I have been playing the NCAA Football franchise for as long as I can remember, and have always preferred the NCAA games over the Madden games; I just love college sports. And over the past few years, EA Sports has been finally putting the time and money into this franchise to make it a selling rival to Madden. This year with an all new physics system, (which is a direct result of the new football game on the market: Backbreaker) and a revamp of the Dynasty setup in the game, this is a must play for fans of the franchise or football games.
Menus For those that have been playing this franchise, you are were probably just as tired of that old rotating dynasty menu as I was. The slow load times between menus, having to go down three menus to find what you wanted, such as stats or what have you. Well this is no longer. We now have a very nice new simple and clean-looking drop-down sliding menu. It is very simple and clean, yet very effective and a time saver. I can not praise the new menu system enough. You can get in and out of sub menus in the matter of seconds, no loading screen, no waiting 40-70 seconds for a sub menu to load. And you can get to the most useful stuff in a matter of one click now.
Recruiting I will start off by saying, the new recruiting is awesome! You still start off by filling a recruiting board at the start of a season, nothing new there. However, everything after this has been changed, and change is good in this case. First thing is the look and feel of it. There is a new menu screen for the "phone call" to the recruit. It starts the same, however; you select how long you want to talk to them, 10 minutes, 60 minutes, or anywhere in between (in 10 minute increments). Then you are taken to the new interactive phone call. Depending on the time you selected, depends on the number of "topics" you can talk with the recruit about, 1-6. You no longer just pick points of interest for the phone call and pray the recruit likes you for it. Now a random topic is selected, I assume by the recruit, and then it gives you options. You can press that topic if your team has a good rating for it, ask the recruit what they think on the topic (to find out where they stand on it), try to compare your rating to another school that is recruiting them (in hopes of downplaying the other school so they lose points with the recruit), change the topic (which will randomly select another topic), make a promise, or offer a scholarship. When you make your selection you will be graded, + or - points. These points are the recruit's interest in your school. At the end you are shown a grading screen of how the phone call went, which is nice. This year you feel better about recruiting as you can see how you actually impacted the recruit. Then you have to wait until the next week to see how they reacted to other schools and try again.
This year, they show you in a points and color system if you have a shot at even recruiting the player. If you pull up the recruit's personal page, you will see ten schools with a bar. The bar will be yellow for in the running but no positive or negative interest, green, meaning the recruit is highly considering these schools, and finally red, meaning the recruit is no interested in that school any longer, and has no chance of landing him, so don't waste your time. In the beginning, all schools are yellow on this screen, but your school might not appear. But wait, just because you can not see the color of interest due to not being in this players top 10 schools, doesn't mean you have a chance. Oh no, don't waste your time. There is also the points system, which is next to the color bar. The top school has no points, because they are in the lead. And the other nine schools with have a negative number next to them. So, if the school in 10th place on his page is -1000, don't waste your time, you're not going to land this recruit. This means you have to gain 1000 points in phone calls over the season, plus whatever your score is off-screen. By the time you could get in the top 10 (unless you're a powerhouse school) the recruit will more than likely be down to only 5 schools, and the other 5 on the screen will now be red. I like this new system, as it prevents you from wasting more time on recruiting.
Graphics and Motion The new physics engine they are using is a great upgrade. Not all plays and tackles looked like canned animations anymore. Of course some do, but that is not avoidable. They also scaled back the fans in the stands which helps remove load times between segments of play. They also put that "power" back onto the field. Players look more fluid running, jumping and tackling now. Granted, this is the first year of this new system and there are some bugs (like the QB's wrist after a pass looks like it's broken) but those will be fixed over time. The gameplay this year finally feels new. It had gotten stale over the last couple years. Running has also been changed. The speed boost only lasts a few seconds and then it is gone. You can no longer just hold it down and run past defenders. Also your player's acceleration comes into effect now. If a player is fast, but has a low acceleration, he wont be explosive off the line and wont get up to top speed as often.
CPU AI/Playbooks In this year's game, every team runs a correct playbook, and the AI will also, finally. So let's say you are playing against Texas Tech who run the Spread offense. They will actually run no huddle directly after a play. It can be very annoying on defense because you are stuck (just like in real life) with who is on the field. You will see the QB and the RB looking to the sideline for a play, which is kinda cool. They didn't leave out the small things this year. But don't worry, you still get a popup to select a defensive play; however it is limited to the formation you are in, so only four or five, and you only have 10 seconds to call it before the ball is snapped. And if you are on the offensive side of the ball, you get the popup and can take as long as you want, but that would defeat the point of running the no huddle. Each team now runs an authentic playbook and the AI runs them almost perfectly. It's just something you have to play the game to experience.
Odds and Ends The difficulty seems to have finally been corrected also. I am not sure what was done, but games now seem to stay a lot closer. Out of the seven games I have played, the largest margin of victory or defeat was 17 points (playing on Heisman). Last year's game I remember being able to blow out the CPU by 40+.
Not much else has changed really. Road to Glory is exactly the same. It seems they just cut and pasted it. I was really hoping for an update to that, but I'll hope for that next year. They did add the ability to use your own music this year, I know that is a big selling point to a lot of users. Lee Corso has also been removed from the game, and I could not be happier about that. The ESPN integration this year is also very nice. Its smooth and looks good. I don't really know what else to discuss about the game, so I will close this long random thought garble of a review. Go out and buy this game and enjoy it!