(This review is for NCAA Football 09 for the Xbox 360 console. Gameplay may vary on other consoles.)
NCAA Football has been a franchise game produced by EA every year, and somehow, every year the game seems to make a small step backward in an attempt to make a small step forward. Before the release of NCAA Football 09 this year, many fans were already putting it in the same category as the past few releases that have prematurely put this version in its place. Sure, if you’re basing your assumptions off of last year’s NCAA Football 08, it’s understandable. But, after the release of NCAA Football 09 I would have to disagree with those assumptions. A lot of the reasons that caused me not to play my copy of NCAA Football 08 weekday to weekend simply don’t exist in this year’s version of NCAA Football.
I often found myself dulled by the graphics of NCAA Football 08, but they made a huge improvement over last year’s version. They changed the texture of the grass, made complete new player models, the football is even different. EA also opened it all up by adding in cheerleaders, which isn’t really a necessity, but it doesn’t help to witness a 5’8”-5’9” blonde launch into the air and hit a split while depending on her counter parts to catch her as she falls. The stadiums look much more improved and the sidelines are much more alive.
This year they decided to change the preseason menu, which was a plus. Instead of doing the first thing on the list, such as Preseason recruiting, you can skip down and do red shirted players if you want, or even do your own custom schedule. They also changed the recruiting system because they felt it was a little too comprehensive in last year’s NCAA Football 08, which some will definitely agree with that statement. This year, you’ll be glad to know, it’s a lot easier and I actually went through the process and recruited some players in about ten minutes. It will feel like NCAA Football 07’s recruiting system, but will have last year’s look to it. I was very impressed by it.
The game-play of NCAA Football 08 was a plus for me last year and it hasn’t changed this year. Only this year they’ve made the players a little more responsive, I wouldn’t say enough to wow anyone though. The catching engine is different. You can do bobble catches and catch tipped balls. The connection between the receiver and your control is a little more sturdier, meaning you feel more like you’re on the field than sitting in your gaming chair at home. The fluidity of the tackling system is a lot better as well, as you’ll notice sometimes when making a tackle you’ll almost break the ball carrier’s leg or your hand will snag on to his shoulder pad and will slam the ball carrier to the ground. Passing is a little bit easier this year and it’s more accurate this year, but you still have to be aware of linebacker spies and zone coverage. They also upped the zone coverage which is something that has been kind of weak the past few years, but many will agree that the man coverage took a loss on this year’s NCAA Football 09. You’ll often have a guy double teamed or even three of your guys will be right there, but somehow the receiver will still come down with the ball. The running engine is different but depending on how you usually set up your controls, it might take some time getting use to it.
There were only a few things I could really point out that I didn’t like about this year’s NCAA Football 09. Firstly, the user settings should be user settings, not half user settings and the rest CPU. That just doesn’t make sense, at all. You can change your controls, but half of the buttons that you might want to use won’t be available for you to use. For instance, I like to switch players by pressing the “A” button because it’s the easiest to access. Well in one of the categories, i.e. Defense Engaged, you can’t select the “A” button to switch between players because the “A” button is currently being used by something pre-programmed. So you’ll often find yourself trying to switch between players with the wrong button. But, if you want to be fare about it, that’s something a gamer can get use to, especially if the gamer has been playing this franchise game for the past few years. Secondly, after I kicked the ball off in my first game and played the first down, I got a pick-six, which seems to happen a lot. Also, another thing that kind of caught my eye was the simple fact that you can’t change your players weight. Usually after you start a dynasty you can go into Team Management and it will allow you to change the players name, jersey number, height, weight and so forth. Well this year they decided not to allow you to change your player’s height for some reason, which just kind of seemed weird to me. And also, on the display HUD during a game, it doesn’t tell you where the ball is. They also should’ve brought back the ESPN broadcast presentation. What’s the purpose of having the license to ESPN and not using it?
All in all, the presentation is well done. You’ve got Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit commentating once again. The lighting has changed, which is what I ultimately believe is the one thing that gives a boost to the presentation and realism of the game, along with sound. With sound this year, I think EA decided to take a vacation on, because the only thing, sound wise, that changed was the referee when he calls out penalties. The player models really pop out at you and aren’t just shiny. Although, they haven’t really gotten the skin texture down just yet, they’ve made extremely great improvements over last year’s version of the game. It’ll have great replay value, as most sports games do, this one is no exception. Plus, they’ve got the returning Campus Legend mode and Mini Games, along with new Mini Games that really intrigued me as well, such as H.O.R.S.E. This year’s NCAA Football 09 is a definite upgrade over last year’s NCAA Football 08 and it’s strongly recommended that you trade in your ‘08 version for this year’s ‘09 version.
Too many pick-sixes.
No ability to change all of controls.
Onscreen HUD lacking game time realism.
Revamped defensive system.
Passing game is easier.
New Online Dynasty mode.
(After some getting use to) the new running engine.
Lasting Appeal: 8.5
Overall Score: 8.5