A review of the latest EA Sports NCAA College Football video game

NCAA Football 10: Review

EA Sports NCAA Football 10I have had EA Sports NCAA Football 10 for about three weeks. (My friend Kelly won it for me in a silent auction at our friend’s charity golf tournament last month.) Since I have had every copy of this title since 1994, I think I am able to provide a decent review of the current product.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that I play as the Florida Gators, and also that “we” finished our first season with a record of 14 and 0, including an SEC Championship win over a startlingly-good Ole Miss team and a National Championship win over a pass-happy Oklahoma. The video game allows you to edit your dynasty’s non-conference schedule before you start a season so I traded the real-life games against Charleston Southern, Troy, and Florida International for powerhouses USC and Oklahoma, with a late-November trip to South Bend to play Notre Dame in the snow. (That made the Rose Bowl a rematch for Florida, since we played OU as the second game of the season.)

It was pretty tough to go undefeated

After blowing away what was supposed to be a very good USC team to start the season — Kirk and Lee picked the Trojans for the upset — I really thought that the season would be a breeze. But the AI has improved dramatically since NCAA Football 09 and it was pretty tough to go undefeated. Ole Miss was brutal in the SEC Championship Game and the Gators were actually trailing at the half (for the first time in the season) by two scores. Oklahoma improved quite a bit during the course of the year; there were two safeties in the National Championship game and I managed to win despite #15 throwing four interceptions and uncharacteristically fumbling three times on short runs.

Halfback #25 won the “Returner of the Year” award with 908 kick return yards with 2 TDs and 245 punt return yards. Quarterback #15 won the Maxwell, O’Brien, and Heisman awards, going 214 for 330 through the air with 4030 passing yards, and with 357 rushes for 879 yards… and 64 total TDs.

The Good

  • The graphics are just spectacular. The shading is so realistic that if you were to just walk into the room or see the screen from more than a few feet away you could easily be fooled into thinking it was a real game.
  • The introductory videos are outstanding.
  • The stadiums have been updated with much more detail; you can see sideline game clocks and crowd animations better than ever.
  • EA fixed the color scheme of the stats screens so that you can actually read them now. One of my biggest complaints about last year’s game was that because of very poor color choices it was nearly impossible to read the numbers of the selected player on stat lists. This is now much improved.
  • The addition of marching bands was a nice touch, although it doesn’t add much to the gameplay.
  • Plays now indicate how susceptible the defense is to them. So if you run up the middle frequently, your play-calling choices will show play-action passes as “set up” by a certain percentage. I don’t know how well the AI is responding to tendencies like this, but I can imagine it would be effective playing against another human.
  • You can now set global “emotions” for your team to be aggressive, balanced, or conservative, and you can do this at any point in the game. Holding a lead in a tight game? Tell your players to make sure tackles and play more conservatively. Down by 2 with the clock approaching all naughts? Tell them to be aggressive and go for the strip or the interception.
  • Erin Andrews now lets you know what’s happening with injured players, so you get pretty detailed explanations instead of just a message box with “bruised shoulder”.
  • I got called for holding at least five times, which is a great improvement over NCAA Football 09 because I couldn’t remember the last time I got flagged for that in the previous incarnation.
  • After a player is injured and if he is able to get back in the game, you can now choose whether to sit him or put him back on the field and risk further injury. This is a great idea and forces you to make more ‘real world’ choices.
  • The weather seems to have more of an impact on the game this year. (Even the glare of the sunshine is a factor, at least on replays.)
  • If a game starts in the late afternoon, at halftime it’s dusk and by the end of the game the stadium lights are blaring and there are long shadows on the field.

The Bad

  • XBox ControllerOnce again EA Sports inexplicably decided to change the buttons associated with key controls. Probably the most frustrating change was to the “pump up the crowd” button. In NCAA Football 09 when you wanted your defense to rev up the crowd you repeatedly clicked the left stick. In NCAA Football 10 to do the same thing you must repeatedly move the right stick “up”. Why they made this change makes no sense to me. (It’s much, much more difficult to push the right stick “up” with your right thumb than it was to just press the left stick with your left thumb.)
  • For some reason the “strip ball” action changed from the bottom right trigger to the top left trigger. That means I spent three quarters of the season making defenders leap into the air to try to defend a pass when I wanted them to try to force a fumble, which made for some embarrassingly long rushes by Gator opponents.
  • If you play in dynasty mode — as I always do — you must click way too many times to get there. The game is configured to make it easy to start a new dynasty, even though you will only do this (generally) one time. You’re going to want to get to your existing dynasty dozens or hundreds of times, so that is really what should be the default.
  • It is almost impossible to stop a half-back screen.
  • It is almost impossible to execute an end-around.
  • My wide receivers got flat-out mugged multiple times during the year but never drew a PI call.

The Ugly

  • It is way, way too easy to give up a touchdown on a kickoff. By the end of the season I was playing every kickoff as conservatively as I could and I was still giving up at least one each game.
  • It is way, way too hard to return a punt for a touchdown. (I didn’t have one all year!)
  • The “Ask Corso” feature — even after all the years it’s been an option — still needs some work. Lee suggests fake punts at outrageous points in the game, like from within your own 30 with 9 yards to go in a tight game. He also has a penchant for calling dangerous deep zones on defense with the offense knocking on the goal line. And if you leave his voice enabled, he starts talking over Kirk’s color commentary most of the time, which makes it impossible to understand what either of them is saying.
  • It seems like EA lost some its sponsors this year, because you’re reminded on almost every play that, “This game is brought to you by EA Sports.”
  • There is no reason ever to display a confirmation message that a file was loaded successfully. It’s also ridiculously annoying to be forced to always assure the system that, yes, I want to do what I just said I wanted to do.
  • On more than one occasion I got flagged as offsides because my DL couldn’t get back to the line of scrimmage before the offense snapped the ball. That’s just lame.
  • None of the “waiting for game to load” trivia facts have changed at all as far as I could tell. This is pretty silly and EA should have had an intern read the ESPN college factbook and grab about 100 new bits for each team.
  • Florida won the National Championship with probably the best college football player in the history of the game as the quarterback and we still can’t get on the cover? Crabtree? Really?

Like I said: I’ve been playing EA Sports college football game for so long it’s pathetic, and I will probably continue to do so until I no longer have fingers and / or until I am so hopelessly out of touch with technology that I don’t understand how these damn kids interact with their brain implants or whatever it is they’ll be doing in ten years. This is by far my favorite video game of all time and although I still have some complaints, I think it’s the best college football game on the market.

Here’s how my season went, with the opponent’s final record in parentheses:

USC (9-4) 42 @ Florida 56
#2 OU (11-3) 26 @ Florida 45
TENN (6-7) 3 @ Florida 42
Florida 35 @ UK (5-7) 7
Florida 39 @ LSU (8-5) 22
ARK (5-7) 20 @ Florida 42
Florida 56 @ Miss St (5-7) 21
#10 UGA (9-4) 21 @ Florida 31
VANDY (6-7) 17 @ Florida 38
Florida 41 @ SCAR (5-7) 21
Florida 49 @ ND (5-7) 10
FSU (7-6) 17 @ Florida 38
(SEC) Ole Miss (9-5) 38 vs Florida 48
(NC) #2 OU (11-3) 2 vs Florida 19

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