It’s that time again folks, time for the band to march, the mascots to go wild, and for you to finally have some good sports to watch on Saturday, well at least on the video game. NCAA Football 10 by EA Sports is the warm up for Madden, and while this year’s version is better than last years there are still just some things missing.
The biggest thing in NCAA Football 10 this year seems to be enriching the gaming experience, though not necessarily through direct improvements to gameplay. NCAA Football 10 features several new things, one of the biggest is TeamBuilder. TeamBuilder is a web-based create-a-school feature that allows anyone with Internet access to log on to teambuilder.easports.com to create and share schools with the rest of the NCAA Football 10 community. These created schools can be downloaded in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of NCAA Football 10 and can be used in Play Now, Dynasty, and Online Dynasty modes. I have to say that I really like TeamBuilder, I spent hours creating my beloved Claflin Panthers (type Claflin) in the mold of what I thought our football team would look like if we had one. The TeamBuilder feature is very robust allowing you to customize every aspect of your team from your roster and player ratings to what logo appears in the end zone. After importing my team into NCAA Football 10, I started a Dynasty with them and pretty much everything works like its supposed too. The only thing I found and its a tiny glitch, but the chearleaders don’t wear your school colors, they just have on the default blue and white. I am sure this glitch will be fixed with the first patch whenever it comes out.
Usually I am a Dynasty nut, preferring to take on all the nuisances of running a college team but this year I tried something different. This year I decided to really give the Road To Glory mode a shot and I must admit that I am pleasantly surprised. If my memory servers me correctly, this isn’t the first time the mode has appeared in the game (used to be Campus Legend) but this is the best I have seen it done to date. You start off by configuring your player and your school and then you are dumped head on into the High School Playoffs. The High School Playoffs are your chance to shine and more importantly impress the scouts because how you perform when the scouts are there will determine how you are rated and if you get any scholarship offers. I created a RB and took my team all the way to the State Championship only to lose a heartbreaker with my team’s receiver being tackled at the 2 yard line on what would have been the game winning pass (oh the agony). But no time to dwell, I needed to pick a school and while I flirted with a lot of other spots I ultimately took a 5th string spot on my home state Georgia Bulldogs. From their my Road To Glory began as I moved up the depth chart, kept my grades up, and watched my latest highlights every week delivered by Erin Andrews.
The next thing I want to talk about is Dynasty mode. For the most part nothing has changed, but there are a few new additions. For me I love to recruit and they have made it even easier to effectively recruit and counter recruit. That’s right you can now recruit against your prospects’ other favorite teams in an attempt to sway them even more. The system that is used to show you what is effective is mostly the same but much easier to quickly tell what pitch is working by looking at how big the (+) number is under the recruits interest level.
This year there are also some other tools called Dynasty Accelerators you can use to improve your recruiting success but they are going to cost you. Now some people will say that this allows you to pay to win but I say if someone wants to pay a few bucks to improve their game experience then so be it, though I am concerned that once you buy them once they then apply to all Dynasties you have after that both the regular and online flavors. Online Dynasties is where I see a potential for problems, I mean if one of your friends buys all the Dynasty accelerators they would have a real advantage over someone who hasn’t but I suppose that is only a minor issue.
Oh yeah I forgot to mention Online Dynasties, now you can share the experience with a group of your closest friends and fight each other for recruits and battle to be the best school in the nation. There are several Dynasty accelerators including Recruiting Advisor, Coaching Seminar, Toughest Places to Play Boost, School Pitches Improvements, Maximum Player Training, Unlock all Promises, Pipeline State Addition, and Recruiting Reports. They can all be purchased and installed while in your Dynasty, so it doesn’t require you to leave your Dynasty at all as it writes to the game file and updates it in real time, a nice touch we might add. So often in games when you buy DLC either you can’t buy it in game or you can trigger it in game but then it takes you out of the game to actually buy it and install it, so while I am not a big DLC buyer this to me is the best way I have seen it done and hope more developers take a cue from EA on this one, it all needs to be seamless to the gamer. All in all recruiting is much more simple and easy to execute effectively than in past versions.
That brings me to Season Showdown. Season Showdown is a four month long meta-competition where fans battle against one another to prove whose school is #1. The season culminates in the first-ever Season Showdown Championship. Earn credits for your favorite school by competing online or against the CPU, or you can earn credits during web-based games, including the all-new EA SPORTS Trivia Challenge. The Season Showdown feature is similar to just a plain old season mode except for the components that allow you to build points for your school in the pursuit of the first ever SSC.
NCAA Football 10 succeeds in being a better product than last year but still is not quite as good as it could have been. I think that the biggest flaw in NCAA Football 10 is that there are too many things to do. There is Road To Glory, Dynasty, and Season Showdown and while each has its pros and cons, the problem is that no matter how much you like NCAA 10, there is no way you could hope to do all three and make any kind of meaningful progress on any of them so you will be forced to choose. Then there is the running game which is more than a little bit shaky, let’s just say I have seen some backs on some pretty bad teams pull off plays that made them look like Barry Sanders. They also changed the special moves for defensive linemen from R1 and L1, to left and right on the right analog stick. I understand that EA is trying to incorporate the analog stick into more of their games and Fight Night Round 4 was a great example of that but I would have preferred to keep my buttons on this one. You will also notice that if you press R2 close to the snap it flips the screen around so you see it from your perspective, its kinda of cool the first time you see it but after a while you realize it doesn’t actually improve your ability to play, its actually very disorienting.
The final stat sheet on NCAA Football 10 is that it is a really good game (the demo doesn’t do it justice), with a lot of innovative features just not enough of those have anything to do with the actual gameplay. This year you have the ability to use assign custom sounds for certain activities on the game, such as when you score a touchdown. The sounds come from the music on your harddrive, you assign whatever song you want and when that action happens anytime during the game for you the song will play. This is kinda cool, I mean as far as I know there hasn’t been another game that has been done this yet, access the PS3 hardrive to grab music data and play it in game. This is of course something that the Xbox 360 has always been able to do but by displaying this capability to be able to play snippets off the harddrive, it leads me to the question of what is really stopping developers from now being able to allow you to play the entire song and/or a playlist while you are playing. So ZKG is asking the question, how long will it be before PS3 owners will be able to do what Xbox 360 owners have been able to do from the jump, it appears the foundation has been set, heck that might have been a little of what was in update 2.80. Anyway make sure you check out custom sounds, just don’t set it for first downs, I learned the hard way you will get aggravated with it fast. Season Showdown and TeamBuilder are both excellent concepts each of which seems to have been pulled of with great precision, though it seems like they might have spent so much time on those features that they didn’t put as much work into improving the core gameplay enough. It seems like they had a lot of different concepts that they wanted to get out and instead of cutting one out, they kept them all in and that might not have been the best thing to do. While I do wish they would have put just a little more time and energy into improving some core gameplay mechanics I do feel like the game is much cleaner and a lot more fun to play than last year and because of that we give NCAA Football 10 by EA Sports an 8 out 10.