Who let the Chihuahuas out?
NFL GameDay 2004
for the PS2 represents an interesting mark in
franchise. While I wouldn't say that the series has
finally come of age, I will say that it has come of adolescence. You remember
that kid who was fat all through middle school and then somehow lost thirty pounds
over the summer? That's the idea. While certainly not as mature as Madden
or as athletic as ESPN
proves that sometimes dropping a ball is a good thing.
most noticeable improvement is the brawny on-line component. There are chat-rooms,
message boards, tournaments, rankings stats, instant messengers and all sorts
of other online goodies that weren't there last Fall. Not only is the SOCOM
headset supported for voice-chat, but you can also use it to administer voice
commands to your team, even offline. That's right - the headset recognizes over
thirty commands. Unfortunately, "throw the damn ball you @%#$!" isn't one of
The single-player is still a bit underdeveloped. The usual suspects all make
it to the huddle including Preseason, Season, Tournament, Practice, General
Manager and Franchise. Essentially nothing has changed here since last year.
The General Manager and Franchise modes, usually the bread and butter of any
single-player sports game, are too barebones compared to the wealth of details
and possibilities in Madden, and the other modes have been
unchanged since I was in diapers.
However, much of yesteryear's clumsiness has dissipated and GameDay
plays better than ever before. Controls are now truly pressure sensitive (as
they are in the ESPN and Madden games) and
not quite as gangly and uncoordinated as they used to be. Having said that,
GameDay's gameplay still isn't up to speed with either Madden
or ESPN. It's a long way from high-school to the pros.
Quarterbacking is handled better than any other aspect of the game, although
this is partially due to bad defensive AI. With Michael Vick, for example, I
can totally demolish any defense any time by simply rolling out behind a running
back and passing him the ball when defenders finally close in'if they ever do.
Sometimes Vick just gets to take it thirty or forty yards. The option play might
be great in college, but you shouldn't be able to do it this easy in the NFL.
GameDay has always tripped when it comes to running, and
this year's game isn't much different. The pressure sensitive controls help,
but weird frame-rates and an overall lack of fluidity kind of spoil this aspect
of the game.
a taste of Madden's incredible defensive AI, playing defense
in GameDay makes me want to put down the controller and go
play for real in the park. There's just no comparison. It's not really bad,
per se, so much as static compared to what we see in the other two big NFL games.
Defenders don't clog passing lanes nearly as effectively and pass-rushers always
seem to get hung up on linemen. This means two things: the CPU offense will
score on you more easily, and you can score on the CPU defense really
easily, making GameDay a very offensive game. Pun slightly
NFL Gameday 2004 has visited the dermatologist and cleared
up a couple blemishes, but the overall countenance isn't that attractive. The
main problem is the framerate, which is still a little clunky. However, I don't
think this is due to bad programming or weird hardware issues so much as a result
of the 989's animation style preference. In 989 games, there's always an element
of enhanced quickness to gives the game a more arcadey feel. Unfortunately,
this is often taken too far and makes movement jerky and awkward. Visual Concepts
employs this tactic as well, but in a far more subtle manner so that the action
seems energized as opposed to frantic. I think a revision to this approach,
perhaps slowing down the animations and making them more fluid, would give the
game the proper look.
The sounds are okay. Dan Fouts and Dick Enberg have always been decent video
game commentators and combine to provide the one area in which GameDay
does something better than Madden.
NFL GameDay 2004 represents a marked improvement over last
year's effort. However, the football game genre is probably the toughest
in sports, and small gains are easy to take for granted or dismiss as simply
not enough. However, I think the GameDay series is beginning
to show signs of life, and I'm actually interested in seeing what next year
brings to this awkward but improving series.