College Football has always been more raw than the NFL. It’s a place for talent to develop and the NCAA franchise has echoed this quality when compared to Madden. Unfortunately, that feeling is still present this year. Instead of pushing for drastic leaps in game play or graphics, NCAA Football 10 adds new features to recreate the college feel. While the additions are successful, one wonders about untapped potential due to this year’s similarity to previous editions.
On the feature front, there are three main additions. The highly publicized Teambuilder adds new levels of detail and customization. Every aspect of a collegiate team is at your finger tips, from the alternate away uniforms to the backup punter. Teambuilder is a great addition and the computer integration makes the entire process easier and more functional.
Road to Glory extends previous years’ campus legend modes. With Road to Glory, highlights from a player’s games will be integrated into a broadcast staring Erin Andrews and Kirk Herbstreit. This dynamic broadcast forms around your player’s performance instead of feeling like cookie cutter phrases. One annoying aspect is that the traditional lobby has been ditched for a “more immersive” dorm room. This menu is more annoying than immersive as most the important information is hard to find. Thankfully, the game does offer settings for a more traditional menu. Additionally, leaderboards now track your progress so you can rate yourself among your playing peers.
Season Showdown adds the most replay value of any new feature (at least for the college season). Every game you play earns point for your school, which compete with schools backed by other players. While less than a hundred players were participating at the time of review, this feature will keep players interested once the season kicks up and school pride is on the line. Both school and individual stats are tracked via leaderboards throughout the season.
For a more detailed breakdown on these three modes, please check out our NCAA 10 Preview.
Some slight tweaks are noticeable in dynasty mode, including the ability to create custom conferences. Online dynasties are also a welcome addition. Beyond this, there isn’t much change with the rest of the title, which is the game’s biggest problem.
Playing on the field features a few welcome additions, such as strategic game plans. These are central to the way your team plays, so you need to set it up to match your play style. You can also engage in player lock at any point during the game, or allow the computer to take over for you with the press of the A button. Another addition that increases the level of strategy is set up plays. These are effective vs. CPU opponents but ineffective against humans. By running a play in a pairing (normally a run and play action pass), you can set up the defense. Once set up, they will often bite the fake and make a poor decision.
The game has its share of flaws. The commentary this year feels awful, relating less and less to what is actually happening on the field. The fans in the crowd look like cardboard cut-outs, although you won’t have time to stare at the stands during the game. The game’s biggest issue is that it’s technically erratic. Only two days of play yielded a number of problems. Once I had a clear touchdown called back (via booth review) from the endzone and placed on the 2 yard line. Seeing as the ball was thrown from the 15 and caught uncontested in the endzone, this is downright baffling. That’s not the only case, merely the most memorable.
Several subtle strategic elements don’t make up for the lack of fresh game play. It’s hard to recommend this game over Madden for football fans. It clearly has appeal to fans of the franchise and the new features will keep them coming back, but it still feels like Madden’s younger brother. NCAA is raw and unpolished, but still fun. If you prefer the fast paced, chaotic college feel to that of pro football, pick this up. But if you’re looking for one football game this year, put your money on Madden.