We’re in July, so that means two very important things. One, it’s way too hot and sunny outside for any self respecting gamer to leave the comfort of a fan, air conditioner or central air unit. Two, EA Sports has released another edition of their popular collegiate football title with NCAA Football 11. So is it enough to keep you out of the pool and getting comfortable in the couch? The short answer is yes, the long answer is a little more complicated than that. Let’s find out why, shall we?
Considering that for the most part yearly sports titles usually experience only minor graphical bumps, I figured that this review should be focused primarily on gameplay. But before we do get into gameplay mechanics, I would just like to point out one noticeable difference from last year’s game to this year’s version in the graphics department. The change can be found in the transitions, and I’ll explain what I mean.
Last year, one thing you would notice immediately was a drop in frame rate once a play was blown dead. It wasn’t too dramatic, but for someone who is taking in all the audio and visuals, and putting them under a microscope, it was definitely there. With NCAA 11, EA Sports has made that frame rate drop a thing of the past. Now, the transitions have become much cleaner and the game looks as polished as it does when the ball is actually in play.
Okay, let’s get back to gameplay. If you’re more of a passer than a runner when you play football games, you may not find much to write home about with this year’s iteration. Minus a few additions in the catching animations department, not much has really changed since 10. Defensive backs are still as dumb as rocks, and with the right receiver, triple coverage can sometimes feel the same as being wide open.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean: I played against a buddy of mine (for review purposes of course), and he played against me using the Miami Hurricanes. The AI level was set to Heisman but that mattered nothing. He was able to abuse both a star safety and cornerback who were double-teaming his wide out (who apparently wasn’t a star) on every single down. Due to the two softies I had on defense, my team made junior wide out, LaRon Byrd (umm… I mean #47) look like Randy f*cking Moss playing against a Pop Warner team. It was pretty silly to say the least. I’m certainly not a fan of the defense in NCAA 11 and it is something that MUST be addressed with next years title.
Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest.
Unfortunately, the passing game is a joke, however, if you like running the ball, well then my friends you have hit the jackpot as NCAA 11 is a running back’s dream. EA Sports is simply referring to it as locomotion, I refer to it as looking like Michael Jackson on the football field because you will be dancing more than a washed up athlete on ABC.
Seriously though, I run the ball like it’s my job, and I have to say that since playing this game, business has been good. With the inclusion of “Dual Stick Control” instead of taking your thumb off of the analog sticks and reaching for face buttons, your arsenal of moves are never more than a flick of the stick away. You’re able to plant your feet, wait for a block, change direction and most importantly, it feels natural. It even makes you wonder why this wasn’t used since the inception of the right analog stick. I’m not complaining because the addition of this gameplay feature has helped me put together some runs that, had they been done in real life, would make the Sportcenter top 10 with ease. I managed to store a highlight where I was able to shake off three defenders, hurdle over a safety and run 60 yards for a touchdown. It felt so good, that I was waiting for my girlfriend to come with a tub of Gatorade to pour all over me.
One of the biggest additions to this year’s title has been the emphasis on eat, sleep, and play football. In case you’re one of those players that every year around this time get completely lost in your Dynasty mode, then please prepare yourself to have absolutely no life. With NCAA 11, players can now completely manage their dynasty anywhere they go with, you guessed it… Dynasty Anywhere. Now, instead of eating up corporate time playing Google Pac-man or leveling up on Farmville on Facebook, you can be doing what’s most important; which is recruiting blue chip prospects for your school’s program via the EA Sports website: dyanasty.easports.com.
Presentation, just like years prior is top notch. The inclusion of the ESPN personalities Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbsreit, and Erin Andrews does not disappoint, but at the same time doesn’t provide anything that you aren’t already used to. The ESPN layovers and visual effects add a little bit of wow factor, but just like the team entrances at the beginning of the game, they too begin to lose their charm, and you find yourself jamming on “X” to skip through them after only a few games.
Overall, NCAA Football 11 is a fun football title that has plenty to offer fans of the sport. Having followed the series for years now, it feels as though the potential has always been there but we have yet to see any real groundbreaking follow through. It seems that all the cool features are always left for its much more attractive counterpart –Madden, and why shouldn’t it be as it is EA Sports’ golden goose. I had hopes that it would have changed this year and maybe it would even receive a feature or two before Madden, but unfortunately NCAA remains to be the ugly duckling.