Upon first receiving my preview copy of NFL GameDay 2003, I wasn't exactly too enthused to pop it into my PS2 and play it the second I got it. But I figured 'what the hell'. So I fire up the provided beta, and quickly enter a preseason match. First thing I noticed was that the team selection screen featured very deep team statistic ratings, not just an overall rank for defense, offense and the team altogether, but passing, rushing, receiving, punting, returning and etc. It adds more depth to the game, and gives it the edge over other football titles in the category of team statistics. As soon as the game began, I was greeted with the -always welcome- commentary of Dan Fouts and Dick Enberg, not to mention Ian Eagle. The duo quickly pointed out the upcoming game was nothing more than a slaughter match. Specifically they said: "Now one has to wonder what exactly the Seahawks did do deserve this match." "I agree, the Giants clearly hold the advantage here." And they continued to comment and go into a slight statistic comparison between the two teams. Already, before the actual kick off, the commentary was noticeably spectacular, and is far better than anything I've heard in a pigskin title thus far. While Dan, Ian and Dick were speaking, the game showed players from each team warming up by stretching, taking practice field goal kicks, or practice throws. Finally it came time for the coin flip, and kickoff.
The second the ball fell into the opposition's hands, GameDay 2003 felt like a new experience. This time around, the game is a much better playing pigskin title, than it was the year before. It played smoother, felt more defined, and best of all, played like it stood a chance against Madden 2003 and NFL 2K3. The game's speed falls right in between Madden and NFL 2K, so you're almost getting the best of both worlds, and if you feel like making the action more edgy, just play the game in arcade mode there's a noticeable difference in pace and style. For instance, the AI will be downed, and constant use of passing plays will not punish you, as it would in simulation mode. Visually, the game does need some improvement, but nothing major. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and the motion capturing displayed in the game is wonderful. Looking at the instant replays, and moving through them slowly really shows how well done the motion capturing really is. It's on par with NFL 2K2's efforts, not to mention Madden's. The facial detail on many of the athletes is excellent, as the close ups will prove. Thus far, every close up I've seen has looked great, and the facial movements are excellent as well. My only complain is the hands of the players. The fingers never move, and the look of it almost makes them seem prosthetic. Other than that, the models look fine, and animate well.
The running game, and the passing game feels redone. It's not as stale as it once was, but instead much smoother. Receivers will not stop to catch the ball, unless the play requires them to do so. Open passes and catches will not be dropped anymore, so that's a worried thought to get rid of. In addition, the AI is pretty good all around, and even on Rookie setting, they'll put up a fight.
GameDay's multiplayer facets are quite impressive as well. Up to 8 players can be play simultaneously via two multi-taps, and of course online gameplay. Right now, enjoy the screenshots of the game, provided. Stay tuned for more on GD 2003 later.
7/6/2002 Arnold Katayev