Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 08/27/03 | Genre: Sports
Sony and 989 Sports made a triumphant return with the release of NFL GameDay 2004. This is the first time in several years where their NFL game has been very competitive with the other titles on the market. Leading the way in online features, 989's next goal was to continue improving their NCAA GameBreaker franchise. Unfortunately, their attempt came up just a little bit short.
Like its NFL counterpart, NCAA GameBreaker allows the player to use their SOCOM Headset or another USB Headset to call plays, formations, time outs, etc with the headset. Unfortunately, the same technology is being used. For those who haven't read my NFL GameDay 2004 review, the voice recognition technology is very buggy. A lot of the time, the game will not understand what you are trying to say. When this happens, NCAA GameBreaker 2004 prompts you to quit the game. It would have been nice to see an "unrecognized command" message appear on the screen instead. Also, while shouting out HIKE adds a bit of realism to the game, with the problems with the voice recognition technology, you are probably better off just hitting X to hike the ball.
The AI was one of the worst parts in NFL GameDay 2004. But nothing could have prepared me to see how much worse it is in NCAA GameBreaker 2004. While the developers over at 989 Sports and Red Zone were busy adding in mascots and cheerleaders that react to what is going on in the game, they forgot to make the AI do the same. Sometimes you can get away with poor AI in other genres. However, when you are playing against the computer in a sports title, it is a little bit difficult to hide behind poor AI. This is a critical area that has to be improved upon in next year's version.
Visually, NCAA GameBreaker 2004 is a little bit less sharp than NFL GameDay 2004. GameDay was already lagging behind the competition in the graphics department and it is very disappointing to see that this did not improve or at least stay the same in GameBreaker. That said, even with the complaints I have raised, GameBreaker 2004 is a step up from last year's version. It just isn't the quantum leap that GameDay took this season. With all the power the PS2 has and the graphics that the competition is pulling out in their versions of NCAA Football games, I expect a First Party Sony title to have very accurate stadiums and player models. Unfortunately this area of the game falls way below my standards.
On the audio side, Tim Brant does a pretty good job with the play-by-play. Along with Keith Jackson on the color commentary, this crew is as good as anyone else in the college football games. My only complaint is one that is mentioned in practically every sports game. Can we have more lines for the announcing crew? After several games, we begin to hear the same lines over and over again.
An important element of the college game is the crowd. Without the faithful support of your fellow students, how can a team even hope to gain the encouragement to go out each week and fight for the National Title? As was seen in last year's version, the crowd doesn't play much of a role and they stay relatively quiet. I would like to see some innovations with the crowd in the future. How about a home team that gets the crowd pumped up can make spectacular runs or catches? What if a road team is shutting down the home team and because the crowd is silenced, they can move the ball a little easier. These are the types of things that happen in the real game and it needs to be seen in the video game version of NCAA GameBreaker football. Maybe next year? We can only hope...
The best element of NCAA GameBreaker 2004 would have to be 989 Sports Online. This is the online community that will be seen in all games from 989 in the future. Despite other companies making attempts at creating online networks, they all pale in comparison. The only serious competitor is Microsoft's XSN that launched with NFL Fever 2004. However, since they don't have a college version, 989 Sports doesn't have to worry about direct competition... At least in the College Football realm.
It is very easy to sign in. You do this from the main menu and once you create a login from 989 Sports Online, you will be able to use it on every single 989 Sports game you play online.
If you are connected, as you play a game, real college scores will flash across your screen along with the virtual games taking place over the network. This adds a special touch to the community and makes you think you are competing for recognition from your peers.
Despite the awesome online features, NCAA GameBreaker 2004 is not quite ready to compete for the National Title. I have high hopes that they can fix the mistakes in this year's version and come back strong next year. However, I had the same feelings last year. While 989 Sports succeeded in doing this with NFL GameDay, I just hope they can spend as much time fine-tuning the NCAA GameBreaker franchise.
Until then, if you are still interested in the title, I recommend a weekend to see if the online features are worth the purchase price.