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NCAA Football 11 demo impressions

 

Those who have followed my other blog for a while know that I'm a big fan of EA Sports' NCAA Football video game. There may have been a few obvious hints of that.

So it's no surprise that I can't wait to get my hands on NCAA 11 when the final roster updates are out in August (there's no real purpose in buying the game in July, when it first goes on sale, if you want to use the "real" rosters that volunteers create for the game). There's supposed to be a lot of cool new stuff in the game, including a complete overhaul of the physics and AI systems. Linemen actually blocking intelligently for the run? Who woulda thunk it?

The demo for NCAA Football 11 came out the other day, and I downloaded it as quickly as possible. Will it live up to the hype?

It is kind of hard to make a judgement on that based on playing a game with two minute quarters, but I was able to get some impressions in my first couple of games with it.

These are in no particular order. Keep in mind that some of this stuff may just be in the demo and may not apply to the actual game. We'll see.

1) We have the same announcers (Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit) except the "The Coach" Lee Corso is no longer providing colour commentary. I can't say I'm upset about that, as his voice and "jokes" quickly wore on me. Especially when they were repeated over and over and over and over...well, you get the idea.

Which brings us to...

2) Granted, I only have a couple games in, and this may only be for the demo, but I heard absolutely *nothing* new from the announcers. Or at the very least any additions/changes were very slight. I recognized almost everything the announcers said from last year's game.

That's not very encouraging considering that was one of my major annoyances last year.

3) The graphics look incredible, though once you're actually playing the game, they don't look *that* much different from last year. They're crisper and cleaner, though, and there are a lot more gang tackles. Teams have their own unique entries into the stadium, which adds to that college atmosphere. I didn't get much of a chance to see this, with only eight teams in the game, but it's still a nice touch.

While the crowd shots also look impressive, it would be nice to see more than the three or four that I saw in my two games. Hopefully there will be more variety of shots in the real game, too.

4) The play-calling system is very different from last year, though you can make it what you're used to by choosing "advanced playcalling." Even so, the playcalling choices are in one line rather than a square of 4 plays, thus limiting mistaken play calls (at least by me).

Even better, though, is you have a much wider choice of plays when you call an audible at the line of scrimmage. Much better, though, is that when you call a hurry-up at the line, you don't automatically run the same play again (unless you audible out of it). Instead, you get the full range of plays to call. This can be a bit slower than in the past, but it's worth the slight bit of extra time. If you do want to call the same play, that's what it defaults to when you approach the line.

5) One play-calling annoyance that I *really* hope they change before the game comes out (but since it's coming out July 13, I doubt it) is the lack automatic defaulting of certain plays based on the situation. For example, in previous games, in obvious punting formations, the basic Punt play immediately came up on the playcalling screen. If you wanted to go for it, you just went and found another play. It was very handy to just have to hit the "A" button to call the Punt.

Now, it doesn't do that. It defaults to the previous play, no matter what the situation is. I haven't had this happen yet, but this would be *really* bad if you need that game-winning field goal on 4th down when you don't have any timeouts left and the clock is running down.

(*EDIT 6/19/10*: Played a couple more games last night, and you can hit the "Y" button to go to the Special Teams play list.  So while it's still a bit annoying and an extra button-press, it's not as egregious as I thought.)

On the good side, though, when you do call a Field Goal, it will tell you what the distance of the kick will be. That's *very* handy when you're not sure exactly what yard line you're on.

6) The Locomotion momentum-based engine looked pretty good in the couple of games I played. The players moved a lot more fluidly. I didn't get a chance to see if another major problem from last year's game manifested itself: namely, the momentum of the opposing team's receiver carrying him backwards on a pass play, resulting in an 8 yard loss on what should have been either a no-gain or the gain of a couple of yards. Last year, when the receivers ran back toward the line of scrimmage (like on a hook route), their momentum usually results in them losing yardage even if they caught the ball. Haven't seen similar plays yet in this game, so I don't know if the Locomotion system fixed that or not. Here's hoping

7) Finally, one of the main statistical problems last year was that the game considered some Option plays as passes, even when they weren't. Thus, you'd have statistical anomalies of an "incomplete pass" going for a touchdown.

Since you don't get stats in the demo, I don't know whether it will do that again this year. I do know, however, that I did an Option play and Kirk Herbstreit talked about me passing.

That does not bode well.

I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the stuff that's not in the demo, such as the supposedly improved Dynasty system (with much better recruiting) and the ESPN presentation. I haven't heard anything about a weekly College Football scoreboard show or anything like that, and I continue to believe that the game needs something like that to really put you "in the game" (or, in this case, "in the atmosphere"), but supposedly they've really decked the game out in ESPN stuff.

I also hope that, if you're playing in the National Champtionship game, it actually feels like it, rather than feeling like another home game.

As for Road to Glory mode? I haven't heard anything about it, yea or nay. I don't even know if it's in there this year. If it is, let's hope it's been massively improved too. Last year it was a joke.

I can't wait to see it!

 

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