Do you smell it? Come on take a deep breath and you can smell it like the rest of us. Thats right, football season is just around the corner and the arrival of NCAA Football 10 pretty much signals that fact. EA has had a solid run with the NCAA series over the years and continues to produce even better iterations each and every year. This year is no different as EA once again delivers a solid NCAA experience and one that any college football fan would be happy to pick up and play.
The thing that separates Madden and NCAA football is atmosphere. There is something about the college gameday atmosphere compared to an NFL gameday that EA captures perfectly in NCAA Football 10 and definitely sets this game apart from its NFL big brother. From the college marching bands playing fight songs ringing throughout the stadium to mascots running the endzones, it can all be found in the game. And there are plenty of game modes and options in this years game to keep you playing for quite some time.
So lets get right down to it. Graphically, the game once again moves forward with polished player models, lighting, animations and simple menu interfaces. The game plays very similar to last years version with some new AI enhancements, but you'll quickly jump into this one and feel right at home. When it comes to sounds, EA has pulled out all the stops and given you the most inviting college atmosphere it can with the pumped up crowds, cheerleaders, commentary and marching band music. The moment you start the game up and a fight song begins playing you feel the excitement start to boil in your veins.
The sounds are authentic and really add into the college electricity and atmosphere. Nothing like hearing the 100, 000+ crowd all fired up at beaver Stadium. The band playing the fights song and the players crashing helmets and pads on the field. The NFL Experience is great and all but does not compare to a big time college game in the least. Even the Super Bowl has nothing on a huge college rivalry game when it comes to crowd noise and atmosphere and that is well portrayed throughout his game. Commentary is as it usually is, with some repetition taking place as you play more and more games, but that should be expected of course. Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso make their return as your commentary crew and once again do an oustanding job.
As I stated the game modes in NCAA this year are many, and there are a lot of new things as well. The first mode I would like to discuss is the Season Showdown. This is a competition of sorts in which you earn credits towards your favorite school, which you are locked into once you start up the Season Showdown. These credits are accumulated by other gamers that are fans of the same school and posted on a leader board throughout the real life college season. You gain credits by competing online vs your Showdown opponent, against the CPU, web-based mini games and much more all in an effort to determine which school is number one at the end of the real life football season. There are a total of 12 different ways you can earn credits. Some of those being web based and other being in the game.
The next new enhancement to the game modes is the Team Builder. You will go onto the web and use a team editor to create your school from its colors and prestige to its style of play and hometown. You can upload your own team logo or choose from hundreds of pre-loaded graphics. You have full roster customization as well as the ability to edit your uniforms and stadiums and then share them across platforms where they can be used in Dynasty Play or Play Now modes. A very cool feature indeed and one that will be interesting to watch and see what people create. I highly suggest going to http://teambuilder.easports.com/ and checking this option out. Now you can have your favorite local University, or maybe you Alma Mater in the game even if its not in the 120 team original roster. One thing though, when inserting your team into dynasty mode, you will have to swap out another team from the current roster. So choose your team and division wisely. I truly cannot wait to see some of the designs and team uniforms that talented and creative artists out there come up with and upload for everyone to see. That is what is really going to make this mode. EA has done a superb job implementing the web and design tools into their games and it only continues to get better each year.
Yet another new mode is the Road To Glory option. Here you will take a created upcoming superstar from his high school championship days throughout his college career in hopes to be the next big thing. Both Erin Andrews and Kirk Herbstreit will follow and highlight your career with video and photographs. You'll have a dorm room, once in college of course, that will house all your trophies and accomplishments over your college career. This mode is a lot of fun and its is quite a treat to hear yoru created player being talked about. On the field, dependent on your position, it can be a little frustrating and daunting due to camera issues.
Of course you have the standard game play modes such as Dynasty Mode, Online Dynasty, Play Now, Mini Games and Online versus Play. The ESPN License is used throughout the game and is never really to overbearing. Another thing that doesn't detract from the game is the in game advertising. It gives the feel of a more real life experience or telecast if you will. Online dynasty works the way it has in the past except all off field actions are streamlined and tweaked. You'll also be able to import up to 12 Team Builder teams into your dynasty for some great fun and of course bragging rights.
The thing everyone wants to know most about is the gameplay itself. While there are many improvements in the AI and the way players move and scamper about the field, overall the game plays very similar to past iterations. The play calling interface is simple to use and on the field you can get as in depth as you like with the many defensive and offensive adjustments that can be made.
Each school has their own scheme and style, but you can obviously choose from any playbook throughout the 120 school roster. Speaking of rosters, no, you can not see real names of athletes in the game. You can download the rosters from a friend, create your own rosters and share with friends via the EA Locker option or you can have the game just create generic player names. The choice is yours.
When on the field, as I stated everything will feel very familiar. The game gives you 4 difficulty levels to choose from with Freshman and varsity being the easiest 2 difficulties and quite frankly to easy at times. All-American and Heisman is truly the levels of difficulty you should play on if you are looking for a challenge and quite honestly a sim experience. Also in the terms of difficulty, EA added in a new EA family setting that allows even the greenest of players to jump in on the action. Family Play allows you to play the game with one button to snap the ball, kick, punt and pass. The AI also assists the player in making catches. And the play calling defaults to the Ask Corso option so knowledge of football play calling needs to be at a bare minimum.
Running , passing and catching all seem pretty familiar and while some tweaks have been made it still feels very much the same. Some running backs can barrel through the defenses, while other are laid out with the first hit they take. Typical college ratings and gameplay as expected. One thing that you will notice is that dropped passes due seem to be a thing of the pass. A wide open receiver will catch a pass 9 times out of 10 and drop them only when defenders are around or a big hit is in detection as well as blocking seem to be a lot better than they have in past years and with each year it gets better it seems. While occasionally you may have a clipping issue or a transparent defender it seems, its very few and far between. What issues I did have were that it seemed many of the gains always ended with the ball carrier pushing forward. Sure there were times they were pushed back with gang tackles, but more times than not, even with multiple tacklers the runner still managed to go forward. Spots of the ball also seemed a little skeptical to me and were never challenged. There were times when I thought I was a yard short, or my opponent was, and the first down was given. So that is still something that needs to be worked on. The QB seems a lot smarter and will throw balls away but he also has those dumb moment where he fired a ball off backwards directly towards the sideline. Again, not a major issue but happens every once in a while. As I stated earlier, the camera issues in The Road to Glory mode can get a little sketchy at times and make it difficult to follow the action or even continue the play in the right direction after a pass your way.
Overall, once again EA delivers with yet another awesome college experience video that any football fan should have in their game library. Sure, if you are strictly and NFL guy this may not interest you all that much, but the fact that you can import your roster into Madden 10 when the time rolls around should entice a few NFL brethren to pick this one up. I highly recommend this title to anyone that deems Saturdays a national holiday and find themselves in front of the TV from early afternoon until late Saturday night. Graphics, sounds, gameplay and a slew of options will keep this game fresh throughout the college season. And you also need to jump into the Season Showdown and help your favorite school take home the Season Showdown Championship! What are you waiting for? Go buy it now!
Suggestions: The game has so many options, but one thing I would like to see is EA cut a deal with NCAA to include real player names. I understand the legalities and the roadblocks involved to making this happen, but it truly would make the experience 100% authentic. I would also like the option to add your Team Builder School in without having to swap it out with another school. I also am not to sure about the dynamic camera in Road To Glory Mode. There were quite a few times I would get turned around due to a stupid angle of the camera. Thinking it might be better off to keep the default view period no matter what position you play. I would also like to see the fair play option brought back into the game as I didnt see evidence of it in this years version.