When people think about the 989 Sports label, usually it’s not all brimming with positives. The titles from the studio has been so out of touch with the current standards that they’re becoming prime examples of what not to do with a sports title. Excluding the surprisingly fun World Tour Soccer series, their games haven’t been on par with the latest releases on the next-generation consoles, to say the least. NFL Gameday is a perfect example of a game that was very popular back on the PS One, but now since the transfer to the PS2 has lost that appeal that it once had. Last year in NFL Gameday 2003 looked like it was going to be the start of something good for the series, can 2004 bring further improvements to the series, or does 989 Sports need to start over again?
Some might wonder after all of these attempts from 989 Sports that they would be able to make a solid football game. Well the gameplay itself hosts a majority of the problems, where nothing has ever seemed to flow very well. In 2003 we saw things start to come together and saw the gameplay to start to show some signs of improvement. Now in 2004 the upgrading has continued but is it enough to put the game over the top?
The game modes in NFL Gameday 2004 are always a solid feature in all 989 Sports. One thing I always have to commend 989 Sports is their ability to get nice amount of game modes. The modes include Preseason, Season, General Manager, Tournaments, Practice, and Online Play.
Last year brought forth the year of online gaming, the true start to online gaming on the next generation consoles started a year ago from now. One of the first online titles for the PS2 being NFL Gameday 2003, and like in last year’s edition one of Gameday’s brighter points is its online play. The online play is actually probably some of the best around. My favorite feature is the score ticker from the real NFL scores on Sundays, which is a really nice feature. There is a lot of good stuff to be found in the online mode with chat rooms, message boards, leader boards, and much more. The online mode is solid and is probably the biggest plus for NFL Gameday 2004.
The rest of the game modes are pretty straightforward and don’t have much more depth then you would expect. The General Manager (a.k.a. Franchise) is solid, with all the options we have come to expect out of all football games franchise modes. There is nowhere in any of these modes where 989 really tried to go over the normal which is quite disappointing.
Some of the big announcements regarding this year’s Gameday was putting to use that old Socom headset, that probably has dust on it by now (as I receive hate mail from all of the SOCOM fanatics), can be used for Gameday 2004. This is useful for calling plays using the headset (while pressing R2). And although the system has it’s flaws, it does add some interesting ideas that I could see being heavily pursued by all football games in the near future.
Some of the main problems that really hold back Gameday 2004 can be seen after only one quarter of play. The game lacks any stability that you would find in other games. When I say stability, I mean the game has a lot of aspects that aren’t very clear. First off the passing game in Gameday is pretty awkward. It is setup like all the other football games but it doesn’t work very well. First off you can drop back and pass and literally stand there for a good ten seconds before throwing the ball (this happens a lot). When you pass the ball it seems like you could be wide open but the receiver drops the ball, and when it seems impossible that you would complete the pass, the pass is completed.
The running game is the dominate mode of transporting your team to the end zone, because it seems like every other time you are getting at least an easy five yard gain. Stopping the run is near impossible unless you put the FG Block on, and even then the computer can find holes. Overall the game just doesn’t feel as solid as the other football titles on the market.
The commentary of Gameday 2004 is actually pretty solid, compared to other football games on the market. Dick Enberg does a nice job with the play-by-play and then Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts do a nice job cleaning up the rest. The commentary is just solid all the way around, and it does take a lot longer then normal for the game to start sounding repetitive.
One of the biggest turn-offs for a game is ugly menus, and that is one thing that Gameday has been accustomed to in its history on the PS2. It just has had some ugly menus that look a lot better this year, but still don’t seem as crisp as they could be.
Similar to the menus, the Gameday series has had a bad rep for being an ugly football title. With all of the top football titles having superb graphics it is only fitting that Gameday would need to match the graphics. Well although the game has improved from last year, they are still a ways behind all the rest.
The graphics of Gameday 2004 like I mentioned are an improvement from last year, but still have a long ways to go. The character models don’t have much detail to them, and there isn’t much variety surrounding the different faces. The game as a whole just doesn’t look very smooth. The animation has its highs and lows, and you can really see the wear and tear when it comes to receiving the ball, which doesn’t always look right.
Overall Gameday does have some improvements with more detail, and some more variety in the tackling department, but it still fails to measure up to the other titles on the market.
The one thing about NFL Gameday 2004 that does prove to be worthwhile, is the exhilarating nature of Gameday. There are a lot of times where you can just blow out a 50 yard run, or an eighty yard reception and totally turn around the path of the game. On the downside the Gameplay does have its faults, which will keep things from getting overly fun. But with the solid Online Play, and solid list of game modes there is some fun to be had in the game.
Sometimes I just find that it’s too bad that 989 Sports can’t bring out a top notch football title. They have the potential sitting right there, they just have not been able to put all the pieces together. NFL Gameday 2004 wouldn’t be my first pick for the year, but I would say that it would make good for a rental, to give the online mode a whirl.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.