NCAA Football 11ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Last month, a few of us Game-Boyz staffers headed down to E3 in Los Angeles. I spent the better part of one morning checking out all that EA Sports had to offer. Much to my surprise, unless I missed something, I did not see a single NCAA Football 11 game on display. Madden, NHL, Active, Fifa and the new NBA Elite game were on display all over EA's showfloor; however, the NCAA game was nowhere to be found. I found this somewhat odd since last year’s NCAA Football game delivered. We here at Game-Boyz gave the game a resounding 9 out of 10 and considered it a must buy for NCAA Football fans and Xbox 360 owners alike. So the question remains, why was EA Sports not showcasing one of the best sports games in their line-up? Might be a simple numbers game or maybe EA Sports was hiding something from us. In any event, I was very curious to see if this year’s game could possibly top last year’s game. Well, after some time spent with EA's latest installment in the College Football franchise, I must say I am impressed. That being said, I am not so sure this year’s edition is necessarily any better than last year’s.
Overall, the visuals in NCAA Football 11 for the Xbox 360 are fantastic and are once again a real strong point for the franchise. NCAA Football 11 does a wonderful job re-creating that magical college football atmosphere. Even fringe NCAA football fans, like me, can really appreciate the detail that went into the game. Being Canadian, I do not get to see too many US college football games. So when I started playing my season I found it a treat to play in some of those historical college stadiums featured in the game; each were well represented in all of their glory.
In addition to the sharp looking stadiums, their surroundings, and the game’s presentation, the most noticeable graphical addition this year is the new player animations. The player animations have taken another step forward giving you a football game that not only feels authentic but is also incredibly more realistic this time around. The way wide-outs leap up and get hit in mid-air is stunning. Some of the hits actually had me cringing at times. Also, the sideline catches are quite the nice touch. Players seem to run with more fluidity and the tackling seems much more realistic. The tackling can get sloppy at times; however, this is exactly how a real football game is played. Not everything goes according to plan in an NCAA Football game and this game is no different. You just never know what you are going to see from one play to the next. It makes the game less predictable and more enjoyable in the end.
Some other new additions in the visuals department include new stadiums such as Cowboys’ Stadium (home of the Cotton Bowl), Kent State, Minnesota and San Jose State, just to name a few. Also, NCAA 11 features some new school mascots. Virtually every mascot from every school is featured in the game and yes, you can celebrate with the mascots again this year after scoring a touchdown.
Unfortunately along with the good does come some bad in the graphics department. I did notice some ugly clipping issues at times. On a couple of occasions, after scoring a TD, my player would head straight into the stands and subsequently disappear. Also, the players’ facial profiles do not look anywhere near their real-life counterparts. Both of these issues are slight but noticeable flaws. Fortunately, the gameplay itself is not hampered by any slowdown and it runs quite smoothly. Overall, NCAA 11 is a slight visual upgrade over last year’s game.
As far as the sound is concerned, NCAA Football 11 delivers. The game's sound is an excellent compliment to the superb graphics. Once again, the developers managed to duplicate that college football feeling to perfection. Everything from the authentic commentary by Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and sideline reporter Erin Andrews, to each school’s marching band, truly shines. The college football game never sounded this good as it adds a level of intensity never felt before. The absence of Lee Corso is a bit of disappointment but the team in place is as professional sounding as ever and offers an even richer experience. The rest of the in-game sound effects, musical soundtrack, marching bands and commentary are bang-on. Overall, I found no significant flaws with the game’s audio package.
For those unfamiliar with the NCAA Football video game franchise, it is a college football video game series that plays very much like EA Sports Madden Football. In fact, many consider NCAA Football as an appetizer; something to satisfy one’s virtual pigskin craving before the yearly release of Madden later in the summer. NCAA Football 11 is a simulation football game of sorts aimed at the more seasoned football gaming fan. That being said, NCAA Football 11 is far from an appetizer and more of a full meal deal, rich in content with more stats, plays and news than you can shake a stick at. Bottom line — you will feel like you're getting your money’s worth from the moment you start navigating the game’s menus.
