NFL GameDay 2003 Review (PS2)
Gameday had fallen out of the picture in the last few years with Madden and NFL2K3 both being far superior games. There is still a big gap between Gameday and the big two, but they did a lot to narrow that gap. Even though I had NFL2K3 and Madden sitting right next to me I still ended up playing quite a bit of Gameday, something about it intrigued me.
Offense is probably the best part of the game, putting a nice drive together; mixing in the pass and run gave me quite a bit of satisfaction. Passing gives you the feeling that you are really zipping the ball into your receiver, which is great for routes that this is necessary. Unfortunately, even on long balls you still get the same kind of feel to the pass, the long passes don’t have the right touch on them. Dump off passes to your Running Back are lofted pretty well so there is some difference on touch, when passing. There is also a maximum passing option, which gives you the ability to lead your receivers.
Last year the best strategy seemed to be to drop back as far as you could and let it rip. This year, that aspect of the passing game is improved. You will have more success if you get rid of the ball quicker, however most of the receivers routes take a while to develop and because of this I was able to complete quite a few passes to receivers who hadn’t finished their route. At times my QB would almost get stuck in the pocket, you would drop back and if you settle in the pocket the QB does not respond right away if you need to move, however if you don’t stop in the pocket, the QB controls fine. The routes the receivers run are not as crisp and clean as they are in NFL2K3, so when a guy runs a hook he goes out straight and just kind of turns around, he doesn’t really sell the route. Most of the routes are pretty deep, there needs to be more intermediate routes, this would add to the realism. In general the routes need to be run more convincingly, what’s odd is they look great in replays, but when you are playing in Classic or Gameday view they don’t look very good.
Gameday added hot routes this year. It is pretty much what you would see in other games; one difference is that you can change the routes of more than one player. The downside of this is that the procedure to call a hot route for a receiver is a little cumbersome. It works fine but it seems like it could have been done more smoothly, could be just an adjustment issue on my part.
The Classic and Gameday camera angles allow you to see the whole field, which makes it easier to see your receivers. One thing that you will have to get used to is that your receivers will rarely look open especially on deeper routes or routes over the middle.
Running the ball is not quite as fun as it was in Gameday 98 but it is getting closer. Once again pretty standard stuff as far as the various moves you can use and as before you even have super moves. Following your blocks is the key to running well; I learned this the hard way. It tends to look kind of crowded at the line of scrimmage and I would try to go away from all the traffic only to get knocked down right away. As I learned to trust my blockers and the plays, I had more consistent success. Holes will develop at times that allow you to get big runs and that seems to happen at a realistic rate but if you try to force the big run you will not have much success.
The skills of both your Running Back and Quarter Back seem to have an effect on the game. For instance, in playing a season as the Packers, Ahman Green got hurt, he was averaging over 100 yards a game. Rondell Mealy while filling in for Green averaged about 40 yards a game. The obvious difference in speed and the ability to make people miss was very noticeable.
This is a hard hitting fast paced game, the hits you lay on the opposition are usually solid and the sound effects really try to send that message home. In this respect it is very similar to previous years versions.
Stopping the pass is really hard. Most of the time I spent playing Gameday was on the Pro level. There are four levels. Rookie, Pro, All-Pro, Hall of Fame. First off, the CPU seems to be pass happy, even passing when it should probably be running out the clock. I tried tinkering with the sliders, putting the CPU passing at Low and the CPU running at high, but with only marginal success. Slowing the game speed down seemed to help a bit and at least gave me the illusion that I had a chance. I am not sure if this is a flaw in the game or if it goes back to a style of play. The Gameday series always kind of relied on the defensive back timing his hit on the receiver just as the ball arrived as it’s form of pass defense. That seems to be the case this year as well.
The first problem for me is that the plays happen too fast and the QB seems to hit the receivers as they are running straight out the field. It’s like they are making an adjustment on every play, instead of running an out, they run about 10 yards straight and catch the ball. As I mentioned earlier the receivers usually seem to be well covered, which I think adds to the frustration of stopping the pass. Your DB’s just don’t seem to react to the ball and switching to make the play is difficult. The DB’s never seem to make a play on their own. One positive is that the QB sometimes will just throw a bad pass, this is one thing that has been lacking in most games, all passes are either caught, dropped or broken up, here there are some obvious bad passes and I like to see that.
Another problem with defending the pass is the play diagrams are confusing, the names don’t tell you anything and the diagrams are a myriad of squiggly, straight and broken lines. I am sure that basic defenses like a cover 2 are there but they have names like Topeka and Mango. Sounds cool but not real useful. If you look at the play editor that will help you decipher the diagrams, however even knowing the plays didn’t help me cover the pass.
Pressuring the QB is also not that easy unless you blitz everyone, the Offensive line always seems to pick up my blitzers. There are special moves and they might gain you separation but rarely will they help you get around the blocker in time to do any damage to the QB. Not that this makes Gameday any different from every other game on the market, sacks are fun they should be tough to get but you should get an average of the 3 a game.
The run is pretty easy to stop, partly because they just don’t run that often, if I could stop the pass on Pro I would move up to All-Pro and play with the CPU running set to High, but I haven’t been able to stop the pass. So my experimenting with the various levels and settings didn’t get very far.
Part of the reason Gameday was so popular back in the late 90’s was because it’s AI really kept you on your toes. You had to mix up your play calling both offensively and defensively. The CPU defense seems to adjust to your play calling and will put 8-9 guys up near the line if you run too often or always on first down. Although some of the formations the defense will use are quite odd looking, you will see 3 guys standing in a line right behind each other. However, once the play starts the defense looks better.
