- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Thompson
ours truly is not one of those video gamers who hangs his hat on the “Madden” franchise year after year when it comes to football simulations. The series has pretty much ground itself down into a pattern of predictability, and no matter what “new features” are promised or implemented in the annual updates to the game, it still feels like the same old stuff. Funny, then, how the same company can take college football and make it such an enjoyable experience, giving players plenty of bang for their bucks and easily trumping the big brother NFL title.
Yes, “NCAA Football 09” has arrived and like last year’s entry, this is one of those games that players can sit down, turn on, and instantly enjoy. To EA’s credit, what wasn’t broken was left intact, allowing the company to focus on new additions and tweaks that actually don’t detract from the gameplay. What’s great about this title is that the depth is there for those who really want to dig in deep and experience college football to the last minute detail, and for the rest of us who just want to play a nice game of football, those needs are met as well.
Amongst the new additions this year is the breakaway engine wherein players can easily break free of spin moves, stiff arms and other motions – and it doesn’t look or feel clunky. Indeed, EA has taken the time to get rid of a lot of the pre-programmed animations that the players would sometimes get locked into in the past and have made a much more realistic experience for gamers with super-fluid animations. This new look extends over into the entire game package, with more realistic on-field animations before, after, and between plays. And while some of the crowd animations are still looped, the stadiums look amazing and the action on the field looks as good as almost any you’d find on an actual game on TV.
Also new this year is Home Field Advantage, where players get to take the Quarterback Quiz. This occurs when your QB throws a pick. Immediately following the play, players will be asked what play the defense chose and will be given three choices from the playbook. Choose correctly, and your QB regains some composure. In addition, players are also able to pump up or silence the home team crowd on the fly, as well as “ice the kicker,” where a timeout can be called before the kicker attempts a critical field goal. Dig how the rumble feature in the controller then mimics the player’s heartbeat as he calms down before the big play.
EA really brings the game home to the online crowd this year with a terrific 12-player Dynasty mode, where you can duke it out with 11 other people through 60 seasons (if that’s your thing). Fans of fantasy football should really enjoy this feature, hammering out every nuance of the season, recruiting and trading players, and getting rid of others to make the perfect college team. Never has online football been so well represented or integrated into a game until now. Whether or not this year’s “Madden” entry will follow lead will have to be seen.
But wait, there’s more! Check out the cool integration of custom in-game music soundtracks (always a big plus), the super-sweet online roster file sharing feature, and a slew of mini games for when you want to take a break from the main attraction. Plus, for the first time, the team mascots are brought into the game. Not only do they interact with the crowd during regular games, but players can now play as the mascots themselves and duke it out with other freakish characters from any of the other teams. My Vandy Commodores completely slayed the Volunteers’ Smokeys. Mascots even get their own set of insane offensive moves such as side flips that make the feature more than just a silly novelty. It’s actually one of the coolest parts of this year’s game.
From top to bottom, “NCAA Football 09” is the game to own this year when it comes to throwing around the pigskin. NFL snobs should take notice and check it out. Just because it’s college ball doesn’t mean it’s not exciting. Besides, don’t you wanna bash some mascots around instead of Tom Brady or Brett Favre for a change? Sure you do! Kudos to EA for delivering a top notch football game that kept the core experience of last year’s title intact, while also applying a whole lot of fun and essential additions. This one’s definitely a must for any video game football fanatic.