Rumblin' Bumblin' Stumblin' Smackin' Whackin'
From the outset, Sony Sports' 98 version of GameDay is an action-packed joy ride that leaves you gasping for more... almost. The opening sequence consists of actual game footage accompanied by the GameDay theme song. After you become bored of watching receivers making one-handed diving catches and quarterbacks being pounded into the dirt, you proceed to the main menu where can get to the heart of the matter and try to emulate the footage you just saw.
Players can take advantage of a variety of options including mode, level, style, and length. For those of you budding head coaches and fantasy players, the roster option allows you to create your own next generation prototype player or draft a complete team. Even better, you can choose from a large assortment of teams including any of the Super Bowl champion teams like the 94 San Francisco 49ers or various All Star teams. This year, Sony decided to go with polygonal players so that when the game begins, it looks like a bizarre cross between Tekken and Madden. A disadvantage to the polygonal players is the fact that on every play and series, you can only see the offensive and defensive line while using the 'GameDay' camera. This lack of peripheral vision is a major disappointment for those armchair quarterbacks who like to see the complete field and the routes your receivers run. The only way to view your entire offensive set is to hold the audible L1 down and then snap the ball. However, unless you are extremely ambidextrous with your fingers, more often than not you will be sacked and sacked badly. Doing this will also make your players look muddled as you move to a wider view.
GameDay 98 offers more plays in your playbook, but there is hardly ample time to peruse your options before the play clock runs out. If you decide to run the ball, the defense will swarm all over you like locusts in a grain field. If you throw the ball, the defensive backs will ride you like a toilet seat. The computer's defense will anticipate your play selection and will counter with the appropriate defensive set unless you mix up your rushing and passing plays and alternate sets. Even if you do vary your plays, the computer will still eat you up. The highly touted artificial intelligence of the computer makes for fairly difficult play even in the rookie setting. To be fair, the programmers at Sony gave intelligence to all players equally so that your defensive players will also adjust to the offense and react as needed. One complaint I have is the difficulty in tackling your opponents. Sometimes, the offensive player will just go through your player and break away for a touchdown. I found this extremely frustrating after about the tenth or eleventh time this happened. This problem only affects your players and not the computer's, seeing as only my players were chewing the turf.
Another gripe I have is the so-called Total Control and Simulation. This is a very cute option that allows you to dive over the pile, shoulder charge, double spin, pitch the ball, high tackle, shiver, and perform other "realistic" moves. Call me a fundamentalist, but I like the simple basic controls and don't really need two different ways to tackle (wrap tackle and high tackle). In the midst of the game, who wants to try to remember how to shoulder charge or do swim moves? By the time you figure out which buttons to press, the play will be over. Unless you are a die hard football fanatic who craves extreme realism and is fastidious about details, the Total Control is a Total Waste of Time. GameDay 98 allows for multiple players (up to 8) to play at once (four to a team). I didn't get the chance to try this, but I can just imagine what it will be like. It will be eight people trying to figure out which player they are and wondering why everyone is running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
GameDay 98 isn't all bad, in fact, its pretty good. In the midst of all the options and moves there is a challenging football game. There will be no lopsided scores and you won't be able to use the same play for the whole game like you could with GameDay. Still the fact of the matter is that when you take away all the smoke and mirrors (and polygons), GameDay98 is just a rehash of GameDay and GameDay 97. The fact that GameDay 98 is getting a worse grade than '97 doesn't mean that it is a worse game. The two are actually fairly equal, but games are supposed to get better over time. This year, GameDay just doesn't take the ball to that next 10 yard line...