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NCAA Football 11 - a couple of comments

Go Cyclones!

I just bought EA Sports' NCAA Football 11, and I've got a couple of comments about the game.  I've only played 4 or 5 games so far, so I obviously can't review it (I also haven't played the Road to Glory mode). But there are a few things I want to say about this year's installment. A few annoyances and couple of awesome things.

First, I want to give heartfelt thanks to those people who spend the time and effort to create accurate rosters for this game.  With the players not being professionals, the game can't use their real names. Thus, you can either have the game make up names or the game will just use numbers ("QB #1 falls back, and throws a perfect strike to WR #85!!!! Touchdown!!!"). Or, you can download a roster that somebody's created. I can't remember when EA first put that option in there, but it's a wonderful thing. It's so cool seeing the players' real names on there. Even cooler is when the announcers say the last names. It really helps that feeling of actually playing your team.  I'm using the Pastapadre rosters, but there are a lot of them out there.

Ok, now for the annoyances.

First, EA *really* needs to bring announcers Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit and have them record some new stuff. Ok, I know they had to do some introductory stuff because of the new way that teams are coming onto the field, as well as the minor recap at the end of the game (if you're in Dynasty mode, anyway). But they need some new stuff during the game too! Thankfully, Lee Corso isn't on there anymore, so the lame-ass jokes are gone. But we need more! I honestly didn't hear one bit of in-game commentary that I haven't heard in the last two years. Incidentally, it's funny that, while Corso is gone, the "Weekly Predictions" in your Dynasty have both Herbstreit and Corso making predictions.  Gone, but not forgotten, eh?

My pipe dream is that the announcers actually say things with situational awareness, like the fact that Iowa State hasn't beaten Iowa in 10 years (I have no idea if that's true or not, but that's just an example). It'll never happen, but it would be nice if they made strides toward that. Nessler does say something at the end of each game that basically talks about the teams' records and how they're doing (after winning a game to reach 2-2 after Game 4, he said something about I would still have to do a lot to get past those early losses). It is a nice touch.  I just wish the in-game commentary was new.

The second annoyance is in the play-calling screen. They have revamped it to make it easier for people don't live and breathe football, and overall I do like the new system. However, the screen used to have situational awareness and now it doesn't. When it was 4th and 10, it would pop up on the punt screen and if you wanted to go for it, you had to come out of that screen and choose a play. If you were in field goal range, it would default to a field goal. Now, it just defaults to the last play and you have to hit "Y" for Special Teams. Ok, one more button press, that's not *too* bad, right? Yes, it is bad. Offensively, it *always* defaults to Field Goal! Even if you're on your own 10 yard line. It *will* tell you how long the field goal is (I love that, since it was hard to judge sometimes before), but it's just silly for it to default to "Field Goal (95 yards)."  You then have to cycle through your special teams plays to get to "Punt".

Defensively, it always defaults to Punt Return. Yes, even if the other team is on your 10 yard line. And even if the other team is kicking a PAT! That's just silly.

On the plus side, the graphics look a lot crisper than they have in the past, and I love the gang-tackling. I also love the pre-game where they show the players running out onto the field. I don't play with any of the teams that do this, but they have some team-specific animations for this, like Notre Dame tapping the sign as they come out. That just adds to the immersion.

The best new thing, though, is the ability to do a lot of your online dynasty stuff on the web. You can do your recruiting, set your depth charts, look at stats and schedules, pretty much anything except play the game! I don't know if this is new, but you can also just do one-person online dynasties so you can use these web tools for your own dynasty as well. Stories about your dynasty will be published and you can publish your own as well. This is a great thing for those who like to do a blog about their dynasty, so much so that I'm going to be creating my own. Sadly, unless I'm missing something, there's no way to give a direct link to your dynasty, so I can't just point people there. (If anybody knows how to do this, I'd be greatly appreciative). So what I'm going to do is set up my own blog and copy my stories. I'll post a link to it once I've got it up and running, if anybody's interested.

(That's not my screenshot, but it gives you an idea of what it looks like)

The cool thing is that all of the text, stats, and all that other crap will already be there! So it will just be a matter of cutting and pasting. Except the pictures, which unfortunately can't be downloaded and saved (they're in a Flash format). You can share individual stories on Facebook and Twitter, though. People can go view an individual story, but there's no way for people to just visit the Dynasty page and look at it. The Facebook share doesn't appear to be working right now (or at least it's not for me), but the Twitter share will create a link for just that story. It's still in Beta mode, though, so hopefully they'll add more functionality.

Overall, I'm greatly enjoying the game, despite the couple of annoyances. I'll do a fuller review once I've spent some time with it.

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