Famous - and infamous - rivalries abound in football: the Cowboys and the 49ers, for example. Or the Packers and the Broncos. And now, with the almost simultaneous release of GameDay 99 and Madden 99 - the PlayStation's top football titles - the profound question integral to all excellent rivalries must once again be faced: Who is king of the gridiron (at least for this year)?
The answer, my friends, is GameDay. Let's investigate. GameDay 99 has improved over its predecessor in many ways, although no change is as critical and defining as its vastly improved visuals. Gone are the boxy polygonal players, replaced now with substantially smoother and more detailed men. The new 3D player models are composed of over 350 polygons - more than double the polygon count in last year's GameDay. The visuals' glory is augmented by sweeping camera movements and cutaways that give the game a television broadcast look. Plus player motion animations look better than ever, thanks to another trip to the motion capture studio with nine NFL players. The multiple animations appear for just about every kind of move, including tackling, catching, and blocking.
Most importantly, the animations no longer get in the way of the gameplay. The previous GameDay had great player animations, but they often forced you to wait for them to finish before you could resume gameplay - so you had to take the animation time into account while planning your next strategic move. This year the game runs so smoothly and so fast that the animations lead easily into the next play. Admittedly, however, the default game speed is a little slow, so you'll likely want to bump it up a bit. But back to the good stuff - the fast animations lead to easy, fast, and precise control. The same total control passing that was in last year's GameDay is in place so you'll drop passes perfectly to receivers.
The new and improved AI is quite challenging, even on the rookie difficulty setting. The computer adjusts its defense and offense on the fly like never before. It effectively uses the strengths of its team - and uses them quite aggressively. For instance, if the computer's Green Bay, it will start hard with Levens. Then, just as you start watching out for the run and attempt to counter by taking Levens out at the line, the computer will throw one deep with Farve. On defense, the computer totally takes advantage of an inexperienced passer, making a frustrated novice reach for the instruction book.
CBS announcer Dick Enberg calls the play-by-play action with ex-Giant-quarterback-turned-announcer Phil Simms throwing in the color commentary, nice new touches. However, the sound effects are still the same old GameDay grunts. The development team needs to take some new samples of those great hits and crunches from the NFL films. But they probably didn't that because the in-game sounds do, in the grand scheme of things, get the job done.
In the end GameDay 99 is the total package. It has everything that the latest football model should have: improved graphics, gameplay, and an overall slick look. And although Madden 99 is a spectacular football game, the best Madden to date in fact, GameDay 99 edges out Madden in graphics with its multiple animations, control with its perfect passing plays, and speed with its smooth transitions - making GameDay 99 the football game to get this year.