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Multiplayer play is supported via modem, LAN, and through 989 Studios’ matchmaking service. Games are fairly easy to set up through the service, and it will allow you to check for updates and patches automatically. The problem is that getting an account can be somewhat difficult and it took me multiple tries over several days to finally create a new user ID. Once in you can hook up with other players and take part in a game between any two teams you want. I occasionally had problems with latency and lag and sometimes the responses to my commands weren’t very swift, but it’s a great way to take part in a multiplayer game, especially for those of us who don’t have friends we can meet up with via modem or LAN.
There are a number of standard options that are available for whatever type of game you choose. Quarters can be set from 1-15 minutes in length. You can change the weather to sunny, rain, snow, or windy, or let the computer select randomly. The game features four difficulty levels: rookie, veteran, all pro, and hall of fame. The number of penalties called can be set to low or high and you can decide whether or not players can get injured during the course of the game. You can vary the control you have over your players by changing the style. Simulation is the standard mode while total control gives you control over your passes and allows you to lead receivers or throw passes that they have to come back to. The arcade mode allows you to play without penalties and overexaggerates player moves.
The game itself is pretty straightforward. You can play using a controller or the keyboard. The game comes with a small reference card that lets you know what all of the different keys do in various situations. You have a variety of plays on offense and defense to choose from, which are grouped together according to formation. You can call audibles from the line of scrimmage and have the option of deciding which plays you want to be available for audibles. Once the ball is snapped, you can take control of the action, or simply let the computer control all of your players for you. Otherwise, you can use the action keys to perform various moves for your ball carrier or bring up the pass screen if you want to throw the ball. Each eligible receiver has an indicator over his head to let you know which key will cause the quarterback to throw the ball to that receiver.
The graphics in GameDay 99 require a 3D accelerator. (At the time this review was published, I stated that I managed to play without one, and wouldn’t recommend it. That information was false — while I orginally thought one of the computers used to test the game did not have a 3D acclerator, I have since learned that both PCs did, and the game was in fact played in this mode.) Commentary is provided by Dick Enberg and Phil Simms. They try to keep the action moving along and provide insight into the game, although you’ll find that the play-by-play is fairly bland and mostly limited to, “fifth play of the drive…sixth play of the drive…” etc. You can watch replays of the action through a simple but powerful instant replay system. Multiple camera angles are available for both regular play and instant replay viewing. In addition to the wide-angle default view, there’s a wider view that shows all of the players on the field, a sideline camera, a reverse angle view, and a blimp shot from high above the field. Of course, what would football be without lots of stats? You can find those too, both during the game and season.
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