NCAA Football 10 Hands-On Preview

College Football is more than just a game. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself, a legacy. Last year, NCAA Football 09 shook all pejorative claims that it was just Madden’s younger brother. From a game play standpoint, it was superb. Thus, it was the perfect canvas for EA Tiburon to take the game in an entirely new direction. Instead of just updating the graphics and a few game play mechanics, NCAA Football 10 looks to bottle the very essence of College Football.

Season Showdown seeks to harness the spirit, drive, and passion fans feel toward their teams in a way never before seen. Each week of the regular season, players will compete through matches and online minigames for their chosen institution. From here, stats will be tracked as each individual and school competes on an online leaderbord and through the season.

Points are based not only on wins and losses, but how you play the game. For example, one component is sportsmanship. One way to earn points toward your sportsmanship score is to punt in punting situations. Tiburon wants to encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior, and will alter the sportsmanship rules if needed. Should a player not finish a game, they will receive a fifty percent penalty to the score of their next game. Actions on the field affect other components. A player catch or tackle will be rewarded higher than a CPU action, for instance. Players will not need to play as their school to earn points; they will get a loyalty bonus for games played as their chosen team.

Scores will also include a web trivia game component and a game called Allies and Rivals. Allies and Rival is basically and online popularity contest. Each week, players can vote for (or against) five teams. Tiburon will track who is voting for whom and and publicly display the data. They hope that it will help create new and unique rivalries on the digital gridiron.

The BCS may not believe a tournament is necessary, but Tiburon will still host a Season Showdown Championship Tournament regardless. Thirty-two teams will compete for the title. While you won’t be able to participate if your school doesn’t make the cut, your individual stats will be tracked and you can use Allies and Rivals to shape the outcome.

Road to Glory also spices things up. Here, gamers create and control an athelete during their high school state tournament and colligate careers. All positions are available for creation except for offensive linemen, kickers and punters. Your player’s ability level will depend on your level of success during the playoffs. A dorm line menu system has been created to help immerse the player in the collegiate feel, but a traditional menu system is also available. For the first time ever, player progress will also be tracked with online Leaderboards.

However, the main feature that makes Road to Glory different is that ESPN’s Erin Andrews will track your progress on a dynamic in-game broadcast. This broadcast will use highlights saved from your games as footage as well as commentary from Kirk Herbstreit. While they will never say your player’s name, each of these clips is highly specific and tailored to your player. For example, a one star walk on quarterback to a major program will get bashed constantly by Herbstreet; whereas, a five star prospect will be praised as if he were the savior of college football.

One of the largest and most publicized features is Team Builder. Players can create and build a team from the ground up on the team builder website and then import them into the game. At the time of my visit to EA, nearly one hundred thousand teams had already been created. The stadium, logo, field, uniform, and mascot can be customized allowing for an extremely detailed experience.

Up to twelve teams can be created and used with NCAA at any given time. To create one, all you have to do is visit the team builder website and follow the simple to use instructions. Any image can be uploaded as a logo and automatically converted to the proper file needed with NCAA. From there, every aspect of the team from the alternate away uniform to your back up punter is customizable.

Even these new features aren’t enough to leave the Tiburon Team content. They pressed on, adding new levels of strategy to the game. At each half, a strategic gameplan will pop up allowing you to customize how your team reacts in certain situations. For example, you can set your players to aggressively go for the interception, but this might result it getting burned deep more often.

There is also a new addition called setup plays. Play action in video games has always been hard to pull off, as the only real people fall for it. In NCAA, a new feature links related plays. Each time you run a halfback dive up the middle, percentage points add to the linked play. Once that percentage fills, the trap is set and the opposing team will most likely be fooled. It’s not a sure thing, though. No team will fall for a fourth and ten rush, and good defenses will recover faster from the fake.

NCAA is shaping up to blow football fans away when it hits stores July 14th. In the meantime, check out the demo on Xbox Live and the Team Builder Website.

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