Road to Sunday First Look

Fictional football, underground fighting, and Texas Hold 'Em collide in 989's answer to Madden NFL 06


For months, gamers have been speculating on just how EA Sports' competitors would respond to the publisher scooping up the NFL license. With America's most popular sports license off the table, how would companies fight back? And how could they differentiate their football products from the EA Sports/Madden juggernaut? With the announcement of Road to Sunday, 989 Sports' answer is here, and it's sure to surprise people.

With no NFL teams, likenesses, or players available to them, the Sony development team has gone to the drawing board to create an entirely fictional football game--one free of recognizable names and logos, and free from the kinds of content constraints that an NFL-licensed title might be subjected to. In the Road to Sunday football universe, pro sports mingles with organized crime, gambling rings, and, get this, underground fighting leagues. It's a volatile combination--one that will excite some gamers and leave others scratching their heads. These disparate elements coalesce in the game through a story mode that sounds like a Scarface knockoff crossed with Any Given Sunday.

The stadium models in Road to Sunday look nice with lots of detail.
The stadium models in Road to Sunday look nice with lots of detail.

Here's how the plot breaks down: When the owner of the LA Show, one of the teams in the 12-team fictional National American Football Association (NAFA), dies in a mysterious yacht explosion, his son takes over the team. The problem is, the son has a gambling problem and owes a Jamaican gangster a boatload of cash. In order to pay back the cash owed to the boss, he needs to make money as fast as possible. Unfortunately, winning on the football field won't be enough to relieve that debt, so in the interest of saving his skin, the new ownership seeks out new ways of supplementing his income using the LA Show's roster of talent. This is where another NAFA--the North American Fighting Association--comes into play. By entering members of your football team into these underground fights, you can hope to earn the cash you owe the boss by the end of the season. Gambling also plays a part in your bottom line, as you'll be able to play games like Texas Hold 'Em and Blackjack, or even hit up the local sports bookie and place bets on that particular week's games.

While little is known about the actual mechanics of the fighting tournaments, or how exactly the mission-based storyline will play out, we do know that winning these fighting tournaments will increase your individual player attributes and/or add to the coffers of your ownership. Conversely, any injuries suffered during these punishing tourneys will carry over to that week's game, creating a risk-versus-reward scenario that will play out for each week in the season. Players will also be able to participate in rhythm-based workout routines to improve attributes on the field and in the ring.

While the smorgasbord of gaming styles that make up Road to Sunday's story mode is still mostly unknown, what we do know of the football action in the game looks promising. In addition to flashy fictional teams with names like Waikiki Wave, Chicago Firehawk, and Miami Makos, the game will also have a new take, dubbed position-specific gameplay. As the name implies, PSG revolves around the impact positions on the field--quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and kickers on offense; linebackers, linemen, and secondary on defense. The most unique aspect of this system looks to be the perspective from which you play the game. When playing as a wide receiver, for example, the challenge in PSG will be getting to the pass while fighting through double coverage. The camera will be swung out to your side of the field, and as the play unfolds it will be your duty to be at the right place at the right time. Playing from another position on the field, such as defensive end, will give you an entirely new perspective of the action on the field.

With PSG's unique angle comes special position-specific moves and missions. A defensive end will be able to jump at the snap of the ball and bull-rush the quarterback as he attempts to fulfill headhunter missions that require him to crush the QB. Receivers and backs will have the ability to shake off tackles or get loose from coverage. As the game progresses and each player's abilities improve, you'll also have the opportunity to earn special moves seemingly akin to the gamebreaker moves found in EA Sports Big's Street series.

On the field, players will build up a rage meter that will presumably greatly enhance their abilities.
On the field, players will build up a rage meter that will presumably greatly enhance their abilities.

While you won't need to use the PSG option for every play, you will have the opportunity to "call" it when choosing a play. Essentially you control when and how often you wish to use this position-based scheme of making plays. Also, each team's game plan will affect the kinds of options you have available to you in PSG mode. Playing from QB PSG in a west coast-style offense will mean you'll be looking to dump out short passes and keep the clock moving. It will also affect how you game-plan against another team. If you know your opponent has a weak run defense, you'll want to make sure you take full advantage of the running back PSG to break down that defense.

While we only saw concept art and a few screenshots from Road to Sunday, and nothing of the game's planned fighting mode, it's very clear that 989 is trying something very different with its upcoming football game. A trailer is expected to be shown at this year's E3, and we'll have much more on this game in the coming months.

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