989 Sportsí latest football title, NFL GameDay
2003 represents a significant improvement from last yearís edition. The most
dramatic changes come in the visuals, which are much crisper than in previous
titles. A deeper playbook and better AI also improve things dramatically. This
is also the first in the GameDay to enable online play and it features more
extensive stats and a robust General Manager mode which increases the depth and
replay value dramatically. The changes are big but are they enough to finally
bring the series to the elite level? The Laser hits the gridiron to see if 989
has finally scored another touch-down.
In addition to the new features, GameDay 2003ís on-field gameplay has also undergone a significant revamp, and the deeper playbooks, better AI and new modes of play add plenty of depth to the experience, though they donít completely fix all the gameís problems. There are different camera angles, though the game lacks the variety that other titles offer. Player models look significantly better than they have in previous games. This is especially true in the close-ups and replays which showcase a variety of new animations. 989 put a lot of work into the game with more than 70 different motion captured tackling animations alone. To help you revel in all the new details and realism, thereís a more sophisticated replay mode. Thereís some music, but it can be turned off, which is a big plus. Play-by-play announcers also add to the experience and create an aura of authenticity around the experience, though their commentary can get a little tedious and repetitive the longer you play.
Another major problem that makes the game less enjoyable is that GameDayís interface is a bit clunky, requiring you to go through 2 steps when calling plays and selecting formations. The menus appear muddy and the playbook is hard to read which makes calling formations that much more difficult. The play you choose isnít highlighted, so you never know if you successfully chose the right one. This means that youíll select the wrong play if you push the wrong button, which can be very frustrating. On the other hand, once you get used to the system, itís not too terrible.
Once youíre on the field, the main concern you have
is moving the ball, itís not as easy as it seems since the computer AI is
quite aggressive, and makes your life difficult, especially at the higher
difficulty settings. You can also adjust the aggressiveness of the AI, though
why anyone would want to play at the simplest levels is a mystery. GameDay has a
decent flow and the matches move along at a decent pace. While GameDayís speed
can be adjusted, the default mode should suit most players just fine. GameDayís
pace is generally quicker than Madden, but a tad slower than Segaís NFL 2K1.
There are some areas, such as the player movement and reaction speed that seem a
little bit less polished, and the game just doesnít offer the depth of plays
that the gameís rivals have. However, the feel of the controls and plays is
very good and there are other features that make up for these deficiencies.
Taking all the positives and negatives into consideration, on balance this is the most promising GameDay since its early years on the PS1. The 2003 edition is a decent update to the series with a vastly improved graphics engine with much-improved player animation and motion that finally harnesses the PS2, with improved character models that heightens the realism. While the menu interface makes play-calling an unnecessarily difficult task, GameDayís on-field controls are otherwise quite decent. Even though some serious strides have been made, Itís doesnít have the production values that other titles do. However, the online component is solid and makes things much more challenging and competitive than single player modes do. While itís still a little behind itís rivals in terms of gameplay and depth, this is a solid installment that shows 989 is definitely closing the gap.