Review by dps2002
"An absolutely outstanding rendering of the college game. If only the BCS was this good..."
For the last few years, the good folks at Electronic Arts have been looking for ways to differentiate their two great football franchises...the long-standing king of pro football, Madden, and the fast-rising star of all things collegiate, NCAA. Last year, EA focused on making Madden more professional in style, with the addition of Owner Mode and Playmaker control. This year, EA turned their attention to making the collegiate game more collegiate. They couldn't have been more successful. With the addition of the revolutionary Home Field Advantage, a feature in which the home team's crowd gets louder and louder, making it next to impossible for the visiting team to hear audibles, keep their composure, and generally play like they deserve to be on the field; Composure, in which rattled players play worse than composed players; Discipline, in which you are responsible for keeping your players not only happy, but under control; and the Match-Up Stick, a pre-snap look into the hearts, minds, and stomachs of both teams, this year's version of NCAA Football is a near-perfect rendition of the college game.
In last year's version of the game, you could absolutely destroy the computer if you knew what to do. In fifty games against the CPU in 2004, for example, I was undefeated. Short passes, option runs, and the playaction pass were simple methods to victory last year. There were even certain plays that you could use repeatedly against the computer that let you shred some holes into the defense...if you could call it defense.
Apparently, EA got the message to change the defense.
The defensive A.I. on the part of the computer has been improved by leaps and bounds. It is no longer that easy to pass the ball as it was last year; it will take much more precise reads, timing, and skill (as well as a well-composed quarterback) to school the secondary.
It's still somewhat simple to run the ball, but the computer will eventually catch on to your tactics and force you to pass. A very timely improvement on passing A.I. If you need help, the Ask Corso option returns again, but once again, only on offense.
Also, one method I could use rather repeatedly to break clear on runs is just spinning on an invisible axis with my player to change directions. I can't do that anymore, because EA has added an Agile Running feature to the players. If you want to change directions in mid-run, you can't spin on an axis; your player will actually plant his foot and change directions as you would in real life. This is only one example of the Agile Running system in action.
For those who eventually grow tired of the extensive, almost endless Dynasty mode, you can replay the greatest games of all time, just as you could last year. My only complaint about this game is this section. Last year's College Classics and this year's are the exact same. I would have tried to put some different classics in there, including maybe one from last year (although I can't think of one off the top of my head). A minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
Graphics are somewhat unchanged from last year. Then again, graphics aren't as important to me as it may be to other people. The crowd is again a rather unimpressive bunch, except for the front row of fans. Whenever you do something important in the game (first down, sack, touchdown), the front row of fans will actually celebrate with a variety of animations, instead of mindless standing up and sitting like the rest of the fans do. They will also hold up signs cheering their team on, and the new Create-A-Sign feature lets you customize up to ten game-specific signs.
The trio of Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso return to provide the commentary, and they pretty much say the same things. The big improvement on sound this year is the crowd noises, keeping with the Home Field Advantage. Lay a big hit on the opponent and the crowd will explode. Take a bad penalty, and the crowd will boo...just as you'd expect in a real college football game.
Give me a break. With the endless Dynasty Mode, you could play this game until the cows come home...or at least until 2006 comes out. Even if you get tired of Dynasty, there's always the College Classics, individual Rivalry Games, and endless Rivalry Trophies to collect.
Get this game. I mean it. As soon as you finish reading this, turn off your internet connection, get in your car, drive to the nearest electronics store, and get this game. Even if you have 2004, get this game. It is absolutely worth it. NCAA Football 2005 is a spectacular, but not perfect, improvement over last year, and Electronic Arts jumps one step closer to completing the separation between their college and professional games.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/17/04
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