NCAA GameBreaker 2003 Review (PS2)
Gamebreaker first strikes you as a surprisingly fun game. However, the more time you spend with it the more the flaws stand out and you end up coming away unsatisfied. The action is fast and the atmosphere and excitement of college football is represented well, but finding a level with the appropriate challenge is the major weakness with Gamebreaker.
The single biggest problem with this game is that it’s just too easy to pass. I tried all the different levels adjusted the CPU defense and IQ, played with some pretty bad teams like my alma mater Utah State, but even against good teams I was still able to move the ball pretty much at will. It wasn’t like it was just money plays either I tried really hard to have a balanced offense and mix up my play calling.
This is really unfortunate because if the passing game was harder, 989 would have had a pretty good game on their hands. Part of the problem with the passing game for both the CPU and Human is that it seems mostly based on timing and not whether or not the receiver is open. Many passes are completed in a lot of traffic. I think this is due in part to the poor receiving animations, receivers never turn around to catch the ball they catch most passes over their shoulder even if it is a bullet pass. There are few deflections and most passes are broken up by bone jarring hits.
Running the ball is more of a challenge especially if you max out the CPU IQ. Depending on the quality of the team and your runner you will experience varying success. In the running game, the CPU does seem to adjust if you run certain plays too often. The option is smooth and pretty well done, but is a little too successful, the QB usually can get 5-6 yards before he will have to pitch. If you time the pitch just right you can get another 5-6 yards if you don’t, pitching the ball will cost you yards.
Control in the running game is pretty good, with the usual moves, I haven’t had a lot of success pulling the spin or juke moves off to great effect. I usually get nailed before the move takes effect. I tend to rely on following blocks and speed bursting at the right times.
In Gameday it seemed next to impossible to stop the CPU’s passing game, in Gamebreaker, it is still tough, but it is do-able. I think part of this has to do with the quality or lack thereof of the college QB’s. They are more prone to make bad passes and rush things.
One advantage that GameBreaker has over Gameday is that the CPU will run more and good running teams can run successfully on you. This at first gave me high hopes for Gamebreaker cause this was my biggest complaint with Gameday. But the problems with the CPU stopping your passing game changed this optimism. One of the things that Gamebreaker does real well is give you a feeling of really laying a hit on the runner or receiver. You can switch players pretty well and this helps in the running game but even on the slow speed, I didn’t really have time to defense the pass. You have to rely on hitting the receiver after the catch and hope that you knock the ball loose.
Add Gamebreaker to the list of football games this year in which it is next to impossible to sack the QB, you can get some pressure but I haven’t even hit the QB in most games. Even when you blitz, the line just seems to pick up your blitz incredibly well. There are various special moves but they don’t really add to the game in any credible way.
Despite all the above mentioned flaws, Gamebreaker can be fun to play, putting a drive together on offense gives you a feeling of satisfaction and putting the occasional stop on the CPU offense is fun. On defense, anyway I haven’t come up with a consistent pattern for success.
There are 3 playbook types, Run, Pass and Balanced, they are pretty similar except for one or two different sets in the run and Pass playbooks. The plays offer a fairly wide variety of plays to choose from on both offense and defense, but they need to be more team specific.
I like the kicking meter, you actually place the cursor on the football in order to determine the direction of the kick. The power is determined by your standard power meter.
In some ways the AI is good. The CPU does a pretty good job of mixing up it’s plays and will also pick on your weaknesses. I have had games where I couldn’t stop the run and the CPU would run 10 times on the same drive. Conversely if I shut the run down it would go the pass more often,
GameBreaker actually handles the clock pretty well, it will use it’s timeouts and especially the no huddle offense to good effect, there are times when it slips up but for the most part you won’t have complaints.
This is an extremely well presented game, the graphics are not quite up to par with the EA and Sega, but the presentation makes up for some of the lack of crispness. They make excellent use of TV style replays after most plays, giving you a couple of different angles of the play. Hard to explain in tangible means, but it creates a good football atmosphere. They also make liberal use of the screen overlays with player stats for the game and season and this adds to the realistic look of the game.
The animations are good, but they need to add more animations of normal plays. Too many of the tackles result in more spectacular type animations. This is OK, but it would be better if you saw more normal wrap up tackles. The one area where they are really lacking in animations is the receiving game, it seems there are only two, one is the over the shoulder catch, the other is on out patterns, the receiver seems to catch everything around his knees.
“Hat white, badge shining, arm strong, there is a new sheriff in town” Just one example of the many quotable quotes from Keith Jackson. If you are a Jackson fan you will enjoy the commentary. To his credit he sounds sincere, definitely not a case of a big name announcer mailing it in. His sidekick is Tim Brandt, he is OK and they work pretty well together, some of the things they say are out of place, but they are not alone in this area.
The game sounds are nothing new and NCAA2003 still does a better job of representing the college atmosphere, the one thing that GameBreaker does better here, is there isn’t a lot of dead time. The sounds are always adding to the atmosphere and the crowd does react to big game situations.
If you like stat tracking and box scores you will be happy with GameBreaker, they rule in this area. Box Scores for every game even games you didn’t play. Easy to access player stats which will show the key stats for any players career. Leader boards and team stats, all that is done quite well and accessing them is intuitive. The sim aspect of the game is pretty good, but the scores seemed to be a little low and the rushing totals were also a little low in the seasons that I looked at. Not sure if it could be based on the minute length it didn’t seem that way but I didn’t experiment with it enough to judge.
The have an interesting take on the Career or Dynasty mode, you can choose from available coaching positions and work your way up. I started out as the offensive coordinator at San Diego St. mostly because I wanted to play on the infield at what I still call Jack Murphy Stadium. You have goals like averaging 300 yards per game and being ranked at a certain level in total offense. Each year you will be presented with new coaching opportunities based on your performance. If you want to be your favorite school you have to start out as special teams coach.
There is also a season mode with all the Bowl games and a tournament mode. They also have a pretty good selection of great all – time teams.
This is a game where the sum is greater than the individual parts. I had a lot of fun playing GameBreaker for about 10 games or so, but then I could not find a level with an even challenge. The things they did well, were recreating a football atmosphere with a hard hitting, fast paced game. I don’t think they are far off; they need to come up with a challenging level of play, more animations and a completely revamped recruiting system.