NCAA Football 08 online play falling short again

Posted July 18th, 2007 at 7:48 pm
Minnesota vs Florida

Once again the area of online play in an EA Sports title is failing. Granted this is right at and around release time and the problems could still very well be fixed. I have been told they are being looked into. However that is not a sufficient excuse for having a poor online play experience for everyone around the release time frame. By now everything should be fully prepared for and functioning correctly for the release of every title.

Game crippling lag, disconnects, and connection issues are widespread. Menu navigation and play selection has slow reaction time. 7 seconds for a defense to choose a play following the offense's selection simply isn't enough as it is, let alone when you're dealing with that menu and button lag. The kicking/punting becomes an adventure. Where is the player card to view your own or someone else's record and stats? Forget adjusting depth charts unless you want to spend a frustrating several minutes doing so. Not to mention that you can't save depth charts offline and have that transfer over to online. You have to make any changes prior to every new game. Ridiculous.

I am unable to connect to a game with a buddy of mine that I play more than anyone else on pretty much every sports game that comes out. Never had any problems before. So it was a surprise to find out we can't even play online against each other. We tried pretty much everything. Me challenging him, him challenging me, ranked via lobby room, unranked via game invite, mics vs no mics. But nothing worked. We get to the team select screen and it boots us out after a few seconds saying it couldn't establish a connection. We then tried selecting teams before it kicked us out, and it locked both of our Xbox's up. Wonderful.

Because of this he has already asked me to sell his copy of the game for him. I convinced him to hold out through the weekend. For people who are heavily into online play, when it doesn't work right it can basically ruin the entire value of the title.

That isn't to say that EA is the only culprit in this area. 2K Sports touts their online leagues, but they are practically always broken. Eventually it seems they get around to fixing some of the problems, but weeks/months down the line who cares? The same can be said here. The most popular time for a game to be played is right around the release. Poor experiences can turn them off for good.

Last year EA released the lag patch for Madden 360 that corrected the distance based lag that had plagued all EA Sports titles for years. They had stated what was done within that patch would be applied to all of the titles from then on. The lag may not be as bad as it was with NCAA Football 07 in which if you weren't playing someone from within a few states of you it wasn't even worth attempting. It still is apparent enough to affect the game and subsequently the enjoyment of playing online.

The one great addition to online play this year, which supplements the actual gaming, is the video clip uploading. Not only can you grab those video highlights from Play Now, Dynasty, and Campus Legend, but following your online games you can scroll through every play in the game and save up to five of them. Later you can upload those to the site and view them there or save them to your computer. That is great for online leagues, tournaments, or rivalries. It actually has me really bummed out thinking how Madden 08 doesn't have the screenshot/video feature in NCAA which has already proven to be a huge success.

Another cool addition to NCAA Football is the Weather Channel feature which charts the real-time weather at every stadium location and uses that for the weather you play in during Play Now games. This was something that had been talked about being used for online play as well, however not only is that missing but there isn't even the option for any sort of variable weather online. Get used to fair and sunny conditions cause that is all there will be.

The whole thing is really unfortunate, because offline this game is fantastic. Improved gameplay and depth and quality of modes (Dynasty, Campus Legend) and additional features such as the Weather Channel and EA Sports World (screen/video uploading) have made this the easily the best effort yet by EA on the 360/PS3.

Hopefully they take initiative to correct the problems that are plaguing online play in NCAA Football 08. By then though, it could be too late. There is always next year though…right?