Released in 1996 by Sony Computer Entertainment
Some fundamental gameplay flaws taint a good effort at fun-focused, fast-paced football.
Where it falls in the series
It’s the first of five GameBreaker games on PS1. The third, GameBreaker 99, was the first with the 989 Sports brand name, but the developer remained the same through the series. There are PS2 versions for 2001, 2003, and 2004 before they called it quits. The NFL GameDay series was released by the same publishers, and in many ways its games resemble the college counterparts closely.
The game moves swiftly in every way, which is nice. The gameplay is fast and frantic, and the time between plays is minimal.
Some core gameplay elements are well in place. Plays unfold something like real plays. Dropping back to throw feels intuitive. Running plays usually have offensive linemen clearly trying to do a realistic job of blocking. Defensive controls are very responsive.
The pitch action is easy to utilize and can be a big weapon in your offense. You can run several option plays, but the pitch can be used whenever the opportunity presents itself.
It’s hard to imagine being in 1996, being blown away by these graphics, but the game has a likeable look. The colors are balanced nicely. The art style makes good use of 32-bit sprites, before the early days of “polygons” came along. Animations are simplistic but effective; it’s easy to tell what’s going on.
The passing system seems just right, right up until the moment the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand. That’s the moment the video game gods piss all over this game. You never know which way the ball will go. Most passes are underthrown, landing where your receiver was, not where he was going. Some passes are spoiled by receivers who suddenly break off their route, often in the exact opposite direction. It’s a mess. Savvy gamers will find that certain routes are much trustier than others, which will slim the already-slim playbooks down significantly.
The sprint action is done by tapping the button, not holding it, and it results in a jitterbug-like look to the players’ movement at times. It’s not a speed burst; it’s a speed pop. It’s ugly.
The playcall screen is poorly organized. It’s harder than it should be to find the play you want, and the diagrams on the playcall screen aren’t perfectly clear. Other strategic options are very limited.
I’m torn on the sound. I like the grunts and clashes happening on the field, I even like the dull PA announcer, but the crowd has a gross artificial flavor to it.