After two years of sprite-based 32-bit football games, many believed it wasn't possible to create a fully 3D PlayStation football game without making tremendous sacrifices in gameplay or aesthetics. NFL GameDay '98 is proof that the PlayStation is capable of accomplishing such feats.
An emphasis was clearly placed on improving GameDay's graphics, and the results are groundbreaking. By using polygonal players, GameDay's development team could take better advantage of motion capture, resulting in a variety of moves that lend a realistic edge to the game. Stiff-arming, horizontal jukes, tight-roping the sidelines, and over-the-top dives are only part of the large repertoire. These fancy 3D graphics aren't perfect, however. The polygonal players look a little too blocky, even though some of their rough spots are hidden well by textures. Luckily, they are animated so well it makes these blemishes easy to overlook. After all, GameDay '98 features the first tackles where players actually wrap their arms around each other to make a tackle.
Audibly, GameDay is above average. The requisite grunts and crunches are plentiful, and there's a nice, satisfying "whap!" when a successful stiff-arm levels a defender. The stadium announcing is good, but not as effective as the two-man Madden/Summerall combo in Madden 98. One funny detail is that there are a few different voices for the quarterbacks. Some sound deep and tough, while barking orders at the line of scrimmage, while some sound utterly wimpy.
One of the best things about the GameDay franchise is that it offers an exciting style of NFL gameplay alternate to (but not necessarily better than) Madden that is very entertaining (it's like preferring Coke or Pepsi to many). The gameplay is very fast, reasonably realistic, and encompasses an incredible variety of different moves. GameDay uses a dizzying amount of combinations of button presses (Street Fighter Football, anyone?) to execute moves such as double spins, ball pitches, and shoulder charges. This is in addition to the total control passing that lets you adjust your receivers' routes during the play. Although you aren't forced to learn these moves, the sheer amount of different controls is staggering (besides, the running game is already a little too easy without using them). GameDay would be better served by shifting attention to improving the game's computer intelligence that, although competent, still allows for too many money plays and unrealistic situations.
GameDay '98 is robust with features, leaving little to be desired. Its season mode includes all the basics; the Pro Bowl game and player selections; the trading, creating, signing, and releasing of players; and an extensive amount of statistics. One interesting feature is that GameDay includes three years worth of schedules. The next two couldn't possibly be correct because the NFL formulates each schedule from the performance of teams the year before. Regardless, it's nice to have three different schedules to play.
NFL GameDay '98 is a great technical feat and a very fun football game. Although it has too many moves and some AI problems, GameDay '98 is easily a substantial improvement over its predecessor. However, when considering the entire package, Madden NFL 98 is a slightly better football game.