NCAA football is back in action and college kids all over the country couldn’t be happier. Whether it’s tailgating, historic rivalries, fight songs, or the huge stadiums the wars are waged in, there’s a lot to be excited about. Sports gamers in particular get hyped, especially those who have allegiances to Top 25 schools. As a counter to the slower-paced Madden franchise, NCAA Football is a freer game that emphasizes big plays and huge scores. This is the first crack at the NCAA franchise on the iPhone, and we’ve got the scouting report on this debut.
As we mentioned, college ball is very different from the pro game. College programs run offensive and defensive schemes that range from conventional to gimmicky approaches. Because of the differences in talent from the average teams compared to the elite teams, we see big plays and bigger blowout scores.
Does NCAA Football capture these elements accurately? Well, it does, but in a cheap way. Teams don’t have specific play books for the most part. Instead, there’s global playbooks all teams use. So you’ll see run-heavy teams like Navy sporting all kinds of spread passing formations they’d never run in real life. Same applies for defense, and it does make the game feel generic in that sense.
It’s very real, but it’s also on your phone.
Gameplay follows the same blueprint executed by NCAA’s big brother, Madden. Onscreen buttons allow users to have a surprising amount of control. Action Control Time (ACT) slows the game down and opens up more advanced moves for the core gamers. Much of this functionality works just as well as Madden’s, so you’ll enjoy a fine playing game of football.
One mechanic that’s important to touch on is the implementation of the option play. While there are several permutations of the play, the common scenario is a run play initiated by the quarterback. Depending on the approach of the defensive ends, the quarterback can run the ball or pitch it back to a running back.
Some teams use this play at the crux of their entire offense, and it’s a college staple. NCAA Football automatically launches ACT to give you the ability to read the defense and react. We love this system, and running the option is very fun.
Play modes in NCAA Football are solid too. The standard options for quick games, season, and multiplayer are all in. Surprisingly, the “create your own school” tool is a great addition from the console versions of the game. You can’t make your school logo, but there’s a ton of customizable options, including the ability to use custom soundtracks for important moments in the game.
NCAA Flight Control.
Season mode is where you’ll spend the majority of your time, and it’s shocking how flawed it is. There aren’t any BCS or AP poll rankings, which are a very big deal. These rankings determine which schools play in certain bowl games, and the omission make bowl selections a complete mystery.
The simulation engine is broken as well. Teams like Alabama, Texas, and Boise State are national title contenders and each of them finished losing more games than they won in multiple simulations, which is absolutely ridiculous. Only the five BCS bowls made the cut too, so bowl season feels anti-climatic.
The pageantry and unique environments for all the teams are accurately represented in NCAA Football. Iconic fight songs and real-life stadiums are in the game, and the excitement level of the crowd shines. Completing big plays or scoring touchdowns fire up the bands, and the scripting is spot on.
We’re excited about college ball coming to the iPhone. Even with the numerous flaws and blemishes we referenced, this is good foundation to build on. Much like Madden used the first year to catch its bearings, we’re seeing the same here with NCAA Football. Assuming the team at EA retools the Season Mode, next year’s game could be a contender for Sports Game of the Year in 2011.