|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||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: July 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|
by Pete Richards
May 7, 2008 - There are a few good reasons why NCAA Football 09 is one of the most anticipated sports games of the near future - and its first-ever online Dynasty Mode is definitely at the top. EA is doing a good job fanning the flames, with a marketing strategy that will feature different cover athletes on the packaging for each console platform.
The PS3 will feature Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan; the 360 will sport University of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden; Michigan State mascot Sparty will grace the cover of the Wii version; California Bears wide receiver DeSean Jackson is on the PS2; and West Virginia runningback Owen Schmitt will be on the PSP.
Without a doubt, the biggest draw to the game will be its online Dynasty Mode, which will be the first for any EA Sports title. Up to 12 people will be able to compete together with opposing dynasties and play for up to 60 seasons. Players will be able to create their own dynasty and manage every aspect of it from recruiting new players to arranging your game, practice schedules and win game after game online. What's interesting about the way the online Dynasty Mode will be set up is you can play with fellow gamers against teams in the same conference or play teams from other conferences as well. While playing online, you may be pinned against the CPU for certain games depending on your schedule. This type of game won't be much different from playing offline if you are playing solo, but when it's time to face another player, you will go head-to-head against rival GMs as you try to build your empires.
But along with an online Dynasty Mode comes a number of possible complications. How will the league keep moving when all players aren't spending equal time playing? What if some players continue to restart losing games against the CPU to gain an unfair advantage? Not a problem, says EA. As part of the engine, a commissioner will be assigned to each league, ensuring that things are progressing steadily and fairly. He will be aware if one player is shutting his system off to avoid a loss against the CPU and will serve a penalty. And because the league needs to keep moving from week-to-week by all players, the commissioner will force certain players' progress if it is needed by simming through parts of the schedule.
As Executive Producer Jeremy Strauser stated, "From enhanced gameplay and presentation to our online Dynasty Mode offering - the only franchise mode online for EA Sports, we feel that this will be a standout product accurately reflecting the college football experience and also captures the true emotion of football on Saturdays."
Of course part of what makes NCAA games great is the ability to capture the college atmosphere, and from the looks of things Football 09 has definitely done that. The recently released game preview shows an incredible stadium flooded with students dressed in the same colors, screaming wildly with inspirational rally music full-volume. All of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools are featured in the game with their own stadiums, colors, cheerleaders, and mascots, which can be seen along the sidelines throughout a game. The game will feature a new lighting system that emphasizes shadow effects visible on the field, and EA claims special attention has been given the field, with upgrades to make the grass remarkably true-to-life. Gamers will also have the option to customize their home stadium further by adding MP3s into the game to play as your team's theme music.
Whether or not you have home field advantage will have a serious effect on how you will play the game. Crowd presence and noise will aid the home team while distracting and intimidating the opposing team. Players will be able to excite their crowd as much as possible after scoring a touchdown by running to the sidelines and performing signature moves and interacting with the mascot. However, whether you choose to do so at home or away will have different effects, as choosing to taunt an opposing mascot could rub fans the wrong way and work against you.
A player's ability to maintain composure will be a crucial element to on-field gameplay. Quarterbacks can crack under pressure, and this has devastating effects on his team's success as he heaves bad passes open to be picked off. The worse he does, the more he loses his composure, making his on-field queues and markers tremble to make accurate passing even more difficult. By distinguishing this as a college football game and not a Madden title, EA has gone to lengths to incorporate the feeling of what it is like as a young player to step onto an opponent's field. Losing composure quickly can have detrimental effects, though the game will give shook players plenty of opportunity to regain it. For instance, if you accidentally throw a pick, a mini-game of sorts will help you regain confidence. You will be given the opportunity to choose from seven different photos of your opponent's defensive setup. If you choose the correct setup they used when they intercepted your pass, your composure will regain slightly. If you guess it wrong, however, it will drop even further.
As for button setup, don't expect too many changes from 08 to 09. One thing they have added is a shuffle step to maneuver past defenders by flicking the analog to either side. For the most part, EA has concentrated on adding new animations to the game. It will feature an all-new Break Away Animation Engine, allowing gamers to have more direct control of their player to break in and out of moves on both offense and defense. It will aid in breaking free of tackles smoothly while creating and finding open space to run with the ball. New animations for bobble catches and interceptions are designed to flow smoothly with the gameplay as well as the game runs on a smooth 60 frames per second.
There are a few bonus mini-games that will be featured including Horse and Special Team Challenge, as well as the wildly entertaining Mascot Mode. EA has made the Mascot Mode as ridiculous as ever in Football 09, as the mascots have been given cartoon-like moves with abilities to flip over opponents and perform unreal stunts.
With a strong focus on its online Dynasty Mode, NCAA Football 09 is sure to attract students and football fans across the nation as they battle against other diehards. With what seems to be only an improvement of NCAA Football 08 with a few added gameplay functions, additional animations, and improved graphics, it's a safe bet that the game will live up to its hype.
CCC Freelance Writer