The heart of any football game is the actual gameplay itself. NCAA Football 11 plays very much the same as last year’s version with a few more bells and whistles. Madden fans that have not made the leap to NCAA Football will be relieved to know that NCAA Football 11 plays very much the same way as Madden 10. For younger gamers, NCAA 11 may be a little too complex, but for fans of EA Sports football games in general, NCAA 11 will most likely not even take you a quarter or two to pick up. The controls are easy to learn and it doesn’t take much to fire up a game or start a dynasty season. The dynasty season is where I spent the bulk of my time and is very similar to the dynasty modes from years’ past. There is no sense examining the features that have been around for years, so at this point I will examine some of the new features in this game.
For starters, NCAA Football 11’s big new feature is the TruSchool system. The TruSchool system is built to ensure that the playing styles of each of the 120 schools in NCAA Football 11 are accurately represented. This is accomplished by blending the offensive styles, coaching tendencies, areas of talent, stadiums and traditions of each organization. I had my first taste of the TruSchool system when I played an Arizona State that unleashed a hurry-up offence and nearly took out my beloved Washington Huskies. The TruSchool system does bring a level of authenticity to the game and it was cool to see some of the schools stick to the plays their real-life counterpart teams run with. I have to admit, as a fringe NCAA football fan, I am not up on the schools’ traditions, playbooks or tendencies. That being said, the hardcore NCAA football fan will absolutely love this feature.
The TruSchool system feature leads right into another new feature EA Sports is now using called “Real College Offences.” Whether it be running the “no-huddle” spread, triple option, wishbone, or even the wild cat, NCAA allows you to play the same way as your favorite schools. You can always select a more traditional playbook; however, each school’s playbook will default to an offensive style that matches its real world team. Again, this new feature just adds more realism to the game and is once again clearly geared for the more seasoned NCAA football gamer.
Another new feature in NCAA Football 11 is Locomotion. In a nutshell, Locomotion is about all-new authentic running mechanics. The idea here is merely bringing about even more realism. In previous games you had the ability to cut, juke or spin. This time around the dual sticks are used to create a greater one-to-one connection between what you are doing on the right stick and what your player is doing on the field. I found it frustrating initially since scrambling from tacklers is much tougher this time around. That being said, once you master the controls and start to get the hang of it, flicking the stick simulating the player's foot planting does get a bit easier. Nevertheless, at the end of the day it was difficult to scramble and get away from tacklers even with an outstanding running QB like Jake Locker.
Wait a second. Jake Locker is not featured in the game; Joe Saunders is the Washington Huskies’ QB. I am a little bit puzzled by this, however my speculation concludes that the QB was drafted by the Anaheim Angels, which likely excludes him from some NCAA licensing agreement. Whatever the case may be it was disappointing that the likely number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL entry draft isn’t featured in the game.
Another new noticeable improvement is the adaptability of the AI and the AI's running game. Last year I was able to shut down virtually all other teams’ running games with ease. This year, this is not the case as the offensive linemen now select blocking targets and track you down like scud missiles. The improved O' Line makes for a better running game from the AI. It can be frustrating at times; however the improved AI running attack just makes for a more intense experience and one that is, you guessed it, very authentic. I also noticed that teams started adjusting to my offensive style. For instance, if I was connecting on slant passes with ease, I would notice the outside linebackers fall back a bit and all the sudden they were batting down every slant pass in sight. Again, this makes for a frustrating experience at times, but hey, that is football!
As I mentioned earlier, I spent the majority of my time in Dynasty mode playing with my Washington Huskies. The core of the mode is back with all the stats, news, recruiting and everything one could expect in a typical college football season. This year however you can play Dynasty anywhere, anytime with Dynasty on the web. Recruit online, plus keep up-to-date on the details of your Dynasty with live score alerts, conference standings, instant game recaps, recruiting reports, commissioner messages, and weekly news. Dynasty.eaports.com acts as your hub for your season. Just imagine all the work productivity lost as NCAA football fans abroad check their stats and recruit players when they should be working. A great feature indeed.
With all the new enhancements discussed above, there are some minor additions that make a world of difference in this installment of the franchise. For instance, the new menu system is clean and more simplistic. No longer do I have to dig around through several subsections just to get to my players' stats. You can also adjust the speed of the gameplay from very slow to very fast. This impacts the game’s tempo. There is also an auto save feature which is great as I cannot recall how many times in the past I would shut down my Xbox, only to forget to save my season. All-in-all, NCAA 11 delivers on so many levels and is truly an enjoyment this time around.
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