52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 29
NCAA Football 10
Release Date: July 14, 2009
Developer: EA Tiburon, EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Football is my favourite sport right after hockey. To be completely honest, I actually watched more football as a child than hockey. It’s only as a teenager did my interest in football wane. Having said this, it’s important to indicate that my preference for football is the faster paced CFL brand of football over the slow moving NFL slugs. I will not get in a debate between the two leagues, but needless to say that in the absence of a great CFL game, American college football is closest thing to the excitement and unpredictability of the CFL.
The visuals in NCAA Football 10 have improved slightly over the last offering. The field looks a little more realistic this time around. Subtle changes in lighting add more emotion to the game, but the biggest visual benefit comes from new animations. This time around everything appears to move a little more smoothly. There are still graphical glitches though. During the animation that occurs in between plays, football players will walk around with arms and legs clipping through each others body in an otherworldly mixture of body parts. Cheerleaders will also dazzle gamers with amazing feats of acrobatic skills in performing a triple twist while being projected through the air only to land and hover inches above the hands of their overly cheerful cohorts, even when behind by forty points in the final quarter. Not really a graphical problem, but before the game was patched, the names of some of the players were really odd. I had a running back called 0000. I am glad to say that this was corrected by the patch.
Sound quality is another factor that has changed very little. The hits, the plays, the fans are all starting to sound quite generic between titles. There is nothing here that stands out as unique to this title. This is neither a good nor bad thing, just something that could use some improvement. My real complaint is on the music. Returning once again is my college sports nemesis; the band music. When I was in college students listened to real music. I can understand the need to play band music when players are coming out on the field but there is no reason for it while navigating the menus. I am trying to edit players, and all I can hear are the sounds of plumbing equipment blaring through my head. Enough with the awful band music already. At least they allowed gamers the option to turn down the “music” while navigating menus. A better option would have been to just include some real music.
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The key to producing a good sports title is to allow the gamer the option to customize the game to their liking. NCAA Football 10 does allow for a lot of customization. The game allows for the creation of players, custom teams, uniforms etc...In fact, there is already user created CFL teams currently available for download. Now that is customization. In an interesting twist, team creation is not done on the console, but on a PC. The game ships with a code that allows gamers to download ten custom teams to their console. If ten teams are not enough, or the game was purchased used with no code, then the only option will be to purchase more codes for a fee of course. This is not the only place gamers will notice EA trying to milk extra money out of this title (more on that later). As I indicated previously, I like a faster paced game so I was very glad to see that the game does ship with plenty of sliders that will affect gameplay to allow me to speed up the game a bit. The core game rules cannot be tinkered though. There is no way to reduce the play-clock or the number of downs allowed, but the NCAA does use a twenty-five second play clock as opposed to the forty second play clock used in the NFL. Still five seconds too long, but I will take what I can get.
Gameplay wise NCAA Football 10 offers a very solid football experience. This version introduces a few new gameplay tweaks and additions to make playing the game easier for everyone. New features such as the Auto-Pass and Family Play were designed with novices in mind, while the Gameplanning and Set-up Plays will cater to the veteran footballers. Auto-pass does just what it says, once a snap has been taken, the quarterback will pass the ball to any open player automatically if no action is taken by the gamer. This is a great learning technique to allow novices to spot openings. If Auto-Passing is not enough, the Family Play settings will simplify the game even more. Under Family Play mode, all plays default to “Ask Corso” which tells the gamer the best play to select, and all catches are performed by the AI. The developers may have gone a little too far with this goal. I set the game to all default settings but I enabled “Family Play” and “Auto Pass” option then proceeded to play the entire BCS National Championship game by pressing only the A button to confirm my play selection, perform snaps and to initiate kicks. I never touched any other button or even the analog stick on the controller other than the A button. My team won the game 38 to 14.
The game offers plenty of play modes. There is the usual assortment of instant action, dynasty (online and offline) and the new Road to Glory mode. Calling Road to Glory mode new is a stretch as the mode is just a repackaged Campus Legend mode with the inclusion of American sports news reporter Erin Andrews. The mode is similar to the Pro Mode in the NHL and Madden series of games. In the Road to Glory mode, the gamer plays a single position for the duration on his college career. Once the player has achieved superstar status, he can then be imported into other game modes to continue the fun.
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NCAA Football 10 does introduce a very exciting new game mode called Season Showdown. In Season Showdown, gamers pick their favourite school/team. This choice can only be done once and cannot be changed after a selection has been made. Season Showdown is not just a new game mode, but also carries over to all other game modes. The mode rewards gamers for “playing the game the way it should be played” with points after each game for in-game actions. Throwing a touchdown pass or making an interception will reward the player with positive points, while unsportsmanlike game playing such as running up the score or performing an onside kick when in the lead will penalize the gamer. What makes Season Showdown so special is that all the scores from every player connected to Live (or Playstation Network) go towards the school/team’s total score. So a gamer’s poor decisions or performance will affect the community as a whole. Adding to the “play the game” attitude of NCAA Football 10, there are no Season Showdown points awarded for simulated games. This is a mode that really needs to be implemented in the NHL series. We could finally determine who Canada’s team is.
My biggest complaint about this game is EA’s shameless attempt to milk gamers out of extra money. The game hit new highs (or are these lows) of nickel & diming. At several occasions in the game, after a season for example, gamers are given the opportunity to purchase a team bonus for MS points. These bonuses are nothing more than keys that unlock “cheat” in the system. I think this could be a great marketing strategy if EA decided to sell a functional game stripped down game without any extras for $19.99 and then allowing gamers to choose what extra options they would like a-la-carte style for extra fees. But to charge $69.99 and then ask even more to cheat is just sad…so very sad.
All complaints aside, the game offers a great football playing experience for novices and experts alike.