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NCAA Football 2007 Hits The Shelves

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Just as the NFL draft draws near and the college football season really, REALLY ends, each year we are treated to an oasis to hold us over as we (im)patiently await fall football. Yes, it's time for EA Sports to release NCAA Football 2007. This year's game has just been released and the reviews are starting to trickle in. Yesterday I read my first of the spring, a thorough review from IGN Entertainment. As we sometimes do here, we'll be reviewing the reviewers.

It's a crummy review for what looks like (and always is) a terrific game. Onward...

Every male under the age of 40 has played NCAA Football. Those that haven't, probably aren't on this site anyway, so we'll assume you've played NCAA Footbal - from some year.

IGN opens their review with... The Puntrooskie? Yes, that's right. The review spends the first 1,000 words talking about gadget plays, "momentum shifts... unpredictability, trickery and deception." Does this sound problematic to anyone else? The most -obvious- point is that if you see your buddy trot the punt team out there on 4th down, there's about a .2% he's going to actually punt it. Note to reