Ask anyone who knows me a little bit, and they'll tell you that in the fall I live and breathe College Football. Besides being able to sit through 12-13 hours of it on a Saturday, I also watch the Thursday night games, read all of the ESPN and Fox Sports coverage, and check Husker websites every few hours. Already I'm pretty deep into EA's NCAA FOOTBALL 2004, and then 989 Studios sends me a copy of GAMEBREAKER 2004. While it's come a long way from last year, it's still no EA.
The first thing I have to note is that the college atmosphere that dominates EA's Title from the very first "EA SPORTS, IT'S IN THE GAME!" to the last touchdown in your Dynasty mode, the game is college atmosphere. I turn it on before ESPN's College Gameday just to get me ready for the day with the giant library of fight songs. GAMEBREAKER lacks the essential college football atmosphere that makes playing EA's game so much fun.
There are some cool play enhancements carried down from the GAMEDAY franchise. These include the new Voice-Recognition play calling that is pretty cool and fun to use. In addition, the 989 Online community is the best out there, and GAMEBREAKER benefits from it. This is the best way to play online football, even if the gameplay isn't nearly as hot as NCAA FOOTBALL.
The game just plays a bit too slowly and isn't nearly as fun. The A.I. never really seems to adjust to your playcalling, and running up the middle is far too easy with any decent running team. There is a cool mode called Career though, that allows you to work your way up from a lowly assistant spot on a crappy team, to a good head coaching position to eventually a position with a good team. If you're into this, expect it to suck up a lot of your time in the game. It's pretty cool though, and great for the big time college football fan.
The graphics in the game aren't nearly as improved as those of GAMEDAY 2004. The stadiums don't look nearly as good and the player models aren't too hot either. The animation is not nearly up to what other football games are offering and there is a very limited set that the game draws from. There is still some pixellation and jaggies and in general, it's just not that great looking.
The commentary is probably the best part of the game. While the music and crowd noise is kept to a minimum (the fight songs aren't quite to the level that EA has), the commentary is great. The play-by-play is well done and effective, but what really sells this portion of the game is that of the legendary announcer Keith Jackson. He's the MADDEN of the college world and woah Nellie, his color is the best in the biz. Hearing his voice the first time I fired it up made me positively giddy.
GAMEBREAKER has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to become competitive with NCAA FOOTBALL 2004. Some steps in the right direction have been made, and with a little refining, the 2005 version should be competitive. Still, you probably will prefer NCAA FOOTBALL over this.