IGN Review of NCAA Football 09 All-Play
Wii fans have been making a call out to EA to deliver more of its classic sports franchises, and to a certain extent, the company has responded. While top-tier games like Madden and (now) Tiger Woods are getting the serious efforts, however, a few of the EA franchises still aren't up to par with the rest of the gaming world, and we can now add NCAA Football to that list, with NBA Live greeting the college football counterpart with open arms. Some games are simply put on the back burner, and NCAA is not only the first of the traditional EA Sports titles to release this year, but it's the first one we'd put in just such category. It's NCAA's freshman year on Wii, but that's all the more reason the series feels nearly three years behind.
The big hook this year with all EA games is All-Play, and we get the philosophy. Like Family Play last year (but much more desirable all around) All-Play is all about offering the core sport experience to anyone, so if you can only take to the field in NCAA Football with the Wii-mote in hand, that's fine. There are other changes that come along with All-Play, such as the more arcade-like experience, the bending of a few traditional rules, and more "behind the scenes" tweaks that help the player along. This is all well and good.
As far as NCAA Football 09 All-Play is concerned though, the feature set is seriously lacking, and we're talking both sides of the casual/hardcore ball. It's just too far behind.
In terms of modes, NCAA doesn' t have much to offer outside of the core "play now" experience, the year to year season mode (which does, however, include everything upgrading PS2 fans would be looking for, as it's nearly identical to last year's PlayStation effort), and a new mascot mode. Mascot mode is funny, but it's not all it's cracked up to be, as the jump in actual arcade feel isn't there as much as EA boasted, and there's really nothing that makes it a more casual-friendly feel than the general look of the game, as everyone's a freaking mascot. It's all well and good, and actually pretty funny to get a game in where you can beat the ever-loving tar out of your rival's figurehead, but it's nearly identical in gameplay.
A few changes were made when moving from earlier Madden games over to NCAA, but the real problem is that all of them can be seen better in Madden, and you still get a whole lot more. We're not going to beat around the bush: Madden is our football game of choice not only between NCAA and Madden this year, but out of any Wii football offerings. It just rocks. So look at NCAA in comparison -- a game that has no additional multiplayer modes, no "party" mode, no online, no call your shot, no five on five, no two on two, and no huge list of training camp/mini-games that even Wii's first Madden had over two and a half years ago -- and it simply pales.
That isn't to say NCAA is a bad game; it just feels like about 15-20% of a package when compared to this year's Madden, or even last year's, for that matter. There's just nothing here that previous EA-owned football games haven't already done better years ago. It isn't that gamers don't deserve the choice between college and NFL -- because they do, and so do we at the IGN LA office, where football is a religion for a select few -- but the experiences either need to have identical feature sets so it doesn't alienate one crowd, or they need to be so drastically different that the two games hit a totally different style of play. Box art of a happy-go-lucky Spartan isn't really going to pull that off alone.
On the gameplay front, NCAA delivers in the core experience, as you'll still get the same great control and motion-managed technical moves as previous Maddens. There are a few changes to the game as well, including turbo and ball trails for characters and passing, and the new "casual-friendly" play calling system that simply rocks. Of course Madden has all those things and more, which is hard to ignore, too, but they're here in NCAA, so it's still a relatively enjoyable experience. There just needs to be more. Visually the game looks on par or a bit lower in quality than previous Wii Madden games, with a bright, almost washed-out field and the same PS2/Wii converted player models from 07 and 08 (of Madden; we sound like a broken, truthful record), but a side-by-side comparison with Madden 09 makes NCAA look like a joke; it's just behind.
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