NCAA Football 10 Review (Xbox 360)

I have always enjoyed the NCAA football franchise, but by far the best game in the franchise is NCAA Football 10.

The past iterations of NCAA Football on the Xbox 360 featured excellent graphics and some fantastic game modes, but NCAA Football 10 has ramped up the game to a new level.

NCAA Football 10 looks and plays better than any of its predecessors

NCAA Football 10 looks and plays better than any of its predecessors

Most obvious of the improvements is the outstanding Team Builder feature. While many games in the past have allowed you to create team logos and uniforms, never before has it been integrated so smoothly and honestly into a game. In other sports games, when putting together a team you knew it did not belong. You could not use your team in dynasty mode, and when you did play with the team you created, you borrowed a stadium, the uniforms were ugly and just didn’t work.

Team Builder allows you to import a logo or use an existing one. It even includes all Division I-AA (FCS) schools logos and colors. I personally, being from Vermont, created a University of Vermont team. I uploaded their logo, imported onto the uniform where I wanted it, onto the helmet, and onto the field. You can choose from any existing stadium in college football, and though part of a problem is that logos on the sidelines and on the scoreboards will retain themselves from the original stadium, for instance, I chose Utah’s stadium and it said “Utes” on the stadium scoreboard. However, it’s easy to look past such a minor complaint when the team you created not only looks great, but can be imported into any conference in football to compete at the Division I-A (FBS) level. Furthermore, the announcers were able to pronounce the name of my team, the Catamounts, which added to the realism of having the University of Vermont in the Big East conference. Rather than saying, “It’s the Mountaineers versus the away team” the announcers actually said, “It’s the Mountaineers versus the Catamounts.” I was blown away.

The teambuilder is stunning in its versatility and implementation - join a conference, win a championship, your-user created team can do it all (and in style)

The teambuilder is stunning in its versatility and implementation - join a conference, win a championship, your-user created team can do it all (and in style)

Beyond the Team Builder mode, NCAA Football 10 features a fantastic Road To Glory mode in which you create a player who you control. You only play when he is on the field and you can only control him. I created a quarterback and was able to play through the state high school championships (you can play through any state’s championships, and the list of High School’s to choose from (or create) is great), get recruited by schools from around the country, choose one to play for and then rise through the ranks to become starter through practicing daily and watching games from the sidelines.

The practice sessions are somewhat difficult, but they prepare you for the difficulty of a season (or an entire college career) in Road To Glory, and they require you to accumulate a certain number of points in order to rise from backup to starter. This is an incredibly rewarding process, though, because when I finally stepped into a game for the first time (as a backup after rising from the #3 position at Penn State), it was thrilling to work my way down the field and achieve my first college touchdown pass.

Finally, there is Season Showdown, in which you now accumulate points for each win while playing against the AI or against opponents (and each loss accumulates points as well, though not as many) and apply them towards your favorite team in a grand battle for the best team in Division I-A football. The best part about this mode is not necessarily the competition between individuals and different favorite schools, but in that it encourages sportsmanship, which changes the dynamic of the games you play (as long as you care about the points). Go for it on fourth and ten and you’ll find you’ve lost 10 points on your overall score for the game you played – punt it and gain 10 points. Rack up the score by passing the football when you’re up 35-0 and you’ll find a warning that you are risking being penalized in the final season showdown score of your game. While it would be easy to ignore the point system and play how you want, I found myself less optimistic about passing for eight touchdowns over a Division I-AA (FCS) opponent than I was about putting in my backup quarterback to run some plays for the third and fourth quarters. It is an interesting game feature that makes the final game score (and stats) more realistic.

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Beyond the different game types, NCAA Football 10 stands out for the way in which it has increased the level of realism on the field. One of the most innovative changes is the ability to disguise plays. For instance, if you run the ball several times in a row, the AI will begin to guess that you’re going to run again, and will plan their defense accordingly. But choose a play action pass, and you’ll be treated with a percentage which highlights just how much this play will catch your opponents off their feet. It is a novel feature that works beautifully. It is absolutely rewarding to run, run, run, and then fire a pass that goes for a sixty-yard touchdown because your opponent was trying to cheat and guess what you were going to do next. Just like in real football, defense is an odds game, and offense tries to throw off the defense’s preparations. It is a beautiful thing to witness, and throughout the game, everything feels more realistic, from running to receiving to adjusting the strength of a pass. And the opponent AI feels more honest and is less apt to pick off a perfect pass by using ungodly perceptions of where a pass was headed, like in the past. They also feel more attuned to your style of play, forcing you to constantly change up your game plan. In other words, stale, repetitive play making will lead to turnovers.

One of the other great additions to the strategic aspect of the game is the ability to choose whether to play aggressive, balanced, or cautious. Aggressive will lead to more big plays, but also increases the number of penalties you rack up and exposes you to the chance that your opponent may get a bomb past you. Play cautiously, and you are most likely to stop your opponents by grinding them down, but not by forcing a fumble or an interception.

Finally, NCAA Football 10 has ramped up the details that define college football. Bands march on the field and display fascinating formations. Flag carriers run across the endzone after a touchdown. Cheerleaders celebrate. Players jump on each other’s backs after a touchdown or dance with the mascot after running past their opponents. And, every single Division I-A (FBS) stadium is now created. No more generic stadiums for schools like FAU or UConn.

The only gripes I have with NCAA Football 10 are minor. I would still like the players to look more realistic. There are far too many bulging veins on top of muscles, and the players faces look far too old for college. And I also still think the grass on the fields could look better or become deteriorated as the game goes on, particularly in bad weather. I found one thing that majorly bugged me in the game. When I was a quarterback and a big lineman wrapped his arms around my legs and was trying to pull me down, I could throw the ball away or toss it desperately in the air to a nearby receiver. I simply had to watch as my quarterback struggled to stand and eventually fell. If going for realism, I would definitely make it a possibility to get rid of a ball when being taken down by the legs.

Secondly, I wish that NCAA Football’s developers would spend more time crafting an end-of-season atmosphere. I was disappointed to arrive in the National Championship, to play hard, and win and be treated to the exact same ending screen I got after each game I played – nothing special happened. No confetti, no players running around onto the field, celebrating. No Gatorade being dumped. If anything, I would love to see the next iteration of NCAA Football capture just what it is to win a National Championship or any bowl game – fans swarming the field, players raising the trophy. And, perhaps, someday, in a big rivalry upset, seeing fans climbing up the goal post?

Finally, I hope that next year’s NCAA Football title will allow Team Builder schools to be used in Road to Glory as well, as the Team Builder was so amazing that it only made me want to incorporate my created teams into other modes.

Despite these minor complaints, NCAA Football 10 offers the most complete football package I have yet to play. It shines in the big moments and the small. There were times throughout my play experience where I jumped from my seat in frustration over a badly executed play, or leapt in awe at the way a receiver hauled in a lob pass, toes sliding along the sideline. NCAA Football 10 truly captures the atmosphere of college football and is a worthy addition to your gaming collection.

Terminal Gamer’s Final Verdict:

91%

Football fan or not, NCAA Football 10 is the best football game to come along in a long, long time.

Positives

+ The most realistic football game yet

+ Team Builder is dynamic and the best integrated team creator I have ever seen.

+ Insane amount of details

+ Fooling your opponent for a touchdown

Negatives

– Players still look far too old and far too steroid-pumped

– You can’t use a created team in Road to Glory mode

– Still no celebration for winning a national championship or bowl game