Review by bryan12112

"Best football game ever?"

I've always been more of a fan of the NFL than the NCAA as far as watching the games go, so buying Madden has almost always been a no-brainer. But then I started watching the NCAA this year(The USF Bulls are my team, though I still like to watch other big match ups), and enjoyed it a lot, so I figured I'd give NCAA 2004 a shot. I have to say, owning both this and Madden is the way to go. The games are easily different enough to warrant a purchase, even if you already own Madden. Or if you don't like the NCAA that much, this game is still great, and is a must own if you love the game of football.

Game play: 9.5/10

The games themselves capture the emotion and excitement of College pretty well. After a score, you have people running through the end zone with flags of your team in their hands, or someone shooting a cannon. And you even have some end zone celebrations you can do after you score. From kicking the ball in the stand to bowing to the crowd. Much better than the No Fun League in this area.
EA Sports really knows their stuff when it comes to the Dynasty/Franchise modes in Football, which is as deep of a mode as you are going to find in any game. Pick from one of the 150+ teams, and try to fulfill your team’s goals as the coach. I was the USF coach, and in the first season their goal was to maintain team prestige and get a bowl bid. If you succeed, your coach rating goes up and you eventually get offered a contract extension. If you fail, you will eventually get fired. Also, one of the things I love is that you sometimes receive coaching job offers from other teams in need of coach. Texas A&M offered me a job after I had a nice first year, but I turned it down because I wanted to stay at USF. You can either be a long time coach or be a journeyman type of coach: meaning build a team up into a winner, leave, and build up another team into a winner, and so on. Great feature.

At the beginning of each season, you can red-shirt players, and even pick upto four games to play during the season. There's a certain amount of games that are locked and can't be messed with, but picking the four games gives you a lot of freedom to do what you want. If you're a lower ranked team and want a chance to move up in the rankings, then put in some tough top 25 teams. Or if you just want to put in one of your rivals(the game lets you know which teams are rivals), you can do that too.

One of the coolest features added to a sports game ever is definitely the Sports Illustrated magazine. Each week it has a different front cover, featuring the top story, and it also has five other covers showing various other things like: A player of the week, a big happening in the top 25, the Heisman candidates, etc. What it has is a picture of the player they're talking about or a player that played a big part in that week’s game on the cover, and a cool saying on each cover. One of mine was when I defeated the #22 Fighting Irish; it had my kicker on the cover and it said: “USF squeaks by the Fighting Irish”. Very cool stuff. As the season goes on, this game keeps track of everything you can think of. Bowl game possibilities, the top 25(coaches and media poll), Standings, and all of that. EA's games really go in-depth with the stats and information, which is one of the things I love the most about the EA games.

Believe it or not, it gets better from there. After the season is over, it shows you the players leaving, and then you have to recruit new players. You can choose a state from the map and check out the players from that certain state, check out the top 100 prospects, view the players interested in your school, or just view all of the prospects looking to enter the NCAA. What you do is get points based on your previous years performance(the better year you had, the more points. A not so good year = not so many points). Then you look at the listing of players from the many options I mentioned above and interview that guy for your team. They’re four boxes to check for an interview: Visit Coach, visit Assistant Coach, call Coach, and/or Call assistant. If the player shows a lot of interest in your school, you won’t have to use many points because he already wants to go there, but if you want a player that doesn’t really have interest in your school, you need to spend as many points as possible. And even then you likely won’t get them. There's also the pitch option, where you try to convince the player to come to your school by offering immediate playing time, or explain your coaching style, show off your team prestige, or tell him that the location is perfect for him. Basically, it's just an option to convince why that player should go to your school and not the others he's interested in.

You have five days to get all of the players you want. The players also have a prestige rating of 1-5, with 5 being the best. And the players highlighted in green are the ones interested in joining your school, and will be much easier to convince than the ones not interested and/or far away from your state that your school is in. For example: ask a player that's in Washington to join your Florida school, while he's not interested in joining, and your chances of getting him are very slim. Might as well give it a shot, though, if you have the extra points, because you never know. There's also an easily accessible menu that lists your teams needs and how many you have on your team at each position and what year they are in, so it's easy to know the players that you need.

This game has a few other modes to entertain you as well. There's the basic play now option, where you just pick two teams to play a game, the Mascot mode, where the teams Mascots play a game. And you can even create players to add to the current rosters. But the really fun modes are the create-a-school option, and the College Classics mode. The create-a-school option obviously allows you to make your team, customized the way you want, and then you can play them in the Dynasty mode. Very cool. The College Classics mode takes classic college games and puts you in the same situation to see if you can either change history or duplicate what the winning team did. For example: Doug Flutie’s great Hail Mary in one of the most exciting finishes of all time. You are left in that same exact situation as Doug was all those years ago, and you have to toss one up in the end zone on the final play for the win. Successfully doing these will unlock the two classic teams in that certain game for use in other modes.

Replay value: 9.5/10

As with Madden, this game is tops in this area. From all of the modes I mentioned above, to the deep and addictive Dynasty mode, you will be playing this game right up until
you buy the next version.

Sound/Music: 8.5/10

The music is nice. It features all of the team’s fight songs, which can be really addictive. It's gets me whistling my favorite one all over the house, all day long. As far as the sound goes, it's superior to Madden in every way. The crowd makes it feel like you are really there, chanting stuff like ''Block that kick!'' or chanting the infamous Florida State fight song. And the announcers aren't bad either. They get a little annoying with things like “And down he goes” after a lot of the plays, or things like “There he goes! ...and down he goes”. It's really stupid at times, but overall it's a decent job by EA.

Graphics: 9/10

I think they look better than Madden. Not by that much, but they look good. As I've said before, the graphics aren't nearly as important as the game play. They're very good, though, and really get the job done. From nice weather effects to pretty good player animations, EA did it very well.

Overall: 10/10

Same score I gave Madden. The only thing that will decide which one you like better is giving both a try. I don't like College Football as much as the NFL, but I do like this game better than Madden. The atmosphere is much better, the game play is better in some areas, and the Dynasty mode is better as well.(Even though Maddens Franchise mode is really cool too, it's not as good). I just can't believe I waited this long to get the game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/05/04

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