|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|
by Jonathan Marx
It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, there's a nip in the air wait a minute, it's mid-July! Nevertheless, college football is already underway on your favorite home console. This year's NCAA Football by EA Sports brings everything we loved from last year's edition and throws in several touches that help bring the spirit and excitement of game day home. Of course, if you absolutely love the college football game you already own, there may not be a truly compelling reason to pick up this year's version. That said, I'm ecstatic that I've upgraded to NCAA Football 2009 (NCAA 09).
Veterans of EA Sports football titles will feel right at home with the control scheme and gameplay of NCAA 09. Establishing the run, finding open receivers, blitzing the QB, and picking off floaters are executed with the greatest of ease. A few interesting changes have been made, however. For starters, the new feinting and juking system feels much more realistic and fluid. Instead of being shackled to a frustrating move animation, players can now change direction and link moves together mid-stride in response to closing defenders and open holes. As a result, running the option, using draw plays, and hitting receivers on the numbers are even more devastating than ever before.
Second, calling a timeout doesn't just stop the clock. This year's interactive timeouts actually allow for a bit of simplified coaching to be done in the huddle on the sideline. After calling a timeout, a list of several coaching options will fire up specific players. In other words, if you know the opposition is going to run, you can tell your linemen to get a solid push at the line and they will actually get an ability boost when play resumes. Along those lines, you can also ice the opposition's kicker by calling a timeout in the waning minutes of the second and fourth quarters. This is loads of fun against buddies at home because the camera angle goes haywire, the controller starts vibrating, and the sound of a freshman heartbeat starts to thump. As fun as this was for me, I could see how some people would find it a bit gimmicky, as it can be a near controller-throwing affair when it happens to you.
I also really liked the new formation audible function. Like other years, players can change the play at the line if they think the defense has a read on their offense. What's different now is players can change the play without changing the formation. The result is that the opponent thinks they still have you read, but you've been able to completely change the tactic. Furthermore, bluff play art can be initiated at the line by accessing the Coach Cam. By pressing to the right, left, or up, dummy play schemes will be ghosted on the screen to try and throw off your opponent. If you do find yourself making bonehead offensive plays anyway (i.e. throwing floaters into double coverage), you will be subject to the all-new Quarterback Quiz. For example, after throwing an INT, a text dialog and graphics will pop up on the HUD and have you decide what play the defense called. If you choose correctly, then your QB will regain his confidence. If not, he'll feel rattled. These three new mechanics definitely enhance the football experience by making it a bit more rounded.
In addition to the new features, classic modes of play including Dynasty Mode, Campus Legend, Mini-Games, and even the Mascot Mash-Up are back and well accounted for. Subtle changes to these modes along with the improved environments and settings also help separate this title from its predecessors.
Dynasty Mode still allows players to take on their school(s) of choice as head coach and guide them to victory via deep recruiting tools, team management, and on-field prowess. This year's iteration of Dynasty Mode is essentially unchanged from last year's except for the enhanced recruiting features and the ability to take your dynasty online. Now, players can set an overall recruiting strategy by letting assistants handle the process and also make quicker, more streamlined calls to prospects in order to entice them to come to their program. These features definitely help to speed up the recruiting process while still giving players a somewhat hands-on feel.