83Here’s a disclaimer: I’m more of a Madden NFL kind of guy. I prefer the pro game, and my college didn’t have D-1 football, so I never got swept up in the whole college sports thing. That’s why I’m happy to report that this year’s version of NCAA Football managed to get my attention and keep it the past few weeks, thanks to its gameplay and various game modes.

Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
July 14, 2009

The basic football works well, and due to its being designed after the college rather than pro game, allows for some differentiation in gameplay elements from its NFL cousin. There are more opportunities for trick plays, and they also seem to have a higher rate of success–it’s easier to pull some of this stuff off when a 350 pound lineman who can inexplicably run at high speeds isn’t cutting you off on a reverse. My favorite feature from the games themselves though has to be the “setup”, which tells you what percentage of “setup” the opposing team’s defense is for a particular offensive play. If you’ve run a few running plays in a row for instance, using say, the basic I-formation, then you want to run a playaction in the I, the game will tell you that the opposition is 35% setup for being fooled on the play, or 60% fooled, or whatever the number is based on just how ready to be tricked they are. It’s also easier to fool your friends and the computer now that the strategic elements of gameplay have been enhanced, like being more aggressive on defense but at the expense of possibly giving up a big play.

NCAA is all about the game modes though, especially since by now EA certainly has the core football game experience down. Besides your standard Dynasty mode, there is also an Online Dynasty, which allows for 60 years of continuous play, and the best part is that it can be done with friends or for everyone to see, rather than just at home by your lonesome. New to this year’s game is the Road to Glory mode, which has Erin Andrews and Kirk Herbstreit following your college football career. In addition to listening to those two talk about how amazing you are, you can also check out your career accomplishments in a virtual dorm room full of trophies, the latest NCAA news and photographs of your favorite plays and accomplishments, all of which can be taken from the highlight reel following the completion of a game.

While you can just jump into Dynasty or Play Now, you can also take some time to fully customize a team online beforehand. Use EA’s Teambuilder to edit the school of your choice; you are not just limited to tweaking the roster to your content, but you can also fiddle with logos, stadium design, and all of the different parts of the uniforms. If you don’t want to mess with a current school, you can also create your own from scratch and then use it in Dynasty mode or in exhibition games. That’s very appealing to someone like me, who doesn’t have a school they instantly gravitate to in these towards of titles.If you’re lazy or just want to populate your game with various created teams, you can also download other people’s creations. Have a bunch of creative friends and want to mooch, or just want to make sure that their stuff is on your console for when they come over? You can do that, which is a neat feature.

One thing that I could not test, given it does not start up until the real season begins, is the Season Showdown. It’s an NCAA Football competition of sorts, where fans play NCAA to prove that their school is the best. You earn credits for your college of choice by playing games online or even against the computer, and these credits go towards your school’s total, added up with everyone else who picked that college as their team. You don’t have to choose the team you plan on using, so if you want to pick Boston College but then use Ohio State in order to wipe the floor with people, then go for it. You can earn credits by playing the computer, playing online, taking on your weekly Showdown opponent (who is a real person), by utilizing the Allies & Rivals online poll, or by answering some trivia questions online.

You also earn credits for your in-game performance. NCAA keeps track of your user tackles, picks, forced fumbles, etc., and you can earn credits from those. Running successfully setup plays (remember the above feature, and use it to your advantage) also nets you credits, as does not beating your opponent’s face into the ground–sportsmanship counts folks, so don’t run up the score just to show off. You also get more credits if you do play with your selected Showdown team, so let’s hope your taste in schools isn’t questionable. If you’re considered the underdog, you will also get some credits for taking on that game.

My favorite way to earn credits though would have to to be the ESPN Instant Classic. That’s mostly because I love the idea of designating games as ESPN Instant Classics; play a few rivalry or conference games and have them turn out to be great games, and you will see your game designated as an ESPN Instant Classic. You can upload highlights from the game to the NCAA Football 10 servers as well, so everyone else can view your accomplishments if they desire.

Those are the noteworthy features in this wonderful edition of NCAA Football, and they help keep the game interesting and give you plenty of reasons to hold on to your copy of the game even after Madden NFL 10 comes out. Given that has always been one reason that I never got into the series in the first place–just wait a month and you get Madden, after all–I have to give credit where it is due to EA Tiburon for designing a product that should stay on your shelf even after its pro rival is available.

Blast Factor: NCAA Football 10 provides a strategic football experience that is accessible to all levels thanks to its All-Play feature and the use of different play styles on both offense and defense. There are enough game modes to keep you in the game much longer than just the summer, especially with Season Showdown and an Online Dynasty mode. Even with Madden coming out in a few weeks, this one comes recommended.

NCAA Football 10 is available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable systems. This version, reviewed on the Xbox 360, retails for $59.99

About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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