The NCAA GameBreaker series returns to the PS2 after a one-year hiatus. The 989 Sports production promises impressive graphics and a long list of game modes in hopes to attract a wide range of college football gamers.
In years previous, the series has not been competitive with EA Sports' NCAA Football, but with the extra year of production could this be the year that GameBreaker finally breaks through?
I know that Gamebreaker and 989 Sports' NFL game, GameDay pretty much run off the same graphics engine, but I wasn't impressed with the looks of this game as much. Don't get me wrong the game still looks decent, but overall the engine struggles from slowdowns and choppiness.
From the higher camera angles the game looks very competitive with the other PS2 sports games, but once I got a closer look at the players they just looked awkward. The reason? The players do not have necks! I have been a friend with hundreds of football players and while some of them do not have much of a neck, they definitely do not look like a snowman.
The stadiums are nothing to gawk at either. The game is presented in a television-style production with each play beginning with the camera angle panning around the field. I thought this was cool, especially since unlike previous year's versions, you can now press X and skip it all together.
Keith Jackson and Tim Brandt are both great commentators in real-life but they are insanely mediocre in the game. 989 Sports did not create a good script for these guys as the play-by-play gets quickly repetitious and emotionless. However, just the sound of Jackson's voice and the "whoa nelly" call still gave me a few goose bumps. But the excitement was from remembering real-life games he had announced in the past and not because of the game.
The crowds and band music pale in comparison to NCAA Football as the audio adds no extra appeal to the game.
Interface/Options : 80
If there has ever been one game aspect that the 989 Sports games have been able to stay competitive with, it has been the game modes and options. Gamebreaker is no exception to the rule. Aside from the typical exhibition and single-season game modes, there is an option to play a season that ends with a tournament instead of the typical "bowl games". This is something that NCAA Football does not have. The Coaching Career mode, your multiple season mode, is two-fold. On one hand it is nice that you have to work your way up from a lower-tiered school up to a national powerhouse, I would prefer the game give you immediate ability to select whichever team you would like. In the mode, you cannot select any team you would like. I am a big Florida State fan and I had to play and sim five seasons before I got a job offer from them.
Recruiting has a much different feel from NCAA, but I don't like how you know the ratings of recruits before they ever step on campus. The ratings of blue chips and the subsequent quality of player are at a set ranking. One of the great things about NCAA's recruiting is the element of surprise - sometimes you can find a diamond in the rough. In GameBreaker this is not the case. There is All-Conference and an All-Freshmen team in the game along with conference MVP's which are not seen in NCAA.
Gameplay : 45
When I think of football, I think of the fast pace of the game. I think of Brian Urlacher running full speed and chasing down Michael Vick. Unfortunately GameBreaker fails to capture this...and it doesn't even come close.
In terms of game play, I found that the speed of the EA Sports games were a little "Arena Football-ish." The 989 Sports football games, in comparison, are like watching a chess match. NFL 2k3 had the best game speed out of the three games. The reason why the game play seems so bogged down is that for some unknown reason the game pauses for a second right after the ball is hiked. This in effect, not only gives the game a choppy feel, the game feels like a weekday video session.
The animations are not much better, but the tackling and catching animations are pretty damn good. The graphics engine is an exact replica of NFL GameDay and as a result, the two games feel exactly alike. I know on some of the message boards for the EA football games they say they would like to have the NCAA and Madden games exactly alike. After experiencing the 989 Sports football games, I am glad the two have their own distinct feels. I did not particularly like GameDay so it came as no surprise I wasn't a big fan of this one either.
Running the ball is one frustration after another. The CPU blocking is pathetic and all of my successful runs came on sweeps or pitches. The option is almost automatic in this game. In an exhibition game with Nebraska, I had 600 yards of rushing with five-minute quarters.
Passing also loses appeal because the CPU defensive backs are stupid. You can pretty much count on being able to connect on one out of every three attempted bombs. The biggest problem I had in NFL GameDay, the inability of your CPU guys to tackle the defender, is present in GameBreaker also.
Overall, the gameplay does not feel very good. The inconsistency of the flow of the game never allows you to get into the rhythm and I actually spent more time being frustrated with the game than immersing in it.
Replay Value : 40
The coaching mode might be fun for those March Madness fans, but otherwise it is sort of annoying. You can tweak many of the game's options, so theoretically you should be able to find your perfect style of game. You can import your draft classes into NFL GameDay, which is pretty cool if you have some good players you want to see advance in their professional careers.
Overall : 47
While I thought NFL GameDay made some strides against the NFL competition, I don't think GameBreaker holds a candle to NCAA. The college game is more delicate than the professional game. The atmosphere and the collegiate feel weren't quite there.
It has been a while since 989 Sports has been a contender for top dog in any of the sports games. I think NCAA GameBreaker could have gotten some extra points if they were to have implemented online play. Unless you have some sentimental attachment to the GameBreaker series, save your $50 and go by NCAA Football.