Thoughts on the NCAA Football 09 features

Posted April 3rd, 2008 at 8:36 pm

The release of the first big NCAA Football 09 feature list has brought about a great deal of optimism. It seems as though many things from previous versions along with other wishlist type features have made their way in. So I thought I’d go over my reaction to a handful of the features and what they could mean for the this year.

Wide open gameplay: This is something that I’m really looking forward to. Since the 05 titles it has bothered me how the the football video games feel somewhat scripted and that they’ve lacked the “anything can happen” excitement of the sport. From watching football games you see those things (especially so in college) but never experience them in video games. Other than deep bombs there has been little to no opportunity for explosive plays. I think back to watching highlights of Reggie Bush and how I knew that much of what he did wasn’t possible to pull off in the games. I want to see those things and know that a big play can happen at any time.

Home Field Advantage: This return of HFA alone makes me more excited about NCAA than Madden. Atmosphere accented by HFA are sorely lacking in Madden but it appears that NCAA will improve greatly in those areas. While some people felt the previous attempt at HFA in NCAA was overdone I found it added to realism and ultimately made things more fun while presenting a unique challenge with each game on the schedule.

Roster sharing: Finally a hit to those people who have profited (in some cases tens of thousands of dollars) off rosters. Now the rosters will be passed around freely and to a much wider audience. I didn’t even bother going through the process of getting the rosters named last year and ultimately my interest in the game waned because of it. The question now is whether it will be like the EA Locker in March Madness or 2K Share in College Hoops. With the locker you have to be on a person’s friends list but with share it is held on a server where anyone can grab it. Either way it’ll really be a big thing for the game.

Online dynasty: Something people have been asking for now for a long time makes it in. This is certainly a big project so hopefully EA has things worked out for it. First of all the online play performance will need to be improved, otherwise it could end up as a big waste of time. I’d look for a max of 16 user controlled teams (which would be more than sufficient) and the ability to do basically anything that comes with an offline dynasty in the online ones.

Mascot games: I’ve always been bothered by elitist attitudes that belittle the merits of mascot mode and the people who enjoy them. I’m one of the people who like it and I’m not ashamed to admit it. With quick games against a friend sometimes it’s just more entertaining that way. There are very few resources spent in putting the mascot games together and it doesn’t take away from other aspects of the game. Regardless of what some will claim it is actually enjoyed by many people. Ultimately I’d even like to have mascot games available for online play.

College atmosphere: Really this ties into home field in my mind but they mention things like the dynamic crowds and sidelines. For the sidelines I’ll just be happy if they don’t detract from the experience. I don’t expect anything extraordinary but as long as they aren’t comically bad as they have been it’ll be an improvement.

Return missed field goals: Sounds like it could be fun to see once in a while but here is my concern. The kicking game has always been over-powered. The only time you really see any come up short is 50+ yards. Field goals are just too easy and unless they are made more difficult then I doubt there will be many opportunities for returning missed ones (although the CPU may miss more than other user controlled teams). The positive aspect is that it will make people think before attempting field goals that may be out of range.

I’m very excited about this year’s release after finding out about these new features especially when combined with the screenshot and video uploading via EA Sports World and the Campus Legend mode. Possibly more excited than for any game I can remember in the past three years or so. NCAA 08 was the best football game available for playing offline but they have an opportunity now to make it the premiere all-around football game besting Madden.

Of course there are still many “ifs” to consider. Will online performance and options be better than last year’s inexcusable experience? Will the CPU AI avoid throwing 6 INTs every game? Can you navigate menus and the depth charts without severe button lag? Will there be some improvements to the already strong Campus Legend mode?

Usually I anticipate NCAA Football in large part because it’s the first football game to come out after months of playing none. Then Madden comes and I just don’t find much motivation to continue playing it. But with the addition of online dynasties and roster sharing along with the return of a home field advantage the anticipation is going to be off the charts as the release nears. It’ll be interesting to see if that is enough to challenge for time when Madden and even Head Coach roll out.