NCAA Football 11 Review
It’s that time of year again. Football season is drawing near, and that means it’s time to roll out the EA Sports football titles for this year.
The star of today’s review is one of these, NCAA Football 11. Yeah, I know. Everyone thinks it’s the little brother of Madden, right? Well, EA Tiburon has made a slew of changes this year to try to shed that impression.
The big push this year is to more closely recreate the ‘experience’ of playing college football by making each team feel more unique and true-to-life. It’s a noble goal, but the question we have to answer now is this: Did they accomplish it, or did they just update the rosters and pump out another sales unit?
NCAA Football 11 (PS3, XBox 360 [Reviewed])
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: July 13, 2010
As soon as I started my first game, I could the massive improvement that’s been made to the graphics of NCAA Football 11. They’ve partnered up with ESPN for a fully integrated experience that is very reminiscent of watching college football on TV. It’s a nice effect, and they left out Lee Corso, which is another nice bonus.
The animations are extremely smooth, and players look more natural than ever before. This is really due to two major changes in the game. First off, they have reworked the lighting engine for the game, and players don’t look like plastic toys anymore. The folks in the crowd still look a bit off, but they’re not the focus of the game anyway. Second, they’ve reworked the controls so that all player movement is based of the left and right analog sticks.
That may sound a bit odd at first, but once you spend a few minutes getting used to system, it works amazingly well. As usual, the left stick controls movement. The right stick now controls your player’s special moves, and now it actually takes into account how far you’re pushing the stick. If you shove the stick all the way to the right, you’ll get a nice juke to the right, and you can push the stick forward to get your player leaning forward for that crucial extra yard.
Also improving the running game is a complete revamp of run blocking. Offensive line players pick up their targets much better, and react to blitzes much better. They’re still not perfect, but the running game is a lot easier to be successful in, and on the flipside, it’s a lot harder to slow down the AI’s running game on defense.
As part of their push to make the teams feel more real, playbooks have undergone a massive alteration as well. Each team has a playbook tailored to the type of offense that team actually runs, and although there is some overlap, it feels really solid. Florida has their spread offense, and Nebraska offers up the option-based run attack.
They’ve also added custom player run-outs for the top 30 teams. That means you’ll see Texas players charging out of the tunnel carrying a huge American flag, Notre Dame players slapping the ‘Play Like a Champion Today’ sign, and more.
You won’t find any new game modes in NCAA Football 11, but there has been a few major additions to the existing Dynasty Mode. Recruiting has been punched up, and you’ll now be able to chat with recruits on a variety of topics. Your school will be graded on topics like Coach Prestige, Conference Prestige, Championship Contender, Athletic Facilities, and more. This puts the pressure on you, the coach, to sell your school to recruits on its strengths, and to downplay weaknesses.
You can also create an Online Dynasty, which allows you to take on your buddies online. You can even manage your Dynasty anywhere, thanks to EA’s new site at http://dynasty.easports.com. You can recruit, keep up with stats and standings, game recaps, and schedules online.
There’s also the Dynasty Wire, which allows you to play the part of a journalist as you create the stories of the games you’ve played. You’ll be able to use in-game photos and video highlights, as well publishing the stories to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. That’s a little more involved than I want to get with it, but it’s still a neat future if you want to use it.
There are still some glitches in NCAA Football 11. Sometimes player animations get stuck, sometimes the camera doesn’t look properly placed between plays, and most annoyingly, it seems that the game begins to lag on the snap of the ball later in some games. You’ll hear the play start, but the players take a split second to catch up. They’re only annoying though, and not game-breaking.
Keep in mind that this is an EA Online Pass title, meaning that if you buy it used, you’ll be ponying up $10 to play online, as well as to access your TeamBuilder teams and recruiting reports. Of course, if you buy it new, you’ll get a code for this, but it’s something to be aware of going in.
All in all, NCAA Football 11 is a tight, solid recreation of football games at the college level. I’m sure there are still features that are planned for addition to the franchise, but this is easily the best-looking, best-playing, most fully-featured iteration of the franchise yet to hit the market. If you’re a fan of college football, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this game.
- Great team differentiation
- Excellent animations and player movement
- Excellent custom playbooks
- Faithful recreation of ESPN College GameDay
- A few glitchy animations
- Lag at snap late in games