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NCAA Football 10


The Premise

EA Sports games are one of those series’ that doesn’t need a lot of introduction. They are a familiar site on store shelves and in the collections of sports gamers; although for the past decade, they are often deemed inferior to competitors (i.e. the 2K series) or only worth getting every other year. This year’s edition of EAs take on college football, “NCAA Football 10” fortunately stands as a solid entry, however, the new features designed to give gamers more variety don’t come without problems.


Gameplay

In terms of major new additions to the game, online play is a huge factor in all. Teambuilder is a very robust team creator tool; however, in order to curb resale of the game, access of this feature is limited to online users only who either have an unused code from the manual or wish to purchase slots for a nominal fee through the marketplace. This is by far the biggest problem with this game. I can understand EA not wanting a lot of used sales, but to tie a function such as a Teambuilder to online only play is dirty pool. While an offline only player wouldn’t get the full benefit out of this function (i.e. the ability to upload custom logos for import and design uniforms), there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to make a basic “create-a-team.” This complaint aside, the feature is a nice expansion of the classic “create-a-team” mode, especially with the ability to import other teams made by other users (for instance I was able to import a custom made version of my alma mater, which is not a big enough team to be included in the regular game).

Road to Glory is a more individualized career mode. Instead of managing a complete team (still available in the fantastic Dynasty Mode), you get to make your own football star and follow them through their college career. It’s not an earth shattering addition, but a nice diversion from regular, familiar game modes.

One new feature, the Coke Zero Season Showdown is another attempt to branch out at creating a more competitive online community. Players are given one chance to pick a team to track through the actual upcoming NCAA Football season and earn points towards making that team the most dominant overall. Points are earned through playing games offline and online, good sportsmanship (i.e. punting on the fourth down), and general trivia. The game definitely does a good job at hyping up the real-time aspect that is supposed to be activated once the season begins, but how good the mode will still have to be decided.

Dynasty Mode however, was the place where the game personally hooked me. There is a lot of depth to this mode (recruiting, training, coaching, etc) and I had a blast going through five full seasons over the course of a few days. A nice touch at the end of each in-game season, is the option to export players drafted to the NFL in game to a save file for Madden 10. Hardcore fans could definitely lose many hours here and the game makers realized that, as one major achievement is to control a 60-year dynasty.

Last but not least, is the core gameplay itself. It’s a football game, and quite a solid one at that. I didn’t spot many major innovations from the past couple years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As it stands, the controls are solid, once you manage to understand them all. New players should be prepared for a steep learning curve, as things have come light years from one-button passing and catching (although the added Family Play mode allows for casual players to have fun with simplified controls), but once they master them, games should be fun, provided you have a good opponent.

The AI in the game is still a far cry from even an average human player and online play can be frustrating if your opponent as a crummy connection, but by and large, online experiences were solid and I only encountered one or two “cheap” players. Most of all, the depth for calling plays on the fly and changing your game plan is all implemented well and is appreciated for adding the ability to keep your opponent guessing, as they should be.


Graphics and Sound

Graphically, the game is solid, although things haven’t greatly been improved from the previous year. Character models are the standout, with crowds still looking inferior. Animations are smooth and I don’t remember any critical frame rate drops. The sound department though really brings the big game atmosphere to life with crowd noise, the bands playing, the PA system in full effect, and the announcers doing an admirable job at not sounding too canned.

Closing Thoughts

”NCAA Football 10” isn’t an earth shattering game, but is still very, very fun. For someone like myself who never watches football at all, it does a great job at sucking me in to the experience and leaving me thoroughly entertained. There is a lot to do here and it will take quite some time to burn through all the new features. Dynasty Mode is easily the most fun non-standard aspect of the game, and if EA can manage to enhance it next year, I could easily see picking up a copy of 11 without hesitation. Highly Recommended.