There is a slider for CPU IQ, I played with it set to 120, so it is possible that some of the things I saw would not happen with the IQ set higher. One problem I noticed is that on defense near the goalline the CPU will inexplicably line up in a regular set and not a goalline type set. Other times the CPU will and it is extremely tough to run against the goalline D. The CPU also seems to stack the line of scrimmage a little too much on 2nd and short, so you can burn them with the pass.
Offensively as mentioned earlier the CPU just passes too much even with leads late in the game. I can understand some passing late in the game, but it will line up in the shotgun and air it out with less than a minute to go. Part of me thinks it passes so much cause the CPU knows you aren’t stopping the pass, but I am lining up in Nickel and Dime and still can’t stop the pass. You would think the AI might decide the CPU should run the ball since I am lining up to stop the pass.
Clock management is off as well, but it depends on the situation. Sometimes on offense with time running out it will use the hurry up offense and timeouts perfectly. Other times the CPU will let the clock run out and end up losing with out using all of it’s timeouts. It will use timeouts on defense but will sometimes use all of it’s TO’s before the 2 minute warning. It starts using them under 3 minutes it appears. I see the logic of using 1 TO before the 2-minute warning but all of them to stop the clock is a little overboard.
One problem with the hurry up offense is that all you have to do is hit the L and R buttons and boom you are at the line of scrimmage ready to go, this is the same for the CPU. No time is spent getting down the field, which is not right, it upsets the flow of managing the clock.
The playbooks are the same for every team, there are plenty of plays and formations but it is not team specific at all, depending on your perspective this may or may not be a big deal. There is a pretty extensive play editor so theoretically you could create plays that are more like your favorite teams. Strangely there are only four receivers that you can throw to on each play, yet there is a set called five wide, I am not sure with all the buttons on the PS2 controller why they didn’t have 5 eligible receivers.
GRAPHICS AND PRESENTATION
The presentation of the game is definitely one of the strong points. The replays after a play are TV like and give you the sense that you are watching a real game. You will usually see the play from two different angles; it is all done very quickly too, so it doesn’t interfere with the game. They throw up various statistical overlays at a nice rate and they are timely and accurate. The stadiums are pretty detailed but they do have the PS2 shimmer, in which everything seems to be moving a little bit.
The uniforms are on, the colors unlike the last few years are accurate, and you also have a choice of various throwback uniforms. The faces are quite detailed, they tried hard to add some expressions and guys talking looks kind of odd at times, but I like it.
The player models are decent, the various sizes of players are represented well and actually the 3D aspect of the player is decent, but the models lack a certain crispness that I was hoping to see from a PS2 game and the 3rd iteration of the game on the PS2. That said, the visual representation of football is pulled off pretty well and only those who worry obsessively about graphics will have problems with this element of the game.
They really need to add more catching animations, too many times the receiver never turns around for a pass, a lot of passes just sort of come in over the shoulder the receiver doesn’t really react to the ball, like they do in NFL2K3. I think just a few more animations in all aspects of the game and they will have a much more realistic looking game.
The announcing team of Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts and Ian Eagle are excellent, of course they get a little repetitive and they are out of whack at times. But each one speaks in a convincing tone, doesn’t sound like they are reading a script. Their comments were integrated together so that it sounds like they are really interacting and responding to the other announcer comments. Some of the analysis by Fouts is stuff I haven’t heard in a game before.
The game sounds are the standard, some trash talking and crowd reactions to big plays, nothing here that stands out but nothing that hurt the game either. The intro music is actually very “NFL Films, Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field” inspirational sort of stuff. It sorts of gets you pumped up for football, unlike Madden and Andrew WK, which just makes me want to hit people.
FEATURES – GENERAL MANAGER
Best box scores around, for every game a detailed newspaper like box score is saved, even for the games that the CPU played. If you like stats you will like this aspect of Gameday, also you can bring up a player card for each player and there are full career stats, not just for the current year but also for past and every franchise year.
The simulated stats are a little on the high side in regards to total yards, each season I simmed had roughly 30 running backs and receivers over a 1000 yards and Terrell Owens went over 2000 one year. Two years in row Jerry Azumah on the Bears returned 8 kickoffs for TD’s and averaged over 50 yards a return. Most of the kick returners averages were high but nothing like this. In my third year, I won the Super Bowl with the Bears, I signed Peyton Manning for a mere 5.5 million a year. In the Super Bowl I beat the Titans and Jerry Azumah ran 3 kickoffs back for TD’s, these were simulated games so I can’t chalk any of this up to my gaming skills. Overall, though the simulation is OK, I only brought out some of the oddities I saw. What’s cool is that you can see full box scores for all these games so you can see how or why the stats built up.
There is a season mode, which is just one season, pick a team and play. A tournament mode for multiple users and an on-line mode.
The draft is also run of the mill just basically a list of the players to be drafted rated by position. They start out with a combine, but that just shows you all the players available to draft and their rating. You then move to the draft, the players are of course fictional names although the announcers will say them during a game unlike NFL2K3. They failed however to create anything visually challenging or mentally stimulating. I was able to draft in the first three rounds players all rated 85 and higher, even my 7th round pick was better than a fair amount of the players on my team. They do grade your draft and I got an A that year, but the next year I only got a B. You can get a little mini scouting report on each player but they are kind of repetitive, the most useful part of it is that it tells you whether they are projected as a starter or not. Plus they all have an overall rating, which is very helpful. You can import draft classed from Gamebreaker, although I didn’t check out this feature.
If I felt like I had more control over stopping the pass, I would probably rate Gameday 2003 higher. Bottom line is that when I am playing it, I enjoy the game despite the flaws that I mentioned. However, most people are going to be buying one or maybe two NFL games and both Madden and NFL2K3 are better games. Gameday is worth a rental or if you want a game that represents football pretty well but is a little more over the top than the competition you might want to check it out.