|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jul. 15, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
But, the most important change to Dynasty is found in the online features. For the first time, players can join up with up to 11 other friends. Playing and recruiting against your buddies feels like an interactive fantasy league. Furthermore, progress you've made online or at home can be imported directly to an offline or online dynasty, respectively. This is an excellent feature that really integrates players' experiences and won't halt your progression if offline play has lost its luster or your friends have succumbed to your online mastery.
Disappointingly, Campus Legend mode hasn't seen any upgrades. Taking on a high school athlete midway through their senior season or creating one from scratch, getting them scholarships, make the transition to the college game and lifestyle, and then becoming a campus legend is still loads of fun and quite compelling, just don't expect any upgrades from last year.
I was surprised at just how good the Mini-Games mode is this time around. Familiar games include Option Dash, Bowling, and Tug of War. Option Dash has players start from their own 20 and awards them points for yards gained, touchdowns, pitching the ball, and keeping it. The object is to score as many points as you can in a two minute time limit. Bowling has players start at their opponent's 10 yard line. If you score on first down, you get a strike. If you score on second down, you get a spare. Anything else just gives you a single point for each yard gained. Tug of War is all about field position and starts with the ball at midfield. Each player is only given one down before the ball is turned over to the opposition. The first player to score a touchdown wins. The new featured mini-games include Horse and Special Teams Challenge. Horse pits kicker against kicker. You get to choose where to place the ball, if you make it, then the other player must make the kick or gain a letter. Similar to Tug of War, Special Teams Challenge gives each player one down to work with. The difference is that this down must be used to punt or kick a field goal. The first player to run one back or split the uprights wins. All these modes are very addictive and produce more than their fair share of thrills.
I've never really liked the Mascot Mash-Up mode. It seems kind of trite to play a standard game of football just with mascots rather than players. Thankfully, the developers must have felt the same way. These years's Mascot Mash-Up, excuse me - Coke Zero Mascot Mash-Up, has added in a bunch of crazy, almost Mario sports-like moves including flips that help bring a bit more levity and interest. Although, I doubt you'll play it more than once.
Presentation in EA Sports' NCAA Football titles has always been incredibly important. Happily, NCAA 09 follows suit and even improves upon previous offerings. The visuals are crisp and the animations are very fluid. The excellent rendering of stadiums, mascots, cheerleaders, and school-specific background art captures the spirit and pageantry of college football. Plus, the sounds and school fight songs make for some of the best audio in the entire industry. There really is nothing like a marching band to get you all riled up! Love 'em or hate 'em, Herbstreit, Nessler, and Corso lend a ton of authenticity. And this year, as an added bonus, you can actually set up custom stadium sounds. That means players can create playlists of their own music and set an in-game trigger for the sounds to begin playing. For example, after a score, a Colorado alumnus like me could plug in "Rough 'em, Rough 'em up, Go C.U.!" Are you beginning to see the possibilities?
When all is said and done, NCAA Football 09 is just the next game in a long line of great games. If you are content with the version you already have, then there isn't enough staggering new content to warrant an upgrade. However, this is the best game in the franchise to date, and I'm glad I made the switch.
CCC Editor / News Director