With football season quickly approaching the release season has arrived. NCAA Football 11 from EA Sports is here and it is one of the best NCAA Football titles that have been released in quite some time. Both hardcore and casual fans alike will find plenty to enjoy in this year’s version of the collegiate gridiron. If you are a hardcore fan of college football you will find a lot to like here with both online and offline dynasty modes, the online modes and the team management aspect. If you are more of a casual fan, or if you are playing with your kids, there are also different things that you can take advantage of such as the “Mascot Mash Up” mode and the “1-Button Mode”.
Dynasty mode is back and it is your job to lead your school to prominence. You can have as little or as much control over your team as you like. EA Sports has done a tremendous job integrating the ESPN license and it shows no matter what you are doing. Within your dynasty you can view the top stories, the top 25 polls, conference standings and more. You also have your team management section where you can edit your roster, view promises you have made to potential recruits and get a snapshot view as to how you are doing as both a coach and a player. This is also where you can share your best moments with the NCAA community. Going along with that theme you can also participate in the Story Builder mode. This is where you can share your in game success or failure with your friends and rivals. You can write your own story as well as select your own photos and videos to go along with it. Did you just beat up on your rival? Write a story about it announcing your dominance and post it for everyone to see on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. If you aren’t in to that type of thing then the stories will be automatically generated and ready to be shown on your favorite social network.
Of course none of these cool little features would mean much if the gameplay was lacking. Fortunately, EA Sports has made great strides in this department which has resulted in you having more control over your player than ever before. One of the big additions to this year’s experience is the addition of the Locomotion engine and dual stick control. What this essentially does is it allows you to have more control over your player utilizing the right analog stick. Instead of flicking up on the right analog stick like in previous years the amount of lean is now tied to how far forward the right stick is pushed. This is done without sacrificing the speed a player is moving at or the direction they are heading. This results in much more realistic animations and helps with the overall running aspect in this game. You will also have the chance to run your offense just like your school does in real life. You get to choose the playbook that you will utilize which will automatically default to an offensive style that matches the real world team.
The AI in NCAA Football 11 has also been improved and will result in more successful plays. Offensive linemen will now be better about selecting their targets however it still isn’t perfect. There are still times where they might miss a block or pick a wrong target altogether. There have also been new sideline catch animations added this year which grant your receiver the ability to drag their feet in bounds when they are making a catch. This really helps you get out of tough situations during the game and you can pick up a decent amount of yards if you can effectively work the sidelines. With that said though the AI can make some really weird decisions. There was one time when I was playing and it was second down. The opposition hiked the ball and ran an option, however, the quarterback decided to slide before he even got to the line of scrimmage and ended up taking a loss for no reason. Since I was on defense I was happy that he did it from that perspective, however, it seemed really weird and kind of broke the immersion for a brief moment.
There are other little nagging things that will pop up as well. The commentary in this year’s version is not very good and there are definitely times when the commentary is not reflective of what is taking place on the field. There was one instance where the commentators were talking about how on my last possession I went for it on fourth down and wasn’t successful.That wasn’t the case though as I had just earned a first down as I was driving down the field towards the end zone. There was another time where one of my receivers was wide open and there wasn’t a defender within five yards. I successfully threw the ball to him and then the commentators came on and were talking about how risky that play was and how I shouldn’t have thrown it to that receiver. Then of course there is the frame rate. There were times when there was a noticeable dip in the frame rate as I was playing. It happened most frequently during a running play when my quarterback would hand off to the running back and the frame rate would take a dive for a couple seconds. Now this was a fairly rare occurrence and didn’t do anything to hamper my overall experience with the game. It would still happen from time to time though and it could really screw me up when it did happen.
I briefly mentioned the ESPN integration earlier in this review and I want to expand upon it a bit more. In addition to what I have previously mentioned there is also the ESPN Front End Ticker where you get real sports scores while you are scrolling through the menu. You also have SportsCenter 20/20 radio updates that will keep you informed of what is happening in the sports world. As I was playing a game last night I heard a report on Lebron James and what was taking place with him at that time (at that specific time no one knew what Lebron’s decision would be). There is also ESPN On Demand which will stream video from ESPN as well as text articles and audio clips. Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews return as the announce team with Nessler and Herbstreit up in the booth and Andrews doing the sideline reporting. Erin Andrews also hosts the Road to Glory mode which chronicle the events that happen during your career.
If you aren’t at home next to your console and you still want to spend some time with NCAA Football 11 you can do so with the TeamBuilder feature. You can go on to the TeamBuilder website and create your school online. You can customize everything from the logos, uniforms, stadiums, rosters and more. Once you are done you can also upload your creations to a shared library so that your friends can play with (or against) your newly created team. You can also play head to head with TeamBuilder created teams in addition to every team that was created last year being playable in NCAA Football 11. You can also now add custom text across the front of the jersey.
If you have kids or you don’t know a lot about the intricacies of football then EA Sports also has you covered. There is a “Mascot Mash Up” mode where you can have fun and play as your school’s mascot on the field. Kids should especially enjoy this feature and there are even some new moves that the mascots will do that the normal football players won’t. There is also the “1-Button Mode” where the game is incredibly simplified and you only really need to push one button throughout the game. Of course you are sacrificing some of the control that you would normally have but this feature should definitely help those who are curious about the game but have never picked up a controller.
Overall, NCAA Football 11 is a fantastic title. A lot of improvements have been made for this year’s version and it shows. Yes it does have its share of issues as I have outlined above, however, at the end of the day this is a great title for collegiate football fans and for football fans in general. This is the best NCAA Football title to come out in years and NCAA no longer sits in Madden’s shadow. If you are a football fan you owe it to yourself to give NCAA Football 11 a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network