First I must tell you how NFL Gameday is the greatest football title ever made. Then I must tell you why you shouldn’t buy this game.
Well hmm, that’s a new one.
To begin, NFL Gameday is the ideal football game, the new standard even against the Madden juggernaut (which will now try to come back as the 32-bit gaming equivalent of Tommy John surgery — ask Pop about that one, kiddies). The gameplay is perfect. Spinning, jumping and hurdling are no longer moves giving “brief or cheap invincibility”, as on other past football memorables (Madden 93, NFL ’94/College Nat’l Championship), but are perfected to an art, each with it’s own special place and time (just like real life), in which you must only learn (just like real life), but gradually develop and master (just like…uhh, well I think you get the point).
The juke button is a really innovative option added by Sony that helps make this one of the most realistically competitive games I have ever played. Also, it’s not impossible to stop a player from diving at you, so Gameday‘s challenge is as real for you as it is for the running backs out there. For every dive there is a juke or hurdle; for every juke or hurdle an appropriate lag time (and maybe one or two extra yards) and for every lag time, another dive for which there is an appropriate speed, burst, tackle, juke or hurdle. Just like the bigs. Another refreshing part of the game I noticed was that the QB throws the ball based on route. This means if Jerry Rice is supposed to sun a slant after 10 yards but pressure forces you to throw it after he runs 5 yards, the QB will still hit Rice on the slant with perfect timing. (On most other games like NFL ’95 , you would be putting on a speed burst and diving for a ball 15-20 yards well over your head).
There are a couple of minor problems to voice, which I’ll do now. When throwing the ball after about three seconds in, the receivers get open normally, but the ball is not reared back and fired like it should be, so it is impossible to catch in stride. This is understandable, as the average QB in the NFL doesn’t get or need three seconds to complete a pass. One of the things that I would like to see is the ability to control catching passes in stride more often, or by a diving button. Another important option that needs to be added next year is the QB’s ability to throw on the run. If it costs the throw a few brownie points in accuracy, it’s worth it, because it seems close to impossible to outrun any defensive linemen with the QB, or throw before getting stuffed, which is also impossible once linemen get within a certain distance.
The defense is, in a word, flawless. Forcing you to pick up, distinguish, and learn to use for one man coverage, pass and run defense just enhances the already realistic strategy. What also stands out is the complete control alloted to the gamer. Most games don’t give this level of control on the playing field and the best thing about this feature of Gameday is that it makes the game better–not easier. The forearm shiver and swim move tactics from real football can be employed in this game. Add to this that the player is able to be equally strong as a defensive linebacker, back or lineman (the little things that make a big difference).
This game has pretty much set the standard for 32-bit football much the same way a small software publisher did five years ago with the original John Madden Football. So why am I going to tell not to buy it? Listen closely. Firstly, one of the things that ranks high on the list of gamers’ demands, particularly sports gamers’ demands, are custom features. These features make a big difference in selecting between certain games. Game companies know this, which is why stat tracking and trading are pretty much standard in today’s sports crop. As a first generation title, not much is really expected in terms of features from Gameday. However, it does include some very decent features like trading, signing free agents (they even have special players in the free agent pool based on the game’s creators), and stat tracking, but nothing extravagant like creating, drafting, editing existing or created players, computer-prompted or any host of exotic options.
The only real reason not to buy this game is that Madden ’97, Gameday ’97, and others are right around the corner (slated for a November ’96 release) and you must consider whether Gameday is worth $60 if you expect to buy ’97. If you can afford $60 for Gameday and can’t wait, or if you can afford all the games you want, I would advise you whole-heartedly to get this game. But, if you’re like most of us, then you’ll have to take a deep sigh and keep beating Madden 95/96 until the big day (I know I felt like this for two months before “Independence Day” was released). But like I said, this IS the greatest football game released yet. YET. Just remember, while Gameday is getting all the hype (and deservedly so), somewhere in the deep annals of a small publishing room off in Central California, one Madden ’97 lies in wait, for when Madden hits the scene, then my friend, the sparks will start to fly.