Game Rant's T.J. Lauerman reviews NCAA Football 11.
Yet again EA Sports has brought NCAA football to your console with all the pomp and circumstance that college football has on TV. As with most sports games, NCAA Football 11 looks to continue to add polish to an already great franchise. That is not to say that there is not a lot of new stuff going on behind the scenes.
EA has brought the PRO-TAK gang tackling system over from their Madden franchise, which brings more realistic tackles to the field. The other big behind the scenes feature is EA’s “locomotion” momentum engine. The “locomotion” engine does away with standard animations and provides a more physics based running experience. When you combine the new momentum engine with PRO-TAK you get a much more realistic feel to the on-field football experience.
One of my favorite parts of NCAA is Road To Glory, where you create a player and take control of him from his High School State Championship through his college career. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, this year looks just like a re-hash of last year. The clips of Erin Andrews weren’t even re-shot, and it was very disheartening when I saw her wearing the same outfit as last year. Even though all the clips are very generic, it would still be nice to see them add new clips. Otherwise, nothing has significantly changed from NCAA Football 10.
In the unnecessary but AWESOME category, there is a handful of new equipment and accessories in the game. Now players can wear towels and hand-warmers, to which my wife (who saw me creating my Road To Glory character) said, “How is he going to run with all that stuff on?” Also in the mix are new helmets, undershirt sleeves, and elbow and knee braces. Though they seem like small additions, they go far in making the game have a more realistic look.
On the field, there is (yet again) a new play calling system. I’m very torn on this point, as I’m a fan of picking the formation and then cycling through groups of three plays, each selectable by a face button. NCAA Football 11 has changed this up, and I haven’t decided if it's for the better, but it may be. You have three ways to pick your play: Ask Corso, Formation, and Play Type (i.e. Run, Short Pass, Long Pass) which can by changed with the front shoulder buttons. From there, you can go Left and Right cycling through plays, though you can only select the center-most play. While in the Formation grouping, after selecting your formation, you can now also go Up and Down to change your formation without backing out to the main play calling screen.
Another broader change coming to all EA Sports games has been eased into NCAA Football 11. Recently, EA has removed the the Turbo button from its NHL series, and the upcoming Madden 11 will also do away with the Sprint/Turbo button. In NCAA Football 11, while the button is still available in the settings, by default, Sprint is set to automatically happen without needing a button press. EA has said this is because most players would just hold the Sprint button the the second they get the ball. Now, with having the Sprint happen automatically, it's much easier for you to run through offensive line gaps, and you have less chance of running into your own players. I’ve left this setting to its default and it seems to work very nicely. I still find myself, out of habit, mashing down the RT that used to be Sprint, but I can already see the benefit of leaving the computer in control of that.
A new control scheme added this year is 1-Button Mode. In this mode, the semi-complex controls are dumbed down so that all you use is a the thumb-stick and one face button. On offense, A (X on PS3) snaps the ball. On a passing play, the computer will pick the best available receiver and they will get the A (X) icon over them. Press it to pass it, then while running, A (X) is used as a break tackle button. On defense, the only button is B (O) which is used to switch players. That’s it. Its actually pretty amazing how you can actually play an entire game using just one button. While I don’t think this mode is going to make anyone run out to buy the game, I do think it will make it easier for someone that is not a hardcore player to put up a decent game against someone more experienced.
On a side note, I’m a huge fan of the NCAA Football franchise. However, I’m not really a big fan of actual NCAA football. Weird, I know. With over 120 teams in the game, I had always recommend picking up the Prima Game Guide, because it had rankings and stats for all of the teams in the game. That is, until this year. While there is a ton of information on new plays and formations added this year, there are stats and rankings for only 15 teams. So now I’m much more cautious about picking a lower ranked team, because I’m afraid that they’ll have no good players. With the old style guide, I could easily fiund out what weapons I had to work with. So I don’t really recommend picking up the $15 Prima Essential Guide.
NCAA Football 11 looks and plays better than ever. With the back end improvements of PRO-TAK and the ‘locomotion’ momentum engine, this game has the best feel of any sports game out now. I’m unhappy that not much has changed in Road To Glory, but it is still an excellent, in depth mode that you will spend tens of hours on, making your player a certified Legend.
If you like college football, you’re going to want to go out and get NCAA Football 11. If you normally only play Madden, maybe this is the year you should go out and take a chance on NCAA. You won’t be disappointed.
NCAA Football 11 is out now for Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2. Unlike previous years, no version will be coming out for the PSP.