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NCAA Football 07 (Xbox)

NCAA Football 07 (Xbox) review


"Many games these days include other games within them. Like the proverbial play within the play, these games distract the player and provide additional amusement for their developers by adding often unrelated or alternate-genre material into a game about something totally different. We see this quite prominently in a game like Bioshock with its unending number of hacking minigames, and it has a certain appeal, especially when well done. What we see less of, unfortunately, is the game that is not..."



Many games these days include other games within them. Like the proverbial play within the play, these games distract the player and provide additional amusement for their developers by adding often unrelated or alternate-genre material into a game about something totally different. We see this quite prominently in a game like Bioshock with its unending number of hacking minigames, and it has a certain appeal, especially when well done. What we see less of, unfortunately, is the game that is not simply one game which contains another game but one game that consists of two totally separate games that are sufficiently deep that they could have been produced and released separately. Rarer still is the game that manages to do this well. NCAA football 07 takes a really big swing at this target, and, with some notable issues, it turns in a respectable and enjoyable two-for-one.

The first game within the game is the actual football. I've been told that the NCAA games are typically rehashed versions of the madden engines. Unfortunately, something must have been lost in translation because the actual football experience in NCAA 07 fails to achieve the fine level of control and usability often found in madden games. It is as though the designers had only footage of college football from 20 years ago to go on when they designed the game. The primary issue, it must be said, is the passing game. Defensive backs are unnaturally good, leaping to deflect passes no human could reach. At the same time, fly routes (straight up toward the end zone) are extraordinarily and annoyingly effective, especially with larger receivers. The result is a lot of games with sub 50 percent completion percentages but high scores.

At the same time, the running game continues a strong NCAA tradition of being delightful. Indeed, it is perhaps the most enjoyable part about the actual football gameplay and one of the things that makes me want to come back for one more game before bedtime. Runners are quick and nimble, dodging between blockers and cutting away from would-be tacklers. The option is also well handled, with option passing and executing the triple option both done smoothly. Unlike the lousy passing defense, I always feel like I earned every yard on the ground.

Overall, the actual football is subpar but still enjoyable with good company or on saturday morning in october while waiting for kickoff. EA continue to add to and tweak the atmosphere of the game, and clever gamers do well to take advantage of the matchup stick (an on-the-fly option to compare players with their counterparts across the line of scrimmage) and home-field advantage, two areas that bring a definite feel of reality to the game, forcing you to think about how your players will behave in different situations.

The real crack at the end of the rainbow is the second game in NCAA 07, the dynasty mode. Design your coach, pick your team, and prepare for hour after hour of numbercrunching joy. I've played several iterations of NCAA football over the years, and it never ceases to amaze me how angry I get when my fake players leave early for the fake draft. I want to yell at them and explain that I don't own Madden 2007 (which would allow them to be imported into the draft part of that game), so their careers really are ending and going into nothingness when instead they could make another run at a title with me. Unfortunately, as in real life, player personalities are fickle.

What is fortunate, however, is the delightful, if sometimes silly, process of picking yourself up, putting on a new suit, and going out after new and better players to replace the ones who scorned you. Armed with a lot of recruiting points, which probably equate to ferraris and expensive sports shoes that you give to players to entice them, you'll navigate the hundreds of available prospects in search of diamonds, rubies, and sapphires swimming in a sea of coal. This follows the traditional turn based strategy-game recruiting tool that veterans of the series are used to, with player interest in your team varying based on your style, reputation, team needs, and butterflies in peking.

After training and team reorganization, you're set loose for a full season of games, most of which you'll want to simulate if your team is any good because of the pathetically low level of parity in college football. There is an in-season recruiting option that basically consists of a "win" button for lazy dynasty mode players who want to turn crappy teams into good teams overnight. There are also a great many trophies to be lusted after, though once your season ends there's never anything on your mind but the future. I've never once bothered to look back and admire my old trophies in the electronic cabinet the game provides, but I suppose you could if you like that sort of thing.

Despite the name, dynasty mode isn't about a dynasty. It's not about history or tradition. It's about the players you have in front of you and whether they're the best the world has ever seen. You'll spend hour after hour plowing through dynasty mode, going from one season to the next like Sam Becket in Quantum Leap, hoping that the next season is the season you've always been waiting for where everything lines up perfectly and your players win every award and the national championship. It's completely and mercilessly addictive, both the game's greatest strength and its greatest fault. You'll become emotionally attached to your team, to their successes and failures, but in the end they graduate [or simply dump you for another program or the nfl draft] and vanish totally into the ether. At least in The Sims you're left with a cool house full of stuff when your Sims reach their expiration date. NCAA 07 lures you in with the promise of such rewarding fare, but in the end it leaves you hollow and alone.

Rating: 6/10

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Community review by Typodragon (April 19, 2010)

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