Visual Concepts took its first foray into the college sports genre last year with NCAA College Football 2K2 for the Dreamcast. A joint effort between Utah-based developer Avalanche Studios and Visual Concepts, the game was an assured first step into the college sports subgenre and was a promising first start. For the next installment in the burgeoning series, Visual Concepts has opted to go for a multiplatform release as it has with its other sports franchises. We got a peek at all three incarnations of the game and are pleased by what we've seen so far.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2002/playstation2/ncaacollege2k3/1-1.jpgSome of the indoor stadiums boast beautiful lighting effects.
Like its predecessor, NCAA College Football 2K3 will be a shared effort between Avalanche Studios, which is again handling development chores, and Visual Concepts, which is producing the game. The game will use a version of the NFL 2K2 engine that's been modified to support the various college football-specific features Avalanche and Visual Concepts are implementing. In addition to the graphical upgrade, the duo has implemented a host of refinements and improvements to beef up the gameplay.
The game will offer five modes to choose from: practice, tourney, exhibition, season, and legacy. Practice lets you perfect your skills on the field, tourney lets you hop into a tournament of your own design, exhibition is a single game, and season lets you play through an entire season. The legacy mode serves as the game's career mode and has been bulked up from that in the game's Dreamcast predecessor. The mode will now feature a boatload of new options and refinements of existing features. For example, the game will offer a broader range of tracked stats, which should please die-hard fans. New features include the ability to create your own school, the ability to customize everything from the mascot to the playbook, and, likely the coolest feature, the ability to import players from the game into the upcoming NFL 2K3 games. After playing through at least one season in legacy mode, you'll see a screen that tells you who from your team has graduated and will be going into the NFL draft. From there, you can save all the graduating seniors who are going to the NFL draft and import them into NFL 2K3. Finally, the game will feature a spring training option to let you train your players in the off-season with 20 different drills spread across the different positions. By putting your players in these mini-camps, you'll affect player ratings, raising and lowering them depending on your choices.
Graphically the game is looking quite sharp, with incredible graphics that are complemented by Visual Concepts' near-fanatical attention to detail. You'll find all 117 Division I-A teams and stadiums in the game, as well as players whose stats reflect the real-life team members, although they lack names. Fortunately you'll be able to pop in and edit any team, which will let you re-create your favorite team's name and numbers. You'll find greater variety in the player models, which have been tweaked to reflect the disparity in body types in college football. The same holds true for the game's animation, which includes more than 500 moves that show off the different jukes, dives, and tackles that the real-world players exhibit. The game's presentation will make use of the newly acquired ESPN license by incorporating the SportsCenter intro with Dan Patrick, ESPN college sports themes, and replays with the ESPN logo itself. Commentary is being supplied by fictional announcers this year, due to time constraints, but will be dynamic and will feature variations based on team matchups. And grudge matches between teams will offer some colorful asides. In addition to the commentary in the game, the audio in 2K3 will feature a great deal of ambient sound, ranging from crowd noise to fight songs playing in the background. On another note, the crowd's reactions to your performance will extend to more than just the game's audio. If you're in a blowout, don't expect to see too many fans littering the stands, as the crowd will noticeably thin out during such a game. While not the best feature for a player's self-esteem, it is a nice touch.
In terms of gameplay, Avalanche and Visual Concepts have taken the criticisms leveled at NCAA College Football 2K2 to heart and have worked to address them while bulking up the gameplay. For example, their goals are to have option plays, which was a trouble spot in 2K2, to make it easier for the players to run, and to have smoother gameplay in general. At the same time the game's AI defense is being wised up so that it notes the plays more quickly and reacts to them accordingly.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2002/playstation2/ncaacollege2k3/1-2.jpgThe heads of all players--offense and defense--will track the football's movement.
At present, development on all three console versions of the game is proceeding apace, with care being taken to ensure each console is exploited to its fullest. Graphically each game is nearly indistinguishable from the others. The Xbox version obviously features the cleanest graphics and highest detail, but the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions are impressively close. If you really look, you may notice slight color variances in the PS2 game and slightly tweaked character models in the GC version, but nothing blatantly obvious. The only areas where slight cuts may be seen are in the game's audio, which is being tweaked to fit on a GameCube disc, and in some of the data that can be saved, due to the space constraints of the GC memory card. Also, the Xbox version will possess one feature not seen in the other versions of the game: a replay theater that will let you save replays of the game to the system's hard drive.
The game is currently set to ship this month for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, with the GameCube version to follow in August. Look for more on the game as its release approaches.