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NFL Gameday 2002 (PSX) Review

Publisher: 989 Sports

Background Info


NFL Gameday is back for another year. The 2002 incarnation is almost certainly the series last on the PSOne and it hopes to improve on last year's disappointing release. If you are a Gameday fan, you should expect more of the same. The words "glorified roster patch" come to mind. You get your new rosters and altered ratings and a few new Super Bowl teams, but essentially you are paying for last year's game with Donovan McNabb on the cover and not Marshall Faulk. The game hasn't changed much since the 2000 version. With another year under their belt, does 989 sports finally get the sport of football perfected on the virtual platform?

Presentation/Graphics : 80
The PSOne has been showing its age for the past years. Game developers have to make a choice when making a game; make the game visually appealing and have a small number of game features or have a plethora of game features and have a crappy looking game. Gameday is a potpourri of both. The graphics aren't terrible and the game has a nice number of game features.

Players are scaled appropriately for height and weight. I can tell the difference between Warrick Dunn and Warren Sapp. Where I can't tell the difference is everywhere else. Whether you see a graceful wide receiver like Randy Moss galloping across the field or an oaf like Tony Siragusa, the animation looks exactly the same. The same stride, feel, and look. A Ray Lewis tackle looks the same as a Walt Harris tackle.

The fields have their logos and there are some fillers on the sidelines. The game looks pretty average and dull. In a few of the stadiums there is a real-time, "Jumbo-Tron." Very cool feature, but since the resolution is so low, it ends up looking like a big blob.

I do admit that the game doesn't look disastrous for a PSOne game. It doesn't have the smoothness of Madden, but it's not "Kurt Warner's Arena Football."

Presentation/Audio : 55
Dan Fouts and Dick Enberg provided the play-by-play for this year's game. At times they say some insightful things, but more often times than not their comments are wacky and off-the-wall. You can count on hearing Dick Enberg say that, "X half back looks like he really wants the ball on this play" about four or five times a game. You hear it in every conceivable situation also. You hear it on 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 21. It's tough to believe, but these guys probably give Madden and Summerall a run for their money as the worst video game announcers.

The crowd is lifeless and the player sounds are average at best. You'll end up creating most of the sound bytes anyways as you are letting your frustrations out. That probably isn't a bad thing. The music before, during, and after the game is similar to a wrestling game. The rock music is very cheesy and gets old very quickly.

Interface/Options : 75
There are five gameplay modes in Gameday 2002. It hits all the necessities a sports game must have. It has your basic exhibition mode where you can pit two teams against each other. You have the option to play with any of the Super Bowl winners of all-time. It was fun tearing it up with the '85 Bears. There is a season mode where you take a team through 16 games and the playoffs. The tournament mode is an extension of the exhibition mode allowing you to go up against friends or multiple CPU opponents. The General Manager mode is your basic dynasty or multiple-season game mode. I found this to be the most enjoying part of the game. I didn't enjoy playing the game so I took to simming games and being the GM. The final game mode is practice mode. What is unique about this practice mode is the ability to switch from practicing offense or defensive effortlessly. In other practice modes you have to either be practicing offense or defense. If you want to change to the other you either have to exit the mode and make the necessary changes, or at least go to the controller select screen. In Gameday you can switch from being the quarterback to the middle linebacker as easy as a press of a single button. I found this to be very convenient. Instead of going through the multiple screens to make the change, I simply pressed the X button and was able to go from there.

I took to simming seasons when I could not handle playing the game anymore. I love to sim games and I love crunching numbers. The sim engine seems to be fairly solid. I didn't see any quirky stats, team or individual. It was tough to determine how well the engine works in determining who goes to the Super Bowl because in recent years surprise teams have won. In my first simmed season New England and Dallas squared off in the Super Bowl.

