The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.
Last year the NCAA Football franchise took the top spot in the rankings as my favorite game of the year. The introduction of Online Dynasty completely changed the way I wanted to play games and brought the most enjoyment, longevity, and value of any game this generation. That makes its fall to #8 this year more striking. It simply didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from 09 while other games made significant advancements.
Really NCAA Football 10 was about Teambuilder. In this regard it hit a home run. The feature was amazingly well done and accessible enough that anyone could use it and do well with it. For anything new that is introduced into games these days that is a rare achievement. My full walk-through and thoughts on Teambuilder can be found here.
The problem for me lies in that this feature really isn’t about NCAA Football. Teambuilder could have been used in any game. So I hesitate to give too much credit to NCAA 10 based on a customization feature. In the end it turned out that building teams and sharing those creations was more of an activity than it was a game addition. I probably spent more time on Teambuilder than actually playing with those teams in the game.
That fresh experience of Online Dynasty in 09 wore off because it didn’t evolve. The first video that was released by EA to advertise Online Dynasty was telling as it basically only highlighted the minor improvements made to regular dynasty. There was nothing unique added (such as a spectator mode) and it even still lacked full website functionality.
What did work this year to an extent anyway was the refresh that was given to the career mode. Now known as Road to Glory the mode turned out to be immersive due to the presentation and storylines given to your player. The problem was that the gameplay on the field was largely unchanged. Problems that plagued Campus Legend, such as it being tailored to only a few positions, a flawed practice system, time still doesn’t elapse between plays, and poor CPU QB decision making remained.
One of the biggest mistakes was to commit so much in the way of resources into Season Showdown. This “feature” turned out to be completely worthless…at best there was indifference towards it. The time that went into that could have been better spent elsewhere.
As I have stated before this is arguably the most fully featured sports game on the market. However after building out those modes and features the gameplay has to advance too at some point. That is what didn’t happen this year. For those who would just pick up the game and play very few differences between 09 and 10 would be recognized.
What was missing most though is the sense of emotion and the atmosphere. I just never felt connected to anything that was happening on the field because of that. Other than gameplay enhancements this would be the area I’d look at NCAA 11 to have big improvement in if it wants to capture the excitement that should be experienced playing these games.
NCAA Football 10 had big time issues with rosters which brought up the question of whether the lawsuits regarding player likenesses were the reason behind that. Some teams had no freshman and/or players who had graduated or left school after last year. EA later released the “fixed” rosters which were better but still no where near accurate.
To EA’s credit they released three patches for NCAA 10 which is unprecedented. They had to pay out of pocket for a third that most people wouldn’t even realize existed. That could be an indication that the company recognized the disappointment this year and is working towards turning things around.
The future of the NCAA Football is up in the air. I did a full assessment of the state of the NCAA franchise here. Sales dropped this year and various lawsuits threaten the legitimacy of the game. NCAA Football 11 will be a crucial year to not only establishing itself as one of the better sports games but also positioning for a future that could end up more generic than it already is.