NFL GameDay 2004 Review (PS2)
Back in 1995, SCEA’s “NFL Gameday” for Sony’s brand-new Playstation videogame system took the gaming world by storm. It was a game like no one had seen before, literally. Boasting state-of-the-art graphics and outstanding user control, “NFL Gameday” became an instant success. Two years later, SCEA’s “NFL Gameday 1998” did what EA Sports said couldn’t be done - they created the first fully polygonal football game on a 32-bit system. The franchise had created a huge following and became a worthy opponent for EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” franchise. Somehow, over the course of a year, the franchise took a nose dive - never to recover. Jump forward several years to 2003. “NFL Gameday 2004” has been released; primed to put itself back on the map. Complete with online play and new voice recognition innovations; is this the year that “Gameday” takes its game off the bloopers reel?
“NFL Gameday 2004” features all the normal gameplay modes you’d expect; including exhibition, season, franchise, and online play. The newest feature/innovation this year is the voice chat recognition. This year, you now have the ability to call plays or an audible at the line of scrimmage using a USB headset. While it seems to be more of a novelty, I’m sure there are a few gamers out there that would really like to take advantage of this ability. “Gameday 2004” recognizes up to 40 voice commands and can be used on both offense and defense. So, whether you want to send a man in motion, snap the ball on offense, call a timeout, or make and adjustment on defense - have at it - because now it’s all possible using nothing more than the sound of your voice. Online players have plenty of options and modes at their disposal; including tournaments, stat tracking, roster updates, message boards, and the ability to email other players.
On the field, “NFL Gameday” plays host to new, pressure sensitive control. The intent behind these new pressure sensitive controls is to give you, the gamer, more control and flexibility on the field. While not a complete bust, the controls tend to be somewhat sluggish in their response - feeling almost like online “lag”. Once you get accustomed to the slower response, you can adjust to make up for it, but I feel that it’s something they really need to work on improving for next year. I have a big issue with how running plays in the I formation are handled. The fullback will actually move toward the hole prior to the snap of the ball! The last time I checked, referees tend to throw the flag for illegal motion when that happens, but apparently not in this game. Not only is this a penalty that should be called, it also tips off the defense to the fact that you’re about to execute a running play. Lack of run defense, blown coverage assignments and other little hiccups really hinder “NFL Gameday 2004’s” chances of making it to the post season.
"Gameday" shines in it's online features. They're second to none when it comes to all the options at your fingertips, including:
1) Live Stats & Rosters - rosters can be updated weekly and can be use for both offline and online play.
2) Tournaments that support 4-64 playes using a single elimination tournament. Many options are available within, including random seedings and password protection, along with official 989 Tournaments; where you have leaderboards, wins/losses and other things to track.
3) Message Boards. They're back, but now the new features include inter-game communication incase you have a friend playing another 989 Sports game. Leaderboards which include Wins/Losses, disconnects, points per game, rushing yards, red zone scoring and many other stats. Sorting is available in both ascending and descending order.
4) The 989 Sports Game Ranking system; which uses a new point system where an advanced player plays a rookie they will attain less points for beating a lesser opponent.
5) Feedback to Development is included, as well - you can send your comments straight to the development team from your PS2 or PC.
On a positive note, 989 Sports completely overhauled the graphics engine for this year’s “NFL Gameday”. Although the game’s overall look is still not up to speed with other titles on the market, it’s definitely not hard to look at. Animations for celebrations, tackling and running all look better than in previous efforts. This year, gamers with widescreen televisions will be happy to hear that “NFL Gameday 2004” features 16x9 widescreen support. The only real problem I have with the overall look and feel is that it tends to move rather slowly. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but it appears that this game suffers from some framerate issues.
Dick Enberg, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts provide some very good play-by-play and color commentary. So good, in fact, that it’s actually one of the game's finer points. On the field, however, the game doesn’t sound as good. The crowd noise and player grunts sound nearly the same as they did five years ago. The menus and on-field music feature a nice selection of hard rock tunes and classic NFL music tracks.
While the game seems to have improved over previous installments, I still can’t feel comfortable in recommending this game as a purchase. There are just too many other football games out there that are more deserving. With that being said, I’m happy to see that this game has started making improvements - hopefully next year it can earn back the respect it once deserved.