|NCAA Football 08 (2007)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2
Yes, it’s the sporting season over at Electronic Arts these days. With a slew of titles being released by the company as of late – and with “Madden 08” just around the bend – sports gamers certainly have their choice of a wide array of titles from which to choose. We all know the beaten-to-death stories over the “Madden” franchise, and can only speculate how better (or average) this year’s entry will be. But what about the college football game? Does the NFL’s little brother even stand a chance against the guaranteed yearly big-seller?
Happily, the answer to that is a resounding “yes.” “NCAA Football 08” is an instant joy as soon as the first ball is snapped. I haven’t played many college-ball sims in the past, and I have to admit I was wary about enjoying this title (especially when last year’s entry on the 360 was apparently pretty short on dynamics). However, all it took was a quick game just go get the feel of the controls, and I was hooked. The game engine of “NCAA Football 08” is not dissimilar to that of the “Madden” series, but for me, the game just came off as more engaging and exciting.
This year, EA has introduced the “Motivation” feature in the game. When any of the guys on your team (whom you can control on the fly), performs a great play – like a pick, or a stupendous tackle -- that player’s “sphere of influence” grows. This allows the team to work together as a super-unified group that can play faster and dominate more efficiently. It’s not necessary to always execute this feature, but it is there for the gamer who really likes to dig deep and control every aspect of the play, which is a nice touch.
Also included this year is “The Shrine,” which is allows you to enjoy snapshots and videos of key moments of your team’s career. The game itself will automatically take snapshots for you when big plays are made, or you can watch video playbacks of each play during the game through different camera angles, and save or upload them online to share with everyone else. This is certainly a neat feature to keep track of your best moments, and it adds a little more depth to the overall experience.
Speaking of depth, the recruitment phase of the “Dynasty” mode in this year’s game is probably as realistic as it’s going to get. I created a player and tinkered with this portion of the game a bit, but honestly, not really knowing jack about these things – mainly because I just tend to skip over them in any football video game – I got lost rather easily. Still, there’s plenty there to work with for those who do want a deep experience. Everything from checking out the prospects’ interests to hard selling them on positions that you want them to play is all here. Indeed, there’s plenty to lord over if you’re into the details.
The “Campus Legend” feature has been brought back from prior installments as well. This mode allows players to create a player working his way through his senior year of high school on the field, trying to win the state championships and move on to the college of his liking. It’s a cool mode that’s a fun addition to the overall game and certainly adds more to what already feels like a loaded experience. No complaints here.
“NCAA Football 08” looks almost as good as it plays, with a few glitches here and there. It’s anyone’s guess as to why these clipping and ghosting problems (“ghosting” as in “running through another player”) seem to plague so many football video games. You’d think these would be ironed out immediately because they are so prevalent, but no such luck. Still, it’s not that big a deal. Plus, the addition of The Weather Channel providing honest-to-God weather environments for all the cities featured in the game is a nice touch as well. The overall game animations are smooth and dynamic, and the play-by-play is pretty much on target as well.
So yeah, “NCAA Football 08” gives players a nice, refreshing game of the old pigskin that can serve as a fun alternative to the NFL game. It’s certainly better and more exciting than 2K Games’ semi-disastrous “All-Pro Football 2K8,” and feels more satisfying than previous installments of “Madden.” Apparently, though, even that old workhorse is going to have some new tricks thrown into its mix this year, so we’ll just have to see. Nevertheless, if you like football in general, this one’s definitely worth a rental and a purchase.