With EA Sports's NCAA Football 11 set to hit stores on Tuesday, July 13th, we received an advance copy of the title for Xbox 360 and are ready to give you all that you need to know about whether you should buy this game or just stick with the past versions. We've got the info on everything from gameplay to intros to recruiting advice. So go read our review of NCAA 11 after the jump.
The first aspect to consider when looking at the new NCAA game is what hits you as soon as you boot up the game: the new menu system. Previously, everything had been in one drop down with branches coming out from there. But with this new, hyped up system, the bars are at the top of the screen only, allowing pictures, logos and cheerleaders to fill the rest of the screen. There isn't much of a change in functionality, aside from the rare time when you'll miss an item and the aesthetic appeal has greatly been improved. The only problem with the menu system is that it lags when the autosave feature is on, but that can easily be turned off.
The next huge change is in the gameplay itself. Prior to this year, the game has been focused solely on offense since the move to current generation systems. But this year, the game's been slowed down much like Madden last year and has also changed to feel similar. A new camera view has been instituted that shows more of a zoomed out picture of the field, allowing better pocket presence from the user and a larger view of the field. It takes a little while to get used to but the camera allows easier evasion and the ability to spot more open receivers.
The biggest innovation within the gameplay itself is the new "Locomotion" feature. After seeing what Madden could accomplish simply by slowing down the players, NCAA took it to the next step by making the running mechanics more realistic than ever. The acceleration ratings now have more of an impact on how good of a first step a player can get as does agility when turning quickly. It feels more real than ever.
The first element of this is the Dual Stick Control, allowing you to juke with the right stick and control your player's upper body with the other. This sounds good on paper, but in practice, it's hard to react fast enough make these controls work. I tried at first, but then just went back to forgetting about it.
Things like formation subs have finally made it into the game, though you have to make these subs prior to the game. The same in game substitution options are there, like HB sub and backup quarterback so it's still a work in progress.
The biggest improvement to the game overall is the different types of offenses. You can really see the differences in playbooks with the spread, pro style and whatever else you can think of. Spread is almost entirely out of the shotgun, while pro's from behind center. The game also allows you to pick a new play every time you run the hurry up, so there aren't just a few options to choose from in the audible menu as in previous games. You can really run Oklahoma's spread, no huddle offense now thanks to this small,but very worthwhile improvement.
ESPN has also been integrated into the game much the way it used to be with Madden in terms of radio broadcasts and 20-20 updates. Also, the college gameday music has been brought in as has an ESPN scoreboard. Honestly though, this really doesn't improve the game that much overall. You forget about it after playing a few times. Presentation has been greatly improved in general though as high profile teams have their signature entrances in the game, such as Miami. Lesser known schools however will probably have to wait until next year at least. Also, the crowd has been greatly improved. They took the idea of fan cut scenes from Madden last year, and actually made them pleasant to look at. The jerseys and people look as real as the players.
Speaking of the players, the graphics have been changed slightly to have more realism as in Madden. The player models look sleeker in general and the colors tend to pop out more. A great improvement.
In terms of online play, we really couldn't get to test it since very few people were online, but the improvements we know of include being able to edit your online dynasty anywhere and writing your own stories for other people to see. It's really trash talking on steroids. You can pretend to be Jay Mariotti and hate everyone in your league or be a homer like Beano Cook or just crazy like Lee Corso. It's all up to you. You also have to be aware that to play online, you need a code that can only be obtained by buying a new game. Used games won't be able to play online in any capacity through the controversial Online Pass system.
Road to Glory mode basically hasn't been changed at all from what we can see. There are now leaderboards for online players for stats and legend ratings, but really nothing of note. They're still just hyping up Erin Andrews seemingly forgetting that she was in the last game too. The menu actually doesn't think you'll believe that she's actually in the game. Except she already was.
Dynasty mode is only changed by the different recruiting mechanics this year. All the offseason tasks are the same and the headlines function differently, but nearly everything is the same. However, you can alter conferences so I put Nebraska in the Big Ten but unfortunately you have to give another team back preventing it from being completely authentic. In terms of recruiting, players' ratings are lower than ever before so most three star recruits are useless. These guys all have ratings of 65 as most while 4 and 5 star players are often over 75. The progression doesn't make up for these problems either since most players will only go up 2 or 3 every year. By the fifth year, a good team will probably only have 3 guys rated over 85.
The actual recruiting has been changed to speed it up, but it's still essentially the same. The only problem with it is that basically whoever gets lucky and has a visit as the right time gets the player, which can be frustrating. But other than that, besides the low ratings, everything seems fine. In the next game, I'd like to be able to offer scholarships and schedule visits without going through the full call though.
Teambuilder is also pretty much the same except that now you can play online head to head with other user created teams, which is a big addition for many. Custom text can also be put across the jerseys, but it's still the same basically.
In conclusion, NCAA 11 greatly improved upon its gameplay by taking more than a few pages out of Madden 10's book but still hasn't done much to revolutionize the career modes. Road to Glory still feels the same as it always has and Dynasty is still basically the same as when I first played it in NCAA 2002 for PS2. It's time for a change EA.
[NCAA 11 Xbox 360] – $59.99
[NCAA 11 PS3] -$59.99