The End of Days.
It's tough being ugly. Right when you think you have your mojo working, right when you get a snazzy haircut, some new duds and some very hip styling mousse, you see a much bigger, far better-looking guy with no neck and muscles for days stroll by and remember that you're just a dork in stud's clothing.
The Gameday series knows how that feels, as year after year it falls short of its bigger, better rival, Madden. NFL Gameday 2002 is, sadly, no exception. It's a likable game that's fun to play, but again can't compete on the same field as Madden 2002. Guess we can't all get the hot chicks.
The game's FMV actually exceeds Madden's intro stylistically, but is followed up by a loading time that would test even the great Buddha's patience. There are several such loading times, and even though 989 tries to spruce them up with some high-quality images of your favorite football players, most of the pictures actually contribute to the sense of boredom and misery. Who picked these pictures? The players all seem to be weeping or flexing a bicep while clearly caught up in some deep, bizarre thought. (Like, how are there so many Smurfs when there're only two females in their society and one's a child?)
Once you get past the loading times, you get to pick modes and options in what is probably the most intuitive menu ever seen before in a football game. It's not magical and it hasn't gotten me any dates, but it is extremely straightforward and well done.
The modes themselves are about as predictable as a Dallas Cowboy's game. 989 clearly can't compete in the exact same arena as EA; they should try to distinguish themselves rather than just having the same modes and giving them different names. The modes include Exhibition, Season, Tournament, General Manager, and of course Practice. Everything you would expect, including a Play Editor, which is also nothing new.
You can also Create a Player, which comes with a variation called Create a Superplayer, which is a lot less exciting than it sounds. The idea is that you can make sort of a Frankenstein's monster; you could give it, say, Jeff George's throwing arm and maybe Emmit Smith's power, or something equally vague. As fun as it may seem, it's a worthless addition. If I'm gonna make a super player, I want Superman's laser vision and Venom's symbiote, not Daunte Culpepper's mustache. Unless it's a super mustache! You know, the kind you can dance with!
The gameplay is decent. The pressure sensitive passing is cool (even though total control passing is a joke) and playing defense is straightforward. The control is tight and the overall feel and flow is solid.
Still, there are a few flaws, like auto-juking, which stinks. Basically, you wind up juking all the time, which really slows you down.
Tackling is atrocious. There simply must be a lock-on - that's all there is to it. Tackling from the side is the biggest, dumbest gamble ever, as you have to be tackling at just the perfect angle to hit your opponent. Otherwise, you'll just end up jumping on the ground in front of him, something I've never seen happen in an actual football game.
The graphics are pretty bad. The American flag that is supposed to be the wind indicator looks positively 16-bit. The backgrounds are broken up into fat squares that clash against each other like senior citizens at a Golden Corral buffet table. The animation is chunky and weak, with the one "fresh and new" tackling animation being used 90% of the time. Given, it's a PSX game and many of us have stared at PS2 games for the past year...but still, this doesn't look good.
The sound is typical, featuring completely insane commentary. There's this bug where one of the guys (either Dick Enberg or Dan Fouts) just randomly starts talking about an interception that never happened. It happens at least twice a game. I've never played a game that had such poorly programmed commentary. Having said that, I enjoyed hearing the commentators say random, nonsensical things, and, if I had my way, they'd never make sense. Long live Dennis Miller.
Oddly, the game is prone to crashing. If you jam on the buttons before a game when the camera's panning around the field, this puppy will crash and burn like a zeppelin. You hate to see that in a console game.
Yet in spite of its kaleidoscope of flaws, NFL Gameday 2002 actually offers a fair bit of fun. If this game could have been cleaned up a little more and had a wider variety of interesting modes, it might have matched Madden 2002 as the best last PSX football game ever. Instead, it serves as a fitting finale to a second banana series.