989 has been the laughing stock of the videogames sports world for quite some time. Nothing has really gone right with the studio's transition to the PlayStation 2, and it, along with Sega Sports, has still been getting fairly beaten around by the EA Sports juggernaut. If there was one bright point to GAMEDAY 2003, it was that the game boasted the best online experience of any of the NFL titles on the market. For this year's edition, the game has finally been brought up to market speed, but it still is lagging behind MADDEN.
One really big issue that was not resolved was that of the running game. You pretty much don't ever need to throw the ball in the game. This isn't right especially in the pass happy NFL (I'm more inclined to forgive a college game that allows Nebraska to run the ball 80% of the time with success, but that would never happen in pro ball). It is seriously possible to select only running plays and easily rack up big yards. The passing game allows you to sit in the pocket forever and the AI is extremely shaky, if not idiotic, on the highest difficulty level. This is a major issue with the gameplay and needs to be addressed.
The coolest new addition to GAMEDAY is the voice-recognition features. Those of you who bought SOCOM: US NAVY SEALS, and have the VR headset will be able to call your plays, send men in motion, and even hike the ball. Your roommate will probably think you're crazy until he actually sees what you are saying does actually effect the game. In addition, all the buttons are pressure sensitive now, so how hard you press a throw button or a stiff-arm button does matter.
The multiplayer (particularly online) gaming aspect is still the best feature of the game. 989 really has gone all out. There are message boards, big tournaments, the ability to chat whenever, dial-up and broadband, real-life tickers, leader boards and stats. If you could possibly think of it, it's here.
The graphics look much better than before, but there are still a lot of glitches that could've been ironed out. It seems like 989 needed more time to finish and polish the game, and didn't quite get it. The game will slowdown at points, and you won't see a lot of variety. There is 16x9 support 480p progressive scan though.
There are some licensed hard rock tunes that fit in with the game nicely. EA started this and licensed music seems to go really well with sports games, especially if the music was chosen well. The commentary is top-notch once again and rivals that of Sega Sports recent entries (although I have yet to play a review build of ESPN FOOTBALL). You rarely hear the same thing twice and that's always a challenge for a design team to overcome. Otherwise the sound effects are all pretty standard. For the audio freak, Dolby Pro Logic II support is included (as it is with most games this day and age).
I can't recommend the game over MADDEN though. The gameplay issues hold it back, particularly that of the running game. Don't get me wrong, this is a decent title, but unless you don't like MADDEN and ESPN FOOTBALL, you're better off sticking with one of those two games.