Bring out the stretcher.
Being nearly the beginning of football season, every game company and their mom is releasing a football game to try and cash in on a little football fever. 989 Studios' bid is the inferior NFL GameDay 2003 for the PS2. While it doesn't have the flashy graphics, sound, or production value of other games out there, GameDay doesn't have the gameplay, options or Artificial Intelligence either. If there's an award for making the weakest football game on the market, then by God, 989 Studios just earned it.
The first indication that GameDay is less than a quality product is the cover art on the package. It features last year's hero Tom Brady striking a passing pose with his tongue out and a retarded look on his face. Are 989 Studios actually mocking their own product? Why does Brady look so stupid, aside from being in a Patriots uniform? Confusing, but not impressive.
The modes are about as generic as they get (except for Bonker Jerks mode! Which is exciting and revolutionary, and not actually included in the game). Instead, you can play Pre-season, Season, Tournament, and General Manager.
In General Manager mode you get to manage the affairs of your favorite football team, including signing free agents and drafting college players. In a nice move, you can draft players from 989's NCAA Gamebreaker into this game, though that's quickly becoming a standard feature in pro games.
Tournament mode allows you to make a custom bracket which you and your friends can compete in. Assuming you have any friends after exposing them to this game, you can then go over to their houses and play their better football games.
The gameplay is hampered by a low framerate, the lousiness of which is compounded by crappy graphics. The stadiums look fine, but the players and the gridiron itself look like robots and a giant blob of green Jello, respectively. Not to mention lovely little details like the way your quarterback slows down to throw the ball, even when being pursued by a gang of defensive linemen. Compared to the efforts seen in the Madden and 2K games, GameDay looks like the kid brother with acne.
The running game suffers from sluggish controls. Guys go from "blocked" to "on your ass" in about one frame. The period between pressing a button and seeing the result seems about twice as long as in other games. Better stick to the air.
Passing suffers from the same fate as the Gamebreaker title. Go ahead and throw into four defenders - you stand as good a chance of completing the pass as if you threw into single coverage. Also, thanks to GameDay's horrible resolution, actually figuring out what the coverage is downfield is really difficult.
So it's a good thing that the secondary is completely useless, because otherwise GameDay would be unplayable. The only thing that ever seems to have any impact defensively is bringing lots of outside heat; these guys move fast and the quarterbacks move slow, which makes sacks a pretty common occurrence with the right pressure.
Why anyone would want to incriminate themselves as being closely involved in making this game is beyond me, but 989 Studios included a DVD extra of themselves making this game. I don't want to give the whole thing away, but it involves a couple partially digested chili-dogs, a fat guy, and an Oakland Coliseum bathroom. Yuck.
Though the PS2 just went online a few days ago, the GR crew has had several experiences with GameDay's online component and it holds up surprisingly well. Connecting to a server and getting started is easy enough, and the game supports a USB keyboard for full typing. Given, we've already had online football experiences way back on the Dreamcast, but it's good being able to point out at least one bright spot in this otherwise dull game.
Of course, when the gameplay and graphics are this unimpressive, the multiplayer is sort of negligible. As the competition pulls further and further away, GameDay is quickly becoming a punchline, a sad fate for a series that at one point was at the top of the pile.