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NCAA Football 08 was my first ever Xbox 360 review and it still stands out in my mind as possibly the most fun football title I’ve yet to play on the 360. It had great graphics, outstanding control, a just-right difficulty and my favorite player career mode to date, ‘Road to Glory.’ How have things changed since then, for better or worse? Well, time has been kind to some aspects but the faults loom large and point to a possible larger problem: we may have reached the end of the leash on sports titles for this console generation.

I may have only reviewed NCAA 08, but I’ve played 09 and 10 as well. Why didn’t I review them? I have no idea. I don’t remember there being any complications, so we’ll just chalk that up as an ‘oops.’ I bring this up to say that my favorite mode, Road to Glory, has age poorly over the years. Other then last year’s addition of ESPN’s Erin Andrews covering your player’s progress (which is back this year with nary a second of new footage filmed), it’s still the same as it was in 2007.  This frustrates me terribly, and – given Madden’s past history – makes me fear for this year’s Superstar mode.

The online dynasty management is a cute addition to an over-complicated, under-delivering mode. I’ve yet to be sold on NCAA’s franchise mode, and this year didn’t do it.

Graphically, the game looks great with better shadowing then last year and a solid college atmosphere. However, the player models haven’t changed much over the years, with EA adding small touches to the graphics like licensed gear and crowd/sideline cut scenes. This irks me, because they did this at the end of the PS2/Xbox’s life cycle, and the fans don’t look much better today then they did on the 128-bit systems.

Gameplay-wise is where NCAA 11 shines.  I love the running mechanism in place, and the sense of momentum and collision is great. Passing is solid, but the ground game is dynamite. I also like the new play calling system that brings up a handful of recommended plays for your current situation, but I’m glad they also included the option to get the regular play call menu with just a button press.

So what do we have? There’s a good game of football to be had here with a real college-game feel, but I can’t help wondering if they couldn’t have done more. I know gameplay is where the heart of any good videogame lies, but when you’re playing with the same modes and features, year-in, year-out, it gets a little stale. Still, as I said, it does play great. If you don’t have last year’s game, pick up NCAA Football 11. If you do, I wouldn’t rush out to buy it unless you must have the online dynasty mode or all your friends are playing it. Alphasim out.

 

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