Game franchises that have been around for a long time seem to have the habit of falling into a rut.
This is especially true for those franchises that year after year, continue to sell regardless of the content the developers put in or in some cases take out. This seemed to be the case with EA Sport’s collegiate pigskin franchise, NCAA Football. Like Madden before it, each iteration of NCAA Football seemed to be uncomfortably similar to the one before it.
Then came NCAA Football 2007. While most of the core gameplay was left untouched, the jump from current-generation systems to the Xbox 360 gave the game a whole new look and along with it came a new feel.
Now that gamers have had a year to digest the change, will this year’s game be able to take the same, if not greater steps?
Yes and no. While there are certain changes and additions that make NCAA 08 a better, much more solid game, one can’t help but get that "been there, done that" feeling.
Thankfully, the developers fixed last year’s biggest hang-up and gave gamers a plethora of modes to choose from. The standard modes are present, but there are enough options to satisfy even the most hardcore gamer. These include a fair share of mini games and taking part in classic battles courtesy of the ESPN and ESPN.com license.
One of the most welcomed additions is the Campus Legend mode. Mysteriously absent from last year’s Xbox 360 edition, Campus Legend lets you create a player and take him through the high school playoffs and into his collegiate career. The playoffs system is a more realistic way to set your attribute points (which determines what schools offer you scholarships) than just participating in drills as seen in previous editions. Once you choose a school, it’s on to making a name for yourself. You do this by taking part in drills and working your way up the depth chart.
Campus Legend mode is a fun addition, but comes off a bit rushed and feels like it wasn’t completely thought through. For instance, you only control your created player. (Read: you don’t pick the plays, you don’t control your teammates) It’s strictly a one-man show including the camera, which stays with your player throughout the entire play unless you manually switch it.
Those in need of a little more control will find comfort in knowing that Dynasty mode is not only back but features even more depth than ever before.
Everything starts out the same; you select your school, go through the normal off-season routine. The biggest and most welcomed change is the new recruitment system, which is incredibly deep–so much that it could intimidate those who are new to the mode.
You start by choosing 35 prospects from across the country, which is made much easier this year by a handy new “prospect search” feature which let’s you search by everything from hometown, position, height and rating. Once you have your prospects chosen, it’s time to butter them up. Each week you’re given ten in-game hours to call prospects and discuss your program. You can chose to talk up your program, your school’s academics, make promises (playing time as a freshman, not recruit another player at the prospect’s position etcâ€¦) or schedule a visit.
Each prospect has his certain likes or dislikes and will hang up on you if you aren’t talking about things he wants to hear. While the new depth is appreciated, at times it feels random, like throwing a dart if the prospect will like what you’re saying.
Perhaps the biggest letdown in NCAA 08 is the presentation or lack thereof. If college football is about the raw emotion and pride that exists both on and off the field why does each game, including rivalry games and bowl games feel the same?
The game charts which stadiums are the toughest to play at, why don’t we get the “Stadium Pulse” feature that would actually shake the screen when the crowd would get rowdy. Speaking of the crowd, it’s sad to say that the fans who populated the stadiums in the last-gen NCAA football games holding signs and acting crazy.
Even worse, like the Madden games before it, there are no victory celebrations not even for winning a national championship. It’s these things more than anything else that sets NCAA Football apart from other football games.