Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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This week's topic: EA Sports' NCAA Football Series

Recently, ESPN.com chronicled the complete history of the ever-popular Madden video game series. What the article doesn't mention is the fact that the college version (simply titled NCAA Football) has also enjoyed a more than successful run. So, I decided to take a look at the history of this game, and how it has evolved....

1. Let's group all of the SNES/Sega Genesis versions into one: Bill Walsh College Football, Bill Walsh College Football '95, College Football USA 96 and 97. Here is what you need to know: the developers spent about as much time making these games as Mike Price did coaching Alabama. I can speak from personal experience on College Football USA '97. I mean, the ONLY redeeming quality about this game is that you might be able to use the game cartridge to balance out a wobbly table. That's about it. Horrible graphics, horrible gameplay. Just horrible all-around.

2. NCAA Football '98 -- Now we're getting somewhere. This was the first of the series to appear on the Playstation console; 3-d graphics. Accurate rosters. Very good gameplay. It even features a dynasty mode where you can play multiple seasons in a row. Not perfect but at the time it was like Leonardo's lost invention. (It's follow-up NCAA Football '99 (which I had) was generally the same with a few added features. NCAA Football 2000/2001 featured a graphics change and was generally an improvement, especially when running the option).

3. NCAA Football 2002 -- Now we're talking flat out jaw-dropping stuff. This was the first release for the Playstation 2 and needless to say, it had quite an impact. In addition to the massive graphics upgrade, the playbooks were more complex, the uniforms were more detailed, and well, it was just pretty addicting stuff. (It's follow-up, NCAA Football 2003 was pretty much the same, with a few added features.)

4. NCAA Football 2004 -- Two big additions in this game: 1) online play. You could actually play against another person online! Ridiculous! 2) another feature I liked -- College classics -- in which you could try and recreate endings to classic real-life games played over the years. (NCAA FB 2005-2007 featured a few new features but nothing spectacular.)

5. NCAA Football 2008 -- Another big release. This was the first edition to be featured on the Playstation 3 and XBox 360. Gotta be honest here...this game wasn't quite what I was expecting. The gameplay was a little slow/choppy. The graphics improvements were noticeably but not staggering. In my opinion, a very disappointing first release for the new consoles.

6. NCAA Football 2009 -- Much improved from the previous version. The gameplay was more crisp, and thus, this was a much more enjoyable release than '08. This also featured an all new 'Online Dynasty Play'. In addition, this was the first year the game was featured on Nintendo Wii. Generally however, the Wii version got mediocre reviews.

7. NCAA Football '10 -- ....and so long for the Wii version. Guess it really didn't fly off the shelves. By this time there were even more complex online features; you could actually update the rosters online through the console itself (This was really important because on one of these versions they completely omitted Rennie Curran from the game).

8. NCAA Football'11 -- The newest release of the game. Judging by some of the reviews, it is also the best release on the new generations of consoles. The online dynasty mode basically gives each league its own website, in which you can recruit players and talk smack from your PC or idevices. Just ridiculous.

I really don't know what new features they can possibly think of....but I have a few suggestions:

  • ability to cheat during recruiting; this would allow you to get better players while also trying to avoid investigations from the NCAA. Great fun
  • ability to let your players use illegal drugs to enhance their playing ability; sure, you may get suspended, but that's part of the fun!
  • okay, this one is much more practical; ability to hire/fire coordinators. Imagine, if another school hired away your offensive coordinator -- you would have to either find someone else to run the same offense, or hire a new OC and thus a new offense. How can this idea go wrong!
But I guess they have guys who think of these things. Oh well, maybe one day we will be able to give SMU a 'cyber death penalty' just for old-times sake!

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