At the end of the year you can re-sign your players, sign free agents, and draft your new rookies. The GM mode seems pretty shallow compared to Madden's, but it was simple and clear-cut. The only bad thing I found was that if you chose to not re-sign a player they disappeared off the face of the earth. In my Cincinnati Bengals sim GM mode, I released Peter Warrick for, "salary cap" purposes. He wanted to renew his contract for about $7 million a year. I had a stable of younger, cheaper, and better wide receivers and decided to pull the plug on him. I never saw him re-emerge on another NFL team or appear in the free agent pool. That sort of ticked me off, but I showed him who was boss, huh?

I don't know if you can call this a flaw or a gimmick, but I was able to get the Bengals to prominence by signing free agents in the FA pool that is accessible during the season and through the draft. For some reason, in the drafts in pro games and recruiting in college games, the incoming players always seem to be higher rated than the Pro Bowlers who came in the original rosters. I wish they would fix this. I hate to have to bench Corey Dillon, my All-World HB because I picked up a second rounder who had better ratings than he. One problem with selecting players in the draft is that they give you no clue on what their strengths and weaknesses are. They give you their college, height, weight, and a few bland and uninformative comments, but ommited are 40 times, bench press, vertical leap, and important comments. The most you'll ever get out of the comments is, "X player is a Future Pro Bowler or a Franchise QB."

The gameplay options do not surpass those of Madden's, but are very solid. It is too bad the game itself wasn't very good.

Gameplay : 45
Almost immediately I was turned off by Gameday's gameplay. I noticed on my first offensive drive that too many essential gameplay frames were missing. Other essential frames were there, but were exaggerated or elongated. The team that I played with the most was the Philadelphia Eagles. I decided to run a simple running play. The play was designed for Duce Staley to take the handoff, hit the hole quickly, and run past the defense before it knew what happened. Well the handoff took roughly two or three seconds and my quarterback, Donovan McNabb took like what seemed a five-step drop before handing the ball off. I was tackled for a major loss. The execution was non-existent and it looked like XFL football and not the NFL. This is only one example of how the gameplay nearly made me tear all of my hair from my head.

At first I just brushed miniscule things off with the knowledge that it was a PSOne game. Things were expected to be slower and less smooth. I swallowed many of the initial annoyances, but when the CPU threw an out pattern that was sailing out of bounds by at least five yards only to end up in the wide receiver's hands, I had to go to the doctor's office to get my sanity checked. I went to the instant replay feature and checked to see if my eyes had failed me. The ball was indeed sailing out of bounds (the type of throw that would make Cade McNown fans flinch...that takes a lot) by a far margin. Randy Moss on a trampoline would have missed the pass by a good six inches. But the diving wide receiver ended up with the ball. There was no gradual dropping effect, but rather a metamorphosis from high to low. I know this is an isolated incident and I should not base my entire gameplay score on one play. Though if that one play were a rarity instead of an omen for what was to come in the future...the score would be different.

Besides missing important frames, the ball physics of Gameday is also a sore point. It is not that the ball doesn't spin right when passed or rolls wrong when it hits the ground, but it is the player deflections. Whether you are on offense or defense it seems like you can tip a pass consistently. Your linebackers, cornerbacks or safeties, all have tremendous success tipping the ball. I thought this was really cool at first. Just like the real NFL. If you don't get the throw in there firmly or with enough touch, the defenders will tip the ball away. Yet again my hopes were dashed as I realized that all the defender had to do was jump and the ball was deflected, regardless if they touched the ball or not. I threw a fairly deep ball down the middle (I am pretty sure the route was a deep post, something coming across the middle and deep) and I had to sort of lob the ball in there. When the ball passed the MLB, who was playing the middle in a zone defense, he jumped up and tipped it! Just like the WR who made the phantom catch, the MLB was able to tip the ball, a couple of feet above his head. Unless the defenders have invisible force fields that improve their defensive ability, there is something really wrong with the ball physics of the game.

I was able to tell a marked difference in the four difficulty levels. The first difficulty level was very easy. Ideal to learn the controls and become acclimated to the game. In the ensuing levels the game became increasingly difficult. The hardest difficulty level, Hall of Fame is nearly impossible. I am not a Jedi Master, but I can tell a light saber from a flashlight. Nevertheless, the CPU on the Hall of Fame difficulty pummeled me. I made a mistake the first game and played the Rams. 56-0 was the score playing five minute quarters. So I played the worst team I could think of, the Cincinnati Bengals. I hung in the game for a bit longer, but still lost 35-3. The quarterbacks turned into Troy Aikman and the running backs turned into Walter Payton. If you can muster playing the game, the challenge is definitely there in the latter difficulty levels.

I have told you my major complaints about the game. So one may wonder what is good about the game? Believe it or not, there were some aspects of the gameplay that I found enjoyable. 989 Sports is notorious for giving the human player an enormous amount of moves that they can employ on the defense. Besides your basic juke, stiff arm, and spin moves, you have a number of advanced control offensive moves you can bust out. By simply pressing the shoulder buttons and one of the four face buttons, you can use a situation-specific move that will surely puzzle your opponent. You can dive over the pile and shoulder charge for example.

The same can be said about the defense. You have a number of options to choose from. Whether it is where to tackle the ball carrier or receiver or where to position your defensive players, the choice is yours. Although it did not work for me all the time, I also enjoyed the Total Control Passing. It made me feel like a quarterback and gave me more control where I wanted to throw the ball.

The kicking game is a change of pace. Instead of the normal kicking meter, you get a cross hair and have to determine where you want to kick the ball. The cross hair must be placed in the area where you want your kicker to kick the ball. It is unique and challenging. The only bad part is that you can't control power with any consistency. It is different and adds a certain element of challenge to the game.

Read a review for any game on any genre, and they will all state that gameplay is the meat and potatoes of the game. It will make or break a game. This is where Gameday fails. At one point I really thought the quality of game was similar to Madden '95 on the old SNES. The sloppy gameplay and choppy frame rate was too much.

Replay Value : 25
The game is absolutely atrocious. I would not suggest this game to anyone. The only exception would be if you were a die-hard NFL Gameday fan. If you liked the game, the replay value score would be higher. The game is difficult on the Hall of Fame difficulty mode. It would take a good time before you could master the game. I haven't quite determined though if the Hall of Fame mode is just hard or a beneficiary of the CPU cheating.

But if you don't enjoy the game you are left with a simulation game; something Gameday is not. I had my "hoots and giggles" simming seasons, but I wouldn't buy or rent the game for that purpose. I just can't understand how someone would enjoy playing this game. There are so many better football games out there. A copy of NFL Gameday 2002 will run you about $40. My suggestion is that instead of wasting $40, shell out an extra $20 and do this. Buy a new Dreamcast for a mere $50 and purchase NFL 2k for $10. Save yourself the headache. Even for a PSOne game the gameplay is too sporadic and frustrating to even mess with.

Overall : 32
989 Sports, which at one time showed promise in dethroning EA Sports (as SEGA sports was/is doing now) as, "Top Dawg." After releasing three terrible launch games on the PS2 (Gameday, Gamebreaker, NCAA Final Four), 989 Sports is becoming the laughing stock of the sports gaming world. I consider myself a serious console sports gamer and I can't recall the last time a 989 sports game put out a respectable gridiron product.

My expectations aren't even that high for PSOne games nowadays. I played NCAA Football 2001 on the PSOne for months, despite its heavy AI and gameplay flaws and loved every minute of it. I'm not comparing Gameday 2002 to Madden or NCAA 2002 on the PS2, but to the other PSOne games on the market. This game flat-out sucked.

As much as I would love to not believe it, I am beginning to think that gaming on the PSOne is dead. NFL Gameday 2002 doesn't help contradict that thought. The PSOne is a lame duck. I'm sure there are some great games that are going to come along in the coming months for PSOne gamers, but I feel that the days of any innovation or improvement are gone. "Been there, done that" may become PSOne's lasting words before it becomes extinct.

By: Tim Martin 9/7/01

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