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Challengers can't best Madden NFL 2001

NFL GAMEDAY 2001, FOR PLAYSTATION _ A menacing Marshall Faulk glares out from the cover of this year's version of the NFL GameDay series. The St. Louis Rams running back's visage promises a vintage romp through the NFL. Too bad that promise isn't kept.

This one's got more holes than the Cleveland Browns' offensive line.

For starters, the chock-a-block graphics make the players look more like boxes with legs than football players. The animations are sloppy: Players don't run so much as they just seem to rematerialize in a different spot a little farther downfield.

Passing is a nightmare. You can choose to play with the standard controls or an advanced version that's supposed to give you more precision, but in either event, as a quarterback, you'll soon be pulling your hair out in frustration. Time after time, perfectly lobbed balls or rifled bullets bounce off receivers' hands and fall harmlessly in the secondary. The animations are great; receivers leap high in the air, arms outstretched, or dive full-out to reach balls, only to have them slip through or, usually, bounce off hands that in real life are paid millions to do what they can't do in this game.

All that's assuming you can get a pass off. The computer's defense is tweaked to the point that quarterback sacks are the order of the day. You take the snap, drop back, look up to find a receiver, hear a whistle, then look back to find yourself at the bottom of a pile.

There are some good things about GameDay 2001. For starters, there's a mode that lets you play as any skill position on the field. And, of course, you can trade or create players; there's even a feature that'll let you draft players from the college title NCAA GameBreaker 2001.

There have been worse football games, and we'll probably see worse this year. The problem is, we've seen better. GameDay's biggest problem is that this year's model just doesn't stack up to Madden NFL 2001.

Jonathan says: Got to go Madden. B-

Chip says: This series was a serious challenger to the Madden crown when it first appeared; as always, though, the king has offed another challenger. C+

Overall rating: C+ _ Skip it

NCAA GAMEBREAKER 2001, FOR PLAYSTATION _ This one's a mess from start to finish, mainly due to sloppy programming that left it with more bugs than a picnic in the jungle.

The good news is you get 115 Division 1-A teams, plus 64 classic teams from years gone by. You also get real bowl games, like the Rose, Cotton and Gator. Best of all is the play-by-play commentary from the legendary Keith Jackson.

You can play scrimmage games or enter seasons that end with a playoff tournament or the regular bowl games. You can also recruit high school seniors and create walk-on players. And if you have a lot of time on your hands, you can play a career mode that lets you coach your way up the ladder to greatness.

On the down side, there are some major problems here. For starters, the computer AI is about as smart as a brick. For example, on one play, our offensive players ran around in circles in the end zone, while a defender ran an interception back 90 yards for a touchdown. And on a kickoff with two seconds to play, we ran the ball back all the way for a touchdown because all the CPU players stood up and stopped running when the clock ran out.

If you want a college football game for your PlayStation, get NCAA Football 2001. It's head and shoulders above this JV entry.

Jonathan says: I'm not sure what happened to the folks at 989 Sports. I hope they just tossed this one off while they're gearing up for the PlayStation 2 football games. D

Chip says: You hate to see a once-great series head down the tubes. I'm with Jonathan; here's hoping for a regroup. D

Overall rating: D _ Skip it.

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