It’s been a while since I’ve touched either a NFL Gameday or NCAA Gamebreaker game from 989 Sports. I know it was on the Playstation the last I played them. When these games first burst upon the scene they truly were something different from the Madden series (nevermind that the year Gameday first came out EA Sports had no Madden game to offer) and even put EA Sports into a sort of catch-up mode for at least a year there. Through horrible review after horrible review, because everything other football game moved beyond it after the first couple years, 989 Sports carries on with making sports games specifically for the Playstation 2.

This year they bring the promise of a totally revamped game for both the NFL and NCAA game. This includes the option to play online via the broadband/dial-up adapter and starting up a new online website akin to Microsoft’s XSN Sports (both are good at different things) called 989 Sports Online. I’ve now had the chance to sit down with NFL Gameday 2004 and take my Vikings through their paces. Let’s see how it fared.

This game looks like it was taken directly from the Playstation games and transported onto the Playstation 2. The graphics are clean for the players and so forth, but the field seems very pixelated and jaggies persist everywhere. I am pleased to say that the graphics in Gameday look better than the graphics in Gamebreaker, but not by much.

The player animations in Gameday are a bit more smooth than its cousin. There are still some jumps in animation instead of a flow of motion, but it seems at least to me that this game flows better. This is certainly not a game that is going to win any graphics awards, but at least it is going in the right direction.

There is one small thing to talk about in the running game. For some reason there is a slight pause at the beginning of a running play. I’m not sure what the problem is and it doesn’t affect the game too much unless you have a defensive player about to nail your head to the ground unless you do a move.

This game falters much like Madden does in its commentary. This time we get Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts and some other guy that I don’t remember. Enberg has Michaels-itis when calling team names, saying “THE Vikings against THE Packers” and stuff like that. Outside of that things run pretty smoothly until Enberg or Fouts spouts off about how that pass play went when you just ran the ball. Yep, just a small problem there.

The music has obviously been licensed by Sony in an attempt to reach EA Trax-type status. I’d say the range of songs here are far better and much easier to listen to than Madden 2004‘s Rap Crap. The sound of the crowds, hits, etc. sound much like this games cousin.

This is where Gameday greatly differs from its cousin. Gone is the lag between button pressing and action on-screen. Everything runs very fluid and I felt I had more control over my running game than I had in Gamebreaker. Going online I still had some nice control over my players with very little in the way of pauses or lags. I have to say this game seems to have stood up to the lag problem better than its cousin.

This game suffers from the same weak modes as its cousin. Sure, you have a season mode and a tournament mode, but going through them doesn’t seem exciting at all. In fact I tried to sim a season and found out that the game would moan at me if I had injured players and didn’t have enough players at each position to continue on. I would have to go through the Front Desk and pick up a player off of free agency. This is fine and dandy, but I could not find an option to just let the computer do it. If this was eliminated it would be pretty cool to see the simulation go through. I actually like the little box scores that come up and all that, pretty top notch job.

Much like its cousin it also pales in comparison to Madden 2004 and probably ESPN NFL Football with the amount of options you have. What you have in NFL Gameday 2004 is a rather simple game with the bare minimum of options for you to play single-player with.

Where this game saves itself is in online play. Finding an opponent for NFL Gameday 2004 was much easier than NCAA Gamebreaker 2004. The online front end is set up the same as Gamebreaker since they use the same servers (players are determined by whether they have a pro football icon or a college football icon with stripes on either end of the pigskin). If you go to the 989 Sports Online page, that is basically what you see on the front end of the online section on this game. You can check your mail, send messages (a USB keyboard would be so great right now!), join in chat rooms for games and chat with people. In many ways, this is a more personable place than XSN Sports. However you can only set up tournaments and not a whole season, so that kind of sucks

Another cool thing the online section has that XSN Sports does not is that you have live score tickets on the bottom for every sport. This is not live scores as in what is going on in the game, no these are real-life live scores. Excellent addition for Sony…I love it!

Since the single-player mode is pretty vanilla, the only thing that will really keep you playing this game is the online component. The problem on the Playstation 2 with this game is the fact that you can play its nearest rivals, Madden 2004 and ESPN NFL Football, online on the same machine. I have not had a chance to play either on the PS2 (I’ll have both on the Xbox), so I cannot comment on whether Sony or EA’s online mechanics are better. I can say that Sony’s online front end is quite nice though.

Unlike Gamebreaker I was impressed by the online game. It ran pretty smoothly and I had a lot more fun playing an opponent in this game than in the other. That at least counts for something.