Ah the sweet smell of summer. Well actually, if you’re in Southern California like myself its the terrible stench of smog, but let’s move on. We all know as summer rolls by we grow closer and closer to the much anticipated college football season. With each year we learn new faces, see some of the games best head to the NFL, and prepare for a grueling season with upsets, and Heisman hopefuls. To go along with all of this what would a summer be without a new installment in EA’s extremely popular NCAA Football franchise. Can EA turn their college football franchise to the best of all time? Read our full review of NCAA Football 08 for the Xbox 360 to find out!
Last year was a pretty disappointing outing for EA for both their college and professional football titles. Both games didn’t introduce any significant new features or gameplay mechanics, but just goes with the flow and just touches things up here and there. Many have been hoping for that big new feature or in football terms that big time play that puts the games over the top, but since the transition to the next generation consoles in particular the Xbox 360 we just haven’t seen it yet. So the big question going into this title was could EA Sports manage to bring together all the right pieces for this title?
One thing going into this game that I noticed pretty early on is that EA has done a lot of improvements under the hood for this game. I am going to start by just going through a few that I noticed right after playing my first exhibition game. First off, the crowds in the game seem much more lifelike and have a fantastic feel and energy to them. Secondly the animations are much more diverse and it seems as though the collision detection is much better (not perfect) than before. Finally the game also seems like it is much more balanced, where many of the game’s have been offensive minded, this game actually seems to take both sides of the ball in equal terms.
One of the big modes making a return this year is the Legend mode, which many people have wanted on the next generation consoles but now it’s making its first appearance. The Legend mode has you starting off as a high school player working your way through the state playoffs, where your job is to wow the recruits and continue to the championship game. I found the inclusion of the high school aspect to be great but the actual execution a little bland. Your actions do end up representing however your initial caliber and that means that when choosing a school you will have more options of where you going to be able to start. The big decision comes after high school when you have to decide whether to take a starting role at a lower ranked school or a backup or even third string role at a top school. I chose UCLA, and was a third stringer and within two games I was the starter by just continuing to take part in the practice sessions.
The biggest problem I had with the legend mode was the fact that there was really no challenge to the experience. You could easily go through the legend mode outside of the actual games and beef up your player with little to no effort at all. The big challenge is taking advantage of in-game opportunities, which depending on the computer play calling can once again be a tough thing to do. In the end, however there are still a lot of areas in which this mode succeeds, the overall structure is strong, the player creation is good, and the progression keeps you interested.
Then there is the dynasty mode which EA seems to try and improve each and every outing but this year seems to be the most significant. I found right away that the recruiting system that is now implemented into the game, everything is much more fluid and it doesn’t seem as much like clockwork as in years past. The game really makes information readily available and to be honest gets you hooked into the process. I found myself more interested in my prospects then I was in the game at several points throughout the experience. The dynasty mode really manages to be just an overall much deeper and stronger force to be reckoned with then in years past.
The overall experience of NCAA Football 08 is much better than what we saw in last year’s game. The dynasty mode is extremely strong, the legend mode is showing potential and is enjoyable to check out, and the online play is smooth and seems to have a lot of nice touches although still does want some more depth. This is a much better outing in terms of gameplay for NCAA Football 08 than in years past, and it should hold even stronger for the game’s future.
One of the areas that has been staggering for the series on the next generation consoles has been the visuals, which really haven’t seemed to get much attention and many have considered them rather bland. This year the big emphasis was on the animation, which has been expanded in more ways then I can describe. If you have been a constant fan of the series you will be able to notice this very important and beneficial change right away. On the other hand, the player models are still bland as all get out and although there is reasons for why they don’t have the actual players in the game, there still could be much more variety in the players on the field.
One of the things I can say about this year’s game is that its biggest strength is its depth. More so than in years past, this is a game that could truly last you until next year’s title. It just depends on what you like to do - if you like online play the game plays strong online, if you like the dynasty modes well this year is the deepest mode so far, and if you like a career mode the game has it, its not perfect, but its still worth checking out. The game of football will always be the game of football, and it to me is played very nicely on NCAA Football 08 on the Xbox 360.
With all the things said and done, there is however still a lot of room for the franchise to grow. It has done a great job of moving in the right direction in this game, but you still feel it could have been much more in the future. However if you’re a fan of the series and need your college football fix for the year, this game is a great option for you.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.