A Football Blitz
Baseball may be as American as apple pie, but football certainly doesn’t take a backseat when it comes to pleasing sports fans. EA Sports has, of course, taken the forefront in terms of serving up key franchises on gaming consoles, and we’re now due for NCAA Football 10. We jump into the frantic life of college ball and report back with its GPA.
If there’s one thing fans can’t complain about with this latest NCAA offering, it’s the breadth of options. Players will get a smorgasbord of tantalizing gameplay, and there’s tons of variation from mode to mode. The overall game has also seen a few minor tweaks, though it’s not likely to win any awards for innovation.
Upon loading up the game for the first time, one thing that may take PS2 owners by surprise is the memory requirement for saving your progress. Chances are you’ll need a dedicated memory card, as NCAA 10 demands a whopping 2100 kilobytes of space. Once you manage to get over that hurdle, though, it’s on to the gameplay.
Unless you’ve played EA Sports football games routinely throughout the years, it may be a bit daunting when deciding where to begin. The menu options range from Play Now (quick play), to Family Play, and the presentation offers no direction or clear descriptions of what each option offers.
After a bit of investigation, however, we discovered what seemed to be NCAA’s main, single-player offering: Road to Glory. This game mode tasks you with creating a player, picking a school to attend, and a position to play. You’ll also be asked to pick a study major, which plays into the game’s twist on a simulation.
College life begins in your dorm, and it’s the hub throughout your journey toward professional stardom. From your room you can read fan mail, check rankings and other goings on in the college-sports world, gaze upon your trophies, and rip through your itinerary. Games routinely take place once at the end of each week, but you’ll likely want to utilize downtime in order to catch up on school work and practice your football chops. We chose English as our major, so studying was something that occupied a good portion of our off days. Unfortunately, there’s no real challenge with respect to what major you choose, and the option is really only there to allow you to learn various trivia.
In addition to concentrating on scholastics, you’ll also want to spread your time between social events and drills. Socials are another hollow addition that you “sim” through (meaning you merely press the X button and results are given), though not participating can lower your popularity. Drills, however, are a very welcome addition to Road to Glory that not only serve to break up the other gameplay components, but they also teach you the ropes and keep you on your game.
Once you pick your play position, you’ll concentrate on that one area throughout Road to Glory. It’s limiting, sure, but it’s also a neat focus that will allow players to perfect a particular position. Games are nice, short chunks of football entertainment, and playing from the many different perspectives is guaranteed to offer unlimited replay value. Unfortunately, the actual presentation is shallow, and the work week is repetitive. We like the idea of a college-football sim, but EA Sports just doesn’t take it far enough here. If you’re supposed to spend your evening out on a date, give us a short piece of gameplay or cutscene to accompany that. Choosing your major should also come with its own set of unique challenges, rather than simply forcing players to eat up random bites of information.
Though Road to Glory may be the main attraction here, new players will likely be better served by checking out the Mascot Challenge first. It’s here where you’ll learn the mechanics of gameplay, as well as receive instruction on various plays and how they work. Many folks may enjoy watching a good game of football, but not everyone is studied in the art of plays and audibles. Mascot Challenge is actually broken up into four different challenges, and it will walk you through all the basics of NCAA Football 10.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, there’s tons more to enjoy with this package. Road to Glory isn’t the only single-player option worth checking out, and Dynasty Mode offers a level of depth that’s sure to be mindboggling for newcomers. You can set work through your play week, do all the behind-the-scenes tasks at the “Coach’s Desk,” and even keep your finger to the college-football pulse via ESPN magazine. It’s a cornucopia of goodness diehard football fans can slowly savor.
EA Sports hasn’t forgotten about the casual player, however, and Family Play offers an experience akin to video-game football from the good ‘ole days of the SEGA Genesis. Controls are simplified, and the gameplay is a bit more straightforward, offering play and audible options that are easier to digest.
Rounding out the package is a Features menu that allows players to create their own custom plays and audibles, create custom schools and players, as well as design original sign posts the audience can display during mid-play cutscenes – and yes, the game allows you to enter in whatever expletives you so desire.
Though the NCAA 10 package is weighty and enjoyable, the game also has its share of quirks. For one, “juking” with the right analog stick is clunky and considerably unresponsive. There’s also no real way to aim the direction of a quarterback’s throw during games, though you’re instructed to do so in one of the practice drills. You’ll, therefore, have to rely solely on timing your passes alongside the set formation of a particular play. Lastly, the game takes away quarterback control during most running plays, and it’s a double-edge sword that both helps make for a more streamlined play but can also be disorienting as you’re forced to quickly determine who now has the ball.
Visually, NCAA 10 on PS2 does a good job of offering players an authentic football experience. The character models exhibit a decent level of detail, and their movement is fluid and realistic, sans a few rough cut-off points at the end of each animation. The grass looks good, but crowds and stands are pretty bland. The main distraction is background shimmer, which is a hard reality to go back to in this current generation of consoles. Cinematic cuts and pans, however, go a long way to making the experience feel real and exciting.
The aural presentation fares a good deal better, however, and the announcers during games are a real treat. Some games offer only a single announcer for a more authentic college vibe, but other times you’ll get the full-on show, with various talking heads from ESPN. Rarely will you notice the same lines repeated, and the commentary is always on point with whatever happens to be going on in-game at that particular moment. The music and cheering sounds, too, fit nicely within the college-ball package on offer here, and though it’s difficult for the aged PS2 technology to rise to the occasion, you’ll still get a game that’s easy to love.
NCAA Football 10 is no revolution in video-game football, but it’s a very solid package with plenty of meat to spare. The fact that EA Sports even saw fit to add online play for this version shows they were serious about giving everyone value for their money. There are some quirks and a few missed opportunities, but on the whole, it’s a worthy sequel to this now-revered franchise.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
That signature PS2 shimmer is present much of the time, but solid character animations, cinematic cuts and pans, and great play angles all make this an exciting game of football. 4.0 Control
There’s a healthy learning curve for newcomers, even with the aid of drills. The juke control, too, isn’t as responsive as we would have liked. Still, it’s a solid and very enjoyable game. Lack of rumble feedback is missed. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music might not be everyone’s bag, but college-football fans should eat it up. The commentators, however, are the real stars of the audio package. Great work! 4.3 Play Value
There are tons of great options, right down to the ability to play ball as school mascots. The Road to Glory is a great premise, though it’s also admittedly shallow and repetitive. In the end, however, EA Sports threw in everything, including the kitchen sink. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.