Every year, EA Sports releases a new title in their successful “NCAA Football” series. The newest edition, which hits stores on July 13,“NCAA Football 11,” touts that there are “120 ways to win” on the back of the box. Is that true?
This is a review of the PS3 version.
Why yes, yes it is. EA Tiburon, the game's developer, created an amazing recreation of the collegiate gridiron game. Every college feels and plays like their real-life counterpart. When Notre Dame plays at home, you get to see each player slap the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign, a traditional part of their pregame ceremonies. Every team's entrance is recreated, which adds a lot of authenticity and excitement. After watching these unique college football tradition, it is easy to see why many sports fans prefer the collegiate over the professional version of football as tradition and rowdy fans come together. The young, over-sexed (and probably drunk) crowds at college games chant and scream for their team and that excitement is flawlessly translated.
On the field, every team plays realisticly. Boise State utilizes a lot of trick plays, including fast-paced wide receiver end-arounds that catches defensive teams sleeping in their “Batman” pajamas. Every team has their own playbook, so you will never see them do something unrealistic. In the play-calling menu, these custom-designed playbooks provide suggestions for what plays you should use . You can still select any play you want, but you have to press “R3” to change to that menu.
If the off-the-field play is its soul, then the frantic on-the-field play is its heart. Running backs hurdle over defenders and defensive backs will slow down or speed up to block the path of an incoming ball. Players react to the ball in a convincing fashion. I once saw a cornerback get a hot lead on an option play and he literally reached behind himself to intercept the ball as it was passing from the quarterback to the running back. These plays are on-of-a-kind and will keep you guessing as every game will feel new.
The controls are spotless. There are no hiccups or glitches that even slow down or falter the controls in the slightest. On offense before the ball is hiked, “X” will hike the ball and the face and shoulder buttons allow you to flip the play, call an audible and change your player among other options. Once the ball is hiked on a passing play, images of buttons rest above or below a receiver. Press the corresponding button and the quarterback will throw it to him. If it is a running play, use the right analog stick to control your feet and left stick to control your upper body to maneuver around beastly linebackers and pesky defensive backs. On defense, call audibles and such on defense using the face buttons. During a play, run towards a ball-carrier and push the right analog stick towards him for a tackle. If you have a lot of speed built up by pressing the “R2” speed burst button for an extended period of time, you will smash into the carrier at high-speed, increasing the chances of causing him to fumble.
If you find these controls too confusing, there is a one-button mode which ties the basic controls into one button. Believe it or not, this control scheme is nearly as good as the standard one. I think that if EA Tiburon worked on this control scheme, it could revolutionize the way football games are controlled. Modern sports games have very intricate controls, but EA Tiburon has figured out a way to consolidate a lot of the controls into one button without the gameplay feeling like it is trimmed down as a result. NHL 10, another EA Sports game, but was developed by EA Canada, had a three-button scheme called “NHL 94” controls, but when you played with them, you could not input many of the moves in a way that was fast enough for them to feel useful. EA Tiburon, make sure that you work on this because it could become the new standard control scheme for football games in the same way that the aforementioned NHL series changed hockey controls when they made the right analog stick the shooting button.
Another huge feature in the game is the Dynasty mode, which is playable both online and offline. If you play it online (I wish this feature was also for offline dynasties), you can recruit prospects and view stats online at anytime with any device that has Internet access. Add stories, pictures and other information as well for other people to read. Customization is a huge part of all games now as everyone is looking for an experience that is all their own. Adding the Online Dynasty options was just one piece of EA's customization plans as they expanded upon the TeamBuilder option that was available in last year's edition. In this mode, players create a custom team on EA's TeamBuilder site and download it onto their game. Every piece of the team's jerseys, logo and player information is editable. You can even upload your own logo.
“NCAA Football 11” is for the hardcore college football fan, the casual fan and the customization fan. People that bought “Backbreaker” for the customizing options can buy this game, create their own teams and play a game that had a solider and refined gameplay engine. In many ways, “NCAA Football 11” is the definitive football game, whether it college or professional or Pee Wee. It has 120 teams and enough online play for any football fan. The one-button mode adds an element for the casual fan, but introduces some new ideas to the standard controls that football games have had for years. If you love football, you will play, and enjoy, this game.
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