Each year as the days begin to get warmer, I sit around and anticipate the arrival of my favorite sport. It has become tradition for me that when EA releases NCAA Football upon the world, I can officially start to get excited. College football has always taken a backseat to the powerhouse that is Madden, but each year the game tends to improve exponentially and continue to deliver the definitive college experience. This is made all the more impressive considering the developers really don’t even need to try seeing as they have no competition, but each year the game continues to capitalize on what makes it so good. NCAA Football 10 is no exception. The new modes are fantastic, the upgraded presentation is incredible and the online dynasty and team builder functionalities are enough to keep you playing this game all the way up until next year’s game arrives.
First let’s talk about the obvious: gameplay. NCAA Football has always been known for being more fast-paced than its professional counterpart, which is a good thing. College football has always had that sense of urgency as opposed to a more methodical approach. Tiburon has fine-crafted this year’s game to play smoother than any previous outing to date. When you first get into the game everything will feel strikingly familiar. All of the core components are still intact, but what they have done is made it more user-friendly and accessible than ever before. The first example of this is family play. Think of it as a dumbed-down control scheme where one button performs context sensitive actions. This may feel more appropriate on the Wii, but having it as an option in the other versions is certainly a welcome addition.
There are a ton of other subtleties that really enhance the gameplay. Running backs can now break tackles, and feeling the controller rumble right before your QB gets sacked, lets you focus a lot more on your passing game. From the minute I picked up the game I felt comfortable. Both sides of the ball are fun to play on, and now with player lock, which essentially allows you to lock your controls into a single defender, you can play the game from one perspective while letting the AI control the rest. There is definitely no shortage of tweaks and enhancements that make this the best college football game to date.
The new features for NCAA Football 10 are where the game shines though. When I first hear about Team Builder my interest was piqued. The ability to customize your very own team through a web browser, complete with uploading your own logo left the possibilities endless. As soon as I filled out a couple of forms to tell the game who I was, the creation began. The interface was simple, allowing you access to change your jerseys (both home and away as well as alternate colors), upload your logo and most importantly manage your roster. Being someone who loves customization in sports games, it was great being able to create my entire team with a keyboard and mouse, this simplified the process tenfold. It is also incredibly awesome that you can opt to share your team with the world, regardless of console.
The Road to Glory mode is almost like a television show hosted by Erin Andrews mind you, about your career from high school hero, to NFL prospect. This new mode is very similar to the old Campus Legend mode, but instead of generic clippings and stale backgrounds, the entire thing is presented in video form. The presentation is actually really well done, and you will quickly become engrossed into the experience. This really does a nice job of bringing the spirit of college football into the experience. If you enjoyed Madden’s single-position focus from last year, then you will likely enjoy this as well. The camera system has been greatly improved so you get a much better view of the action.
The biggest new addition though is easily Season Showdown. Here you can earn points for your favorite team and upload them into a giant pool located on the EA servers. Basically this is very much like the Battle for Earth mode found in the recently released Transformers game. Everyone picks their team, and each mode they play whether it be online, against the CPU or just about anything else, will garner them points. This mode was not online at the time of this review (it goes live August 31st), but it could easily become as addictive as fantasy football when it does land.
Outside of all of these new modes all of the favorites make a triumphant return. Dynasty allows you to take one or more teams through the entire season with more options and stat tracking than you will possibly ever use. The weekly headlines, training, workouts and updates from around the league are astonishing. This can also be played online and be set for as much as 60 years. Needless to say there is more than enough to keep you busy. I imported my created team into the Big Ten Conference in place of Ohio State, and so far things are fairly well integrated. I like the idea of being able to bring in custom teams to the league, and even let them participate in bowl games.
The online mode worked extremely well in our sessions, with little to no lag at all. The online dynasty may take you some time to find the right set of players, but once you do it really is a lot of fun. Local play is really where the game shines though, and if you are a master of the sticks there is nothing more satisfying than trash-talking face to face. NCAA Football 10 is not the end-all be-all of sports games, but it is easily the most refined version of the series to date on the next-gen consoles.
Visually the game looks great. There are a ton of new animations for every player such as the aforementioned tackle shedding, and even some new evasive maneuvers. The presentation has been given a major facelift with excellent stat overlays and the stadiums look better than ever. Crowds are still a sore spot; chock full of pixelated colors and substandard animations. The commentary was absolutely excellent. The announcers to a fantastic job of calling the game and the crowd noise and fight songs are spot-on this year. The presentation has been upgraded significantly making this the most polished version of the game to date.
NCAA Football 10 is no doubt the best college football game I have ever played. This year’s outing still doesn’t take the series to the next level like some were hoping it would (and it appears that Madden is doing), but it perfects the formula as much as possible. It would be incredibly hard to outdo this year’s game, and if the series doesn’t receive a reboot next year I imagine it will start to become stale. As it stands NCAA Football 10 is a must-have for fans of college football, and as I say each year, thank goodness it is almost football season.