NFL GameDay 2002 is, for all intents and purposes, the same game we've been playing for the past two years now. Fans of the GameDay series will, however, undoubtedly still enjoy this latest incarnation since it includes all kinds of extra options and features that add depth and give you control over the game like never before. For instance, the game gives you the ability to change individual AI components, such as CPU running and receiving. These in-depth options, along with nice extras, like every team that's ever made it to the Super Bowl, really make the game seem like a special edition or "director's cut" of GameDay 2001.
GameDay 2002 includes four basic modes of play: exhibition, season, tournament, and practice. In addition to the gameplay modes, GameDay 2002 features a robust general manager mode that gives you the opportunity to make all of the tough decisions that take place in a GM's office. For instance you can trade and sign players and even release players who aren't performing to your standards. The game also includes a rather intriguing create-a-player option that has two modes. One is a simple mode that lets you set the player's abilities, such as speed, strength, awareness, and aggressiveness. The second create-a-player mode, called "create a super player," doesn't give you this type of control; instead it simply asks you to choose the player's ability in ten categories, such as arm strength, pass blocking, and leg strength. The selection scale of how good he'll be in these categories is odd, since it asks you to choose from a list of five players rated well in that category. So for example, you can create a quarterback who has the arm accuracy of Kurt Warner, the arm strength of Drew Bledsoe, and the speed of Randy Moss.
The game has all of the teams and players currently playing in the NFL. Each team is rated in 12 categories including various offensive, defensive, and even special team classes. This ranking system is the perfect tool for finding a team that has a play style that's right for you. GameDay 2002 also offers you the ability to select between two modes of play, arcade and simulation, which offer significantly different gameplay experiences. For instance, arcade mode's default game speed is slightly faster than that in simulation mode. Breaking tackles and completing passes also seem much easier to accomplish in arcade mode. The simulation mode starts your team off with default settings, such as fatigue, turned on.
In the gameplay department, GameDay 2002 does a great job of delivering excitement through gameplay that is extremely fast and responsive. Even in GameDay 2002's simulation mode the game feels slightly faster and more responsive than most other PlayStation football games, including previous GameDay titles. One of the big improvements to this year's installment in the series is that the game now features a more exciting tackle-breaking system that lets you bust out of more tackles than before. This, along with the game's patented total-control passing, which lets you put your quarterbacks' passes exactly where you want them, really makes this year's GameDay all about action. The controls are extremely responsive and let you have players turn and cut on a dime. Sure, it's a bit unrealistic, but it makes for a fun experience.
GameDay 2002's AI strikes a good balance between the four difficulty settings that you'll find in the game. The rookie setting lets a first-time player jump right in and make a ton of mistakes without getting stomped by the computer. On the other end of the spectrum is the game's hall-of-fame setting, which of course lets the computer catch just about every pass, since it always seems to call the right plays and run them to perfection.
Visually, GameDay 2002 is a fairly decent-looking PlayStation football game. Fans of the GameDay series will, however, find it hard to see much difference between GameDay 2002 and the last two additions to the series. The player models are still made up of rather blocky polygons that have very little variation from one another. The only real discernable difference, aside from the general body types of the players, is the name and number that appears on the back of their jerseys. The animations of the players diving, catching, and tackling are pretty good. The collision detection is very well defined, which makes each hit look as though the players are actually making contact with one another instead of through each other. The fields and stadiums have all been re-created to look as much like the real-life locations as is possible on the PlayStation.
One of the few noticeable improvements in GameDay 2002 is its robust two-man commentary system. The two-man commentary is provided by Dan Fouts of Monday Night Football and announcing legend Dick Enberg. Aside from making simple play-by-play calls, the duo also offers entertaining and thoughtful nuggets of knowledge--which pertain to the teams and players on the field--before, during, and after each game. The commentary and play-by-play calls are almost always on target and in tune with the action that unfolds during the game. The sound effects, music, and occasional player voice work do a good job of adding a great deal of realism and excitement to the game.
In the end, GameDay 2002 does a decent job of delivering a fun and somewhat realistic game of football to the PlayStation. Fans of the series will either love it or hate it since it's fundamentally the same game they've been playing for the last two years. If you've never played a GameDay title before and are in the market for a PlayStation football game, then this is a pretty good choice--certainly a better choice than GameDay's first PlayStation 2 release was. The game offers solid gameplay, and although the playbook could use a few more plays, the game has a great deal of depth that'll keep you playing for a long time to come.