E3: NCAA Football 10 Impressions

Posted June 4th, 2009 at 5:59 am


During the first day of E3 I played NCAA Football 10 on the default Varsity difficulty. I made the statement in my brief recap that the game had a very similar feel to 09 and it seems people ran with that as though it meant it wasn’t changed or improved which is not the case. The differences are just not as obvious as the ones Madden received. After bumping it up to All-American the improvements made to the game became more evident.

The adaptive AI has a strong presence and I’ll describe an example of that from the defensive side later in the article. Going up against the CPU offense there were instances of them throwing deep and mixing up the play calling better than seen in recent editions.

As witnessed in the UW-WSU video the CPU RB had a play where he probably would’ve run out of bounds last year but instead caught me off guard by pulling off a sharp cut and going up-field for about 15 more yards. There is more inaccuracy from QBs and a great deal of that is dependent on ratings. There is a pass rush and I actually encountered a CPU Missouri blitzing the crap out of me over a series of plays and I was not prepared for that to happen. Also a factor is if the QB waits too long and gets hit during the throw the potential is there for those waffling passes to be picked off.

One of the new additions to the game is the “linked” setup plays. Thankfully I learned about this more and experimented with it because it turns out I didn’t have a complete understanding of how the feature works. Running a play that is “linked” to another will build it up towards being setup. Generally they are run plays connected to play action passes. Interestingly the rate of build-up is based on the success of the plays. So if you run a dive play and get stuffed you may not increase the percent or it will be very minimal. However run a dive and get 15 yards and it might go up to 50%.

My first few times through I was trying out the setup plays when they were at 60%, 84%, and so on. I was prepared to say that I really didn’t see any difference in how effective they were. Only on the second day did I find out that a play has to be 100%, completely setup, for it to matter. When I ran the fully setup plays I did notice the defense bite but by no means did it mean I was automatically successful. Several of the attempts at fully setup plays ultimately resulted in incompletions. I noticed that the safeties will bite on the play actions when they’re setup, while on setup run plays the linebackers may not take that initial step towards the line of scrimmage which can open up opportunities. Again much of that is based on the individual player ratings.

It did become clear that using the run to setup the play action was far better strategy than using the PA to setup a run play. While you may be more likely to bust a run when it is setup I didn’t find much success in those situations. It made more sense to take advantage through the air. This feature also adds an element of strategy in deciding when to pull out those setup plays. Again though knowing it only improves the odds of finding the opening for the big play and doesn’t mean it will actually come through should be reassuring to everyone.

Forgetting the setup plays the defensive AI makes adjustments automatically based on your play calling. I noticed after having run up the middle several times (trying to build up a play) the defensive tackles pinched in pre-play and crashed. The linebackers and safeties also started creeping up. It’s one of those improvements that many people won’t outright spot but will make a big difference.

I did try out the player lock on defense from a few different positions. The camera angles work relatively well. There are still times where the perspective is difficult to deal with such as when a ball carrier runs past, it is tough to react and adjust. Having the option to click onto any player though is great if not completely practical except in a Road to Glory and hopeful online co-op in the future. Clicking the stick to lock in worked well but it also meant I couldn’t pump up the crowd and I do that religiously when playing defense!

Game planning is another addition that provides the user with a way to influence how the team plays. What I most like about this is since you can only control one guy at a time the CPU has in general just played a standard way in the past. Now you can set it to conservative, balanced, or aggressive for offense and defense. Set to aggressive and your players will go for strips and try to break tackles. Basically they look for the big play in all situations. Set to conservative and the players will try to avoid the big mistake and play it safe. This will affect both the CPU controlled players and the player being user controlled.

I saw the effects of this immediately in my first game when I set both to aggressive. This is likely how most people will begin until they realize the downsides. On the first two possessions I was called for three face masks. In another game I said the hell with it I was going aggressive again. On one of the kick returns my guy practically refused to go down which ended up resulting in a fumble. I would recommend aggressive for situational use as opposed to playing that way for a full game. Conservative fits my play style better anyway so I shifted back to that for the most part. Balanced would provide a similar style to how the CPU has generally played in the past.

Presentation wise there isn’t all that much new. The bands during pregame appear to have been the main addition. That does absolutely nothing for me except add something new to skip through. There are no team entrances or new style of replays or cut scenes that I came across.

Ultimately if you liked 09’s gameplay you’ll like 10. If you liked 09 but felt there were several issues then you’ll probably be satisfied with what they’ve done for 10. However if you had a strong dislike of 09 I wouldn’t expect that feeling to shift based on the gameplay related changes and additions.

Teambuilder is definitely the most intriguing aspect of NCAA Football 10. By all accounts that is already a smashing success on the web-end. The fun had with Online Dynasty masked some of the flaws with the game last year. Because those issues have been addressed and along with the potential of Teambuilder this remains one of my most anticipated upcoming titles.

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