|System: X360, PS3, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 13, 2010||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|
by Leon Hendrix III
April 23, 2010 - It's a busy time for the college sports world, in particular, NCAA Football. The NFL draft is probably the most anticipated event in the entirety of the college season. The drama of rising and falling potential-pro player stocks is hard to ignore. Only a day into the 2010 draft the sports page is all atwitter with the news of the remaining top ten prospects (that is to say all of them) and all of the players still sitting on the edge of their seats. There is a lot to be excited about and EA couldn't have picked a better time to have their fall preview kick-off event then this past Wednesday.
Cheat Code Central got a chance to go hands-on with the publisher/developer's new entry in the perennial college football powerhouse, NCAA Football 2010. And what a handful it was. The time I spent playing was short, but there was a lot to talk about. I was accompanied by one of the developers from the NCAA team as I played through an exhibition match-up. The first thing I noticed-likely because I stepped in at the end of another demo-was the special teams' kick meter, unchanged from last year's entry. The designer assured me that the team had examined offense closely for NCAA 11, but the sometimes frustrating mechanic would return. Bummer for some players, but the clouds quickly turned silver. From there we went on to the biggest gameplay tweaks for NCAA 11: lighting, locomotion, and the 120 Ways to Win.
When you first boot up your copy of NCAA 11 for that right-out-o-the-box exhibition match-up, you will notice things look a bit more realistic. Helmets have that realistic, Saturday morning sheen, skies look like they were pulled right from the great outdoors, and the arenas seem to buzz with real college fans. That's self-shadowing and linear lighting at work. Those ten dollar words are EA's new terms for the tech behind their outstanding new visuals. I was told the game was pretty close to shipping quality, and, let me tell you, you won't be disappointed by the look of this game. Apparently the use of self-shadowing allows players, goal posts, helmets, etc. to realistically shade themselves based on the location of the light sources in the arena. All together the result is an amount of visual depth we haven't been able to experience and what might be the first truly HD worthy output in the NCAA world. Trust me, it was worth the wait.
But pretty bows do not a good package make. Luckily, EA's been spending its downtime wisely and has almost entirely revamped the way you play the game. Locomotion was a big focus for the development team, and from my time with the game I'd say they split the uprights on this one. You remember all those complaints you had in the past about god-like running backs changing direction without losing a single step? How about the awkward feeling of watching four defenders get up after a play and do the Madden 2005 Square shoulder shuffle to the huddle? A thing of the past if my game was any indication. Players move independently of their teammates, cheering or rolling up off the turf after plays. Breakaway runs have much longer animation cycles and no longer look like one of those editing reels missing a few frames. Players on both sides take longer to accelerate and change directions. Players really react to hits, and real world rules of physics seem to have much more say in NCAA 2011. It's an amazing thing to consider considering given the relatively good games EA has delivered in the past, but this system is head and shoulders above its predecessors. It extends to almost every aspect of your movements on the field, and you'll notice it the moment you lean forward to fight for that extra yard or take a tip-toeing back out of his cleats. This is what a football game should look like.
In NCAA 11, all the evasive moves of your ball carrier have been mapped to the right thumbstick. This may seem like a relatively small change. You might even argue, as I did, that NCAA has done this before, but oh how wrong you'd be. Unlike in previous incarnations of the 'locomotion stick' (I'm not sure there was a name for this feature yet) simple jukes, truck moves, and stutter steps aren't the only trick EA has up its sleeve. This may be the closest EA has ever brought us to the game before. The locomotion stick is almost an extension of you. In the past, there seemed to be an unseen dice roll determining your ability to evade defenders or tackle a runner. You pressed left juke and if you're halfback was faster or stronger than the defender you juked or trucked him. In NCAA 11, you're not limited to a few canned animations; every twist, spin, and juke you can think of can be executed simply by motioning the stick the way you want to move. Stutter step right then spin left; juke left twice then cut up field; it's all within your power as the player and it feels amazing on the field. It's clear that speed, strength, acceleration, etc. are still a factor, but this year it's going to be much more difficult to say the opponent was destined to make that hit, or break that tackle.
EA is definitely putting the onus on players to determine their destiny this year. Gameplan will return this year and allow players to play several aspects of their offense and defense - from defending passes to blocking on the line - as aggressively or conservatively as they'd like with a risk-reward system that will be familiar to fans of NCAA 2010. Players' strategy will work hand in hand with EA's 120 Ways to Win. The brand new feature will bring more authentic college football offenses to the game that will mirror the very unique world of college football. I didn't have a chance to examine the feature, but gamers can likely expect the NCAA team to put their own spin on a system, something like what we saw in NCAA College Basketball 2010, complete with all the hooks, ladders, and pitch options you'd never see in the pros.
As our time with the game drew to a close, the NCAA rep teased a few additional features for the July release. Online dynasty, online head to head, teambuilder teams will all return, and players will be able to take two teambuilder teams online to play head to head for the first time this year. It wasn't on display a whole lot, but the new ESPN license definitely adds a new flavor to the mix as well with all new graphics and score displays. There was talk of a few new modes, but for now EA is remaining hush-hush. Three months and counting.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer