NCAA 2005 Review (Gamecube)

B00020V4RG.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgNCAA 2004 ruled my Gamecube for a long time last year. Sure, it came out so I could play a little Viewtiful Joe or Need For Speed, but I played NCAA 2004 almost daily. As football season came to a close, my NCAA time dwindled but was still played pretty frequently. When details of NCAA 2005 started appearing, my appetite was slowly whipped into a frenzy. Great things were promised. I’m here to report that most of the promises have been delivered, but unfortunately not everything.

I’m not going to rehash the NCAA 2005 basics. Go read my NCAA 2004 review for the lowdown. I just want to touch on whatís new and what I think about it.

The biggest addition has been home-field advantage and the effect crowds have. I am an Ohio State Buckeye fan. (It has been a painful year, but as a fan youíve got to go through the bad to savor the good.) Anyway, I’ve been to Ohio Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe. I’ve been there for Michigan games. I’ve been there when we beat Michigan. The feeling and atmosphere is indescribable Itís electric. Itís a spiritual experience. I know it affects those players. It has to! Itís affects me and I’m just a humble fan. NCAA 2005 has done a superb job recreating that feeling. College football is about emotion and NCAA 2005 conveys that emotion (to a point). When you play somewhere like the Horseshoe or the Big House or the Swamp, it is loud. You can barely here the announcers. When the crowd gets rocking, the screen shakes and the controller vibrates. It feels like a Saturday in November. I applaud EA for that; they have captured what College Football Saturday feels like. A+

The next addition is the match up stick. Using the C-stick, you can see how your team matches up against your opponent and you can see if your players (and theirs) are rattled, if the crowd is getting to them. You can see whoís good and who stinks. Another great addition, it adds a dimension of strategy. Your number one receiver is lined up against a rattled freshman? Youíve got your guy. Itís pretty nice. A

Another thing the C-stick is used for are ďBig HitsĒ. This is a pretty nifty little thing; you get close to making a tackle and wham on the C-stick. If itís timed right, youíll make a big hit and maybe even cause a fumble. Itís especially effective on kick-offs. Hard to time but rewarding. B+

Dynasty mode has been revamped, too. Thereís the added dimension of running a clean football program Ė discipline. If your players run afoul of the rules (or the law) youíll have to take appropriate actions (or you can act like Bobby Bowden and pretend they never happened). You can suspend players for a quarter, a game, a season, whatever you want. But be warned: the more you shrug it off, the more the NCAA will start breathing down your neck. Donít appease them and you might lose scholarships or TV appearances. Itís happened to me, it isnít pretty. Itís a great idea in theory, but not executed perfectly. You have plenty of ďdiscipline pointsĒ each week so this usually isnít a problem unless you want it to be. B-

Celebrations have been added, including fans with signs and fans doing dances. I hate to say it, but the fan models look bad. They look alien and all wrong. Now you can celebrate after big plays and touchdowns. I have a love-hate relationship with the celebrations. Some are sweet (hushing the away crowd after a touchdown is a personal favorite). But I tire of big celebrations in the real game. Just make the play, congratulate your teammates and get back to the huddle. No need to showboat and dance around. Just play the game and save your antics for the NFL. Ranting aside, the new celebrations are well done. B+

Those are the major additions. There have been some minor tweaks as well. Everyone who plays NCAA 2005 knows that Dynasty mode is what keeps them coming back. There are some welcome additions there, too. You can allocate resources to training, discipline and recruiting as you see fit. Recruiting (my favorite part of them game) has also been tweaked. The biggest change for my money has been the fact that there are fewer five-star (blue-chip) prospects compared to 2004. In 2004 there was too many five-star players. Now itís common to only see three or four five-star players at each position. I like that. You can also scout a player before you recruit him. That gives you a little more info than what you get to begin with. Things like his discipline, his understanding of the game, that kind of thing. Another welcome addition. B+

There are others I’m sure I’m missing, but those are the ones I felt worth mentioning. But all is not perfect. The graphics still leave a lot to be desired. Itís frustrating to see games like Madden and ESPN NFL look great while NCAA 2005 looks three years old. Some updated graphics are there, itís just not enough. There are still frustrating glitches in the sound and commentary, but itís not a deal breaker. Control is pretty much the same but I still yearn for a little more control over the passing game. Itís there but hit or miss. And the physics for the football! Good night! Itís like a balloon out there, bouncing around, unbound by any laws of gravity and momentum. This is nitpicking, to be sure, but it can go unmentioned.

Overall, itís a great update to NCAA 2004. Itís unfortunate that we still have to pay full price for what really is nothing more than an expansion pack, but so be it. Xbox and PS2 owners get online play, which would be cool if I had the time, but I donít really miss it. In the end, itís unfortunate but it isnít as great as 2004 was. It pains me not to rate this five buttons mashed, but there are some issues that bring this down. I can only go four buttons mashed on this one. If you donít have 2004, donít hesitate picking this one up. If you do, strongly consider the additions and go from there. I say go for it, but it isnít a cheap upgrade.

Minor glitches in NCAA 2005

Dynasty mode in NCAA is definitely the biggest draw for me. Starting as a new team running with the big boys in Division 1-A is tough but it’s rewarding. I also love “Create-a-team”, being able to pick everything from location to uniforms to mascots. If you make a team that doesn’t have one of the “canned” mascots/nicknames, when the announcer refers to your team, it’s either “the home team” or “the away team”. So in my recent dynasty, I’ve recreated my high school, down to the school colors and team mascot, The Bears. Well, there seems to be some confusion. Sometimes I’m referred to as the “Bearcats” and other times it’s just the “Bears”. It’s a bit frustrating that something seemingly so simple (in terms of programming) can be so horribly screwed up.

In NCAA 2004 it was picking up a fumble, running for about 5 yards and hearing the announcer scream “fumble recovered for a return of seventy three yards!” Right.

These are just minor things, but they do get my goat sometimes.

Weekend gaming and Video Game Football

This weekend didn’t involve as much video gaming as we had anticipated. Other things happened, like going outdoors and actually breathing fresh air! We rode the four-wheelers a bunch, watched some college football (my Buckeyes are reeling, but I’m not dismayed) and played some NCAA 2005 on the Gamecube.

Watching a few football games this weekend made me realize how far football games have come but also how much farther they can still go. While it is unrealistic to think a gamer would want to spend 3 hours playing a game of football (3 hours being the average length of a college or pro football game) I think there can still be more realistic additions to both the graphics and AI. For one, collision detection still has a while before it’s perfect. Body parts still go through other bodies as if they were ghosts, collisions occur and bodies contort in unrealistic (in a Newtonian Physics sense) manners, I could go on. There also should be in place ways to play other positions. My brother-in-law doesn’t really like to play offense, so when we play co op, he plays one of the down linemen. He thinks holding ‘X’ keeps his guy engaged, but I’m not sure about that. If there was a way to make a sort of “mini game” to determine the amount of success one has, would be an improvement. I really like the 1st person mode in ESPN 2k5 (even though I’m not good at it) but that would only work for one person.

With respect to the AI, it is getting better but the play calling can be very predictable and sometimes blatantly wrong. I’ve had the computer driving on me at the end of the first half (in NCAA 2005) and it lets the clock roll until there is less than five seconds on the play clock before it hikes the ball. In the process, it loses precious seconds to set up the next play or get ready to kick a field goal.

But as I said, football games have come a long way. I’ll be going over my top 5 football video games on Friday. Hopefully this will start a trend of posting top 5 lists every once and a while.

Games this weekend

I didn’t have much time to play games this weekend, but Friday night the husbands got together while the girls went to the movies and we got some gaming in. We were going to play some one-on-one NCAA but didn’t get much football in. We ended up playing some Pac Man Vs.

The game was included in a copy of R-Racing Evolution I picked up for ten bucks at Best Buy. We played it while we were in Utah but this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. The game is actually pretty dang fun. It is simple and not very deep but it still holds our collective interest a lot longer than some games have. The concept is simple – one player is Pac Man and he uses the GBA and gets to see the whole board. The other three guys play the ghosts and only see a portion of the board. Pac Man then tries to clear the board while the ghosts try to catch him. Suprisingly, there is strategy and actual structure to the game. We like it a lot and it is a wife-friendly game, too. I highly recommend it.

ESPN NFL 2K5 vs. NCAA 2005

Since I don’t have Madden 2005 and I haven’t played it yet, I thought I’d compare my experience with the two football games I do have. I know I’m not technically comparing apples to apples, but it’s close enough. It’s Fuji Apples vs. Granny Smiths. Or something like that.

B00020V4RG.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgFirst and foremost, the graphics, animations, and presentation aren’t even close. ESPN looks pretty darn good. There are times that the players look a tad “squatty” but it’s not too bad. I am amazed at how nice it really looks, screen shots don’t do it justice. It has made me much more disappointed with NCAA’s graphics. It’s just no contest. It makes NCAA look old.

Control and feel are both still solid. I am still getting the hang of ESPN’s controls but NCAA’s are second nature to me. The feel is pretty wierd to get used to. NCAA seems more responsive, ESPN is loose and touchy. Passing in ESPN is an exercise in frustration at times.
B0002IJY2U.01-A1AJVWO2HMT2XY._SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpegComputer opponents are better in ESPN and there’s the VIP which is a profile of how you play the game and you can use it to play against, well, yourself. Sounds cool, I want to let it learn more of how I play before I try it.

Environment or atmosphere is definitely NCAA’s domain. It really does capture the feel of a college football game. ESPN looks prettier (NCAA’s crowds look like burn victims) but I like NCAA’s overall atmosphere.

I haven’t delved into ESPN’s franchise mode yet but I think NCAA will edge it out. Dynasty mode, with its awesome recruiting aspect, will be nearly impossible to beat.

There’s more to it than just this, but that’s my five minute take on it. I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic some more in the future.

I still haven’t won a game yet with my Brownies. The Lions and Seahawks have both beat me by a field goal.