"The best college football sim on the market strikes gold again."

So. You've been screaming, tearing your hair out and going on frequent killing sprees waiting for NCAA Football 2004. Okay, so perhaps you're not quite as psychotic as I am, but the Robin to EA's Batman Madden game, NCAA Football, is the first fall sports game released by EA so far this year. So let's get on with it already!



Gameplay -- 9.5/10

I rarely add any 0.5's onto anything's score, but the gameplay in this game is near perfect, with only a few tweaks that could have been game. The good stuff first: everything about football in this game has been improved over last year's game; the plays are more realistic, there are a wider variety of catches and tackles, the quarterback has more realistic body movements, the list goes on and on. They really have brought the excitement of Saturdays to the PlayStation2 this time. Of course, there's now an ''excessive celebration'' penalty, but the punishment isn't too harsh anyway, as you may or may not already know.
Next, moving on to the acclaimed Dynasty Mode, it is essentially the same, except for the addition of those snazzy Sports Illustrated magazines that come out each week, with a headliner upset or nail-biter result in that week's schedule of games. Open up your copy of SI, and find Top 25 rankings, bowl rankings, Heisman and other award finalists, conference standings, and later in the season, you'll find bowl predictions. You also don't have to constantly check back to the main screen to see the cover; they're stored in an archive throughout the season.
With the Exhibition mode that is usually unchanged each year in sports titles (what's there to change?), EA has added one of Madden's features in having classic teams. Now you can play with the '24 Fighting Irish, with all their old uniforms and little helmets (!), or with the kickass '96 Gators.
All the good things being said, the only beef I have with the gameplay are the player displays (I guess you could sort this under graphics as well, but it affects my gameplay). Instead of having a blue circle under the player when he has the ball, you have a star. At least for me, it's harder to see when the star is lit up to see if my receiver caught a pass, or other things.
So, I guess in the end, this area pretty much gets a 10/10 if that minor flaw doesn't bother you.


Graphics -- 10/10

No snob about graphics; players look pretty much the same as last year, maybe a little smoother. The biggest improvement over last year are the stadiums. They're much more detailed, and have ''real'' fans now, like Madden's, where they look more 3D. The only flaw with the stadiums are that if you have fans ''scattered'' around the stadium for lower-profile teams, they're scattered in neat little rows. How adorable, yet how unrealistic.
There are also better team introductions, and better celebrations, like the firing of cannons and of cheerleaders waving flags for your team, which is a nice little touch, and gets you more in that college football feel.


Controls -- 8/10

Controls are same as last year's, which are pretty standard football controls, but the NCAA games especially have some bad controller assignments, in my own humble opinion. Unlike Madden, when in passing mode, the triangle button does not pull down the passing icons. Instead, it throws the ball away, which could lose you many downs while learning the controller scheme. Also, instead of right and left stiff-arms being L2 and R2, only L2 is stiff arm. R2 is lateral. Personally, I think lateral should be R3. That way, you can use L2 and R2 to do stiff-arms, and since it would be R3 instead of L3, you wouldn't accidentally press L3 while in the excitement of running around with the left directional pad. But what do my ideas matter? They're just the crazy rantings of a lunatic. Let's move on.


Sound -- 9/10

Sound is actually not too bad, I enjoy the fight songs (though I wish there was a way to disable ''Rocky Top'' from playing). The announcing of plays isn't too bad; you can obviously never have perfection in this area anyway. Game sounds are excellent; remember in last year's game, how the crowd was quiet until the play finished (how polite!)? Well, there are cheers as you run, and chants coming from the crowd (though it's sometimes hard to figure out what they're saying). This area of the game is much improved from last year.


Buy/Rent

I'm gonna leave this one up to you; if you're an avid college football fan, then you might enjoy it if you buy it. I always tell people to rent, rent, RENT before they buy; with anything, it's always worth the extra six bucks or so. However, if you're just looking for a football sim with some extra flashy features, you might wanna hold out for Madden.


One more thing I want to mention that's new in this year's NCAA Football 2004, and all EA sports titles this year, is the EA Sports Bio. It can record all your progress in EA Sports Titles, and rank your progress and accomplishments. Neat-o.



So, NCAA Football 2004 has all the makings of a great football sim, with college spirit thrown in there somewhere. However, like I said earlier, if all you wanna do is play football and maybe have a few pretty extras, save your money for Madden.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/18/03, Updated 07/18/03


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