick Emberg and Phil Simms handle the action, and while many of the calls were correct, the game simply lacked pizzazz. Fortunately the stomp, stomp, clap of the crowd has been removed. Don't expect to hear any on-field chatter either.

Ball 1.

Interface/Options : 50
I'm feeling a little lazy right now and since Gameday 2001 for the PS2 is a direct port of the PSX version with better graphics, I'm just going to cut and paste select comments from the PSX review. Really, the two versions are identical when it comes to options. Sad really.

After playtesting Madden 2001 to death, I was accustomed to a certain visual and logical quality of the menus. Once Gameday 2001 landed on my doorstep, I had a slap in the face. Player controls were no problem. Most football games these days use a similar set of controls. Visually, the menus are rudimentary both in design and look. Working through the offensive and defensive formations was particularly annoying. You have to cycle left or right through the list of formations and plays. Unless you memorize the next play, you have to keep cycling. I was expecting Madden-like playcalling where three plays are shown followed by text above and below the plays to let you know what is above and below. It makes playcalling more efficient (and less annoying). Fortunately, you have an infinite amount of time on defense and ample time on offense to pick your play. But the lack of quality in just this small area shows the lack of quality for the entire presentation.

I started playing the game in the General Manager mode, which lets you take control of a team from player personnel issues to play on the field. The first thing to note is that player characteristics are absent. I started with the college draft, which at a paltry four rounds left me with a bad taste. Talent was based on overall ability rather than being broken down into passing, catching, running, blocking, and other vital categories. Next, salary negotiation was left to a yes or no response with no room for bargaining. Furthermore, the CPU has a huge role in determining who makes the team and who is cut. Wait, I thought I was the GM?

Statistically, Gameday 2001 holds its own. In-game stats as well as those around the league are realistic. However, the good quality stats do not make up for an otherwise inferior system.

That's pretty much it. I guess I should mention that besides the "franchise" mode, the game has a season, exhibition, and tournament style mode. All are forgettable because of the horrid gameplay. If you can actually last a season, you deserve to win the Super Bowl.

John Madden winds up. Whiff. Strike 2.

Gameplay : 50
Again, you could very well read my impressions of the PSX version of the game and come away with how the PS2 version plays. 989 improved nothing in the game. Considering the extra power of the PS2, I was expecting a better football game. EA certainly game prepared. Madden 2001 on the PSX is pretty darn good in the gameplay department, but Madden 2001 on the PS2 is even better. The Madden developers actually utilized the extra power of the PS2 to make a better football game. 989, on the other hand, managed to publish something that resembles what my cats leave in the litter box.

I already mentioned that every pass is a lob. No bullets, no in-between throws. Just lobs. Of course, the lobs are fine since more times than not receivers are wide open thanks to an incredible poor secondary AI. Cornerbacks will cover areas behind the line of scrimmage even when receivers are down the field. Safeties drop back 20 yards or more at the snap of the ball. Many times the secondary runs away from the ball carrier. This is particularly apparent on sweeps. The secondary must think every sweep is a potential halfback pass as they won't converge for the tackle until after he crosses the line of scrimmage. The swiss cheese secondary is an embarrassment to console football.

The quality passing game continues on offense as well. I about fell out of my seat as I witnessed my QB toss a perfect lob as he was on the run. After the snap, I rolled out to the left, parallel to the line. My right- handed QB tossed a perfect lob at a 90 degree angle to his path in an instant. No setting and planting the feet. If it was a left-handed QB I could almost buy it, but right-handed? Nope.

The running game is equally bad. In this league, equality is everything. No matter the size of the back, from the diminutive Robert Smith to a big boy like Alstott, they go down equally with arm tackles from gnome-sized safeties. On pitch plays, running backs run to a spot in the backfield at which point the QB tosses the ball and the back waits patiently. The backs will run in place for a second or so until the ball finally arrives. The extra delay is just enough time for the defense to run into the backfield for a tackle.

Even the AI playcalling is terrible. Before the half or late in the fourth quarter, the CPU will rapidly burn its timeouts. No clock management skills are necessary for the CPU team. Furthermore, once the AI team burns its timeouts, it never engages in a hurry up offense. The team strolls back to the huddle and wastes a good 10-15 seconds off the clock. It then decides on a play with 37 seconds left on the play clock (every play in every game is always decided with exactly 37 ticks on the play clock). If you actually go out and rent or buy this game, you can use exploit this to quash any late attempts by the CPU to score.

There's so much bad in this game and I can't think of a single positive thing. I played with the limited AI settings and still couldn't come up with a decent brand of football. The gameplay just blows.

Strike 3.

Replay Value : 0
You're outta there

Overall : 29
I wish I could go back and change the score on my PSX review of Gameday 2001. I gave that game a 59 overall, including a pair of fifties in gameplay and replay value. But then again, I gave 989 the benefit of the doubt on the 32-bit hardware. On the PS2, I expect something at least a little better. Instead I got a regurgitation of the same game that sucked then. Guess what? It sucks now.

The only way you should come into possession of this game is if you get it for free. I got this game for free, and I still feel like I've been taken for a ride. I will never get back the time wasted on this lousy football game. After my last game of Gameday, I had to rinse out the bad taste it left with a quick game of Madden 2001. It was refreshing. If by any chance someone gives you this game as a gift, tell them to take it back. Put it this way - both Madden and Gameday are the same price. If moldy black bananas cost the same as the best 10 ounce sirloin, which would you pick? I don't even eat meat but I know the answer to that one. Do what you do with the moldy bananas - throw them in the landfill.

By: James Smith 1/4/01

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