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Gameday vs. Madden

NFL GameDay '99 vs. Madden NFL 99 for Sony PlayStation

By Robb Guido, Times correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 1998

This year, there are two strong contenders for the PlayStation football crown. While John Madden Football's days of domination may be over, it still puts quite a team on the field against the superhyped, Buccaneer-approved NFL GameDay '99. Such a torrid rivalry can be resolved only one way: with the first-ever PlayStation Bowl. Let's break things down:

-- GRAPHICS: The graphics in GameDay are as smooth as Astroturf. The characteristic graininess of years past is nearly gone, and the detail is remarkable, right down to team logos on players' helmets. The players are digital versions of the real things, created using motion-capture techniques. Even some of our own Bucs were used as models for the game. Stadiums are reproduced based on actual blueprints. Throw in stylish menus and you have a package that gleams like a commemorative coin. The graphics in Madden, on the other hand, are a bit pixel-y. Madden uses motion capture, but the visuals still seem about a year behind GameDay's. Overall, Madden lacks the flair of GameDay. It's kind of like ESPN compared with CNNSI.

TOUCHDOWN GAMEDAY! GameDay '99 leads 7-0.

-- SOUND: Again, GameDay goes all the way with grungy rock 'n' roll tracks that embody the spirit of the game. This year, GameDay's time-honored theme song is treated with a wild, new guitar riff, sure to pump you up before the opening whistle. In the trenches, every crunch and grunt seems amplified from last year's installment. Broadcast bigwigs Dick Enberg and Phil Simms provide the commentary, which adds authenticity, though Simms tends to overdo it on the cliches.

Madden does everything GameDay does but on a lesser level. Sounds in Madden seem muffled by comparison, detracting from the realism. On the plus side, Madden's crowds are smarter, cheering louder on third down or when their team penetrates the Red Zone. The announcing team of John Madden and Pat Summerall isn't quite as annoying as the GameDay counterparts, but this isn't enough to put Madden NFL 99 ahead.

TOUCHDOWN GAMEDAY! GameDay '99 leads 14-0.

-- PLAYS AND PLAY CONTROL: Here is where GameDay falters a bit. For football beginners, you could be in for a frustrating Sunday. You almost have to learn the intricacies of the game to have a chance. Running can be impossible, especially if you don't hit a specific hole. And you can just forget about passing at first. For those willing to study their playbooks, GameDay packs plenty of depth, offering total-control passing to go with advanced versions of rehashed offensive and defensive moves.

Like all EA Sports products, Madden shines in the game-play department. Play menus are bigger and explain patterns more clearly. Unlike GameDay, play menus show which receivers are assigned to which button, yet on defense you have little time to select an actual formation. Passing is much easier in Madden, with receivers skying more often for passes, and, unlike GameDay, you can gain substantial yards running the ball. What Madden lacks for depth, it certainly makes up for in ease of play.

TOUCHDOWN MADDEN! GameDay '99 still leads 14-7.

-- OPTIONS: Both games abound with options, meting out season and custom season modes, and giving players the power to trade, test the free-agent market and otherwise adjust their roster any way they see fit. Both games feature drafts, multiplayer action and fun tournament modes. And both have extensive statistical tracking. But Madden serves up the best option of all, the indefinite franchise mode, which lets you take control of your favorite team for all eternity if you wish. Win and your players and coaches get extensions. Lose and, well, you remember the old days in Tampa Bay. It certainly adds replay value, which has been conspicuously absent in so many "annual" sports video games.

TOUCHDOWN MADDEN! It's all tied at 14!

-- FINAL SCORE: It is a close contest, and your particular purchase decision depends on your football IQ. Madden NFL 99 is as good as it gets for rookies and casual fans, while zealots and players like Hardy Nickerson will find that NFL GameDay '99 is the only true NFL experience outside reality. Personally, I have to go against the grain and pick Madden, just because I have more fun winning.

MADDEN NFL 99 WINS: 17-14 in OT.

NFL GameDay '99 vs. Madden NFL 99 for Sony PlayStation

Company: 989Studios (GameDay) and EA Sports (Madden)

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