NCAA Football 09: A Great Experience Despite Flaws

Operation SportsCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2008

Sometimes, you play a game and it just feels right. While there may be a few annoying bugs and a few quirks about a game, it still doesn't diminish your overall opinion of that game.

I felt this once already this year with MLB '08: The Show. I have seen more strange little bugs and have had a few fairly "out of this world" experiences with that game. But I also truly believe it is this year’s best sports game to date.

As a writer and reviewer of some titles, I cannot take the promise of a future patch into consideration when issuing a score on a game, just like the NFL could not hand the Patriots the Lombardi trophy just because they were favored to win.

However, I can say that when the time comes for the end of the year awards, a patched NCAA Football '09 on my little PS3 could be in the running for the Game of the Year.

As it stands right now, NCAA Football '09 is a game which is extremely fun to play and as such warrants a high review score. While there is just enough wrong with the gameplay out of the box to hold it back from receiving a nine or higher, I would give it a score somewhere just below that mark if I were the one reviewing the game.    Most of the initial issues can be band-aided with a right set of slider settings, but it's hard to discount the game favors the offense heavily right out of the box.    I am already almost finished with year two of my dynasty, and I have only had the game for two days. Even though I am getting older (in my early 20s), I cannot remember ever playing that much NCAA just after its release.

Overall, the Playstation 3 version of the game runs similar to its counterpart on the 360 and looks very similar as well. I would bet both versions with an HDMI output into my 42" TV would look rather similar if they were running side by side.

As with most sports games, the choice on which console you want to play on simply rests on which online service you prefer.

Speaking of online play, I have logged just two games in thus far and both were score-fests to the highest order. Both games were frustrating, yet fun experiences. Frustrating because my defense couldn't manage a stop minus a turnover, but also fun because the games were close and you just knew the next play could be "it."

EA was touting this to be the main goal for this year's title, and I would have to say they accomplished their mission.

In single player Dynasty mode, with some slider tweaks to the kicking power and accuracy as well as to some other variables, I have managed to get an NCAA which I am getting very realistic scores and very realistic results.

So far, losing just means I made the wrong calls at the wrong time. I have never felt cheated and my losses have never felt cheap. Dynasty mode itself has not been improved drastically like last year, but it has been given a facelift, making it very accessible to all players.

Instead of having to tediously do all of the recruiting yourself or blindly let the computer take a whack at recruiting, you can set a strategy and let the computer follow it. This doesn't sound huge but it is, and I feel it encompasses what NCAA Football '09 is all about—the little things.    The one big complaint I have about the gameplay is the AI does not stretch the field with deep passes. A patch will most likely change this down the road, but right now this issue is the single biggest thing keeping NCAA from being so much better.    Stretching the field is something that should be done rarely, but also enough to keep you honest as a defensive coach. If a team can't stretch the field, they should get shut down by good defenses.

The action in the trenches is another thing that needs to be tweaked. Right now, AI controlled linemen seem to have a bit of an advantage over their human controlled counterparts.

Many would argue that if all of these issues are in the game, NCAA doesn't deserve a high score, but they could not be any more wrong.

NCAA Football '09 is not a revolutionary title. EA did not reinvent the wheel with the game. Instead, EA went back to the basics, got the tackling engine down and also managed to throw in a lot of new little things to make the game as a whole a much better experience over last year's game.

Last week, I said that if you wanted to sacrifice some realism for some fun you should buy NCAA. I still agree with that after playing nearly 30 games. NCAA Football is a fun and dynamic game which is just a small step away from being a historically great game.

This article was written by Chris Sanner for Operation Sports.  Operation Sports is the Internet's leading sports video games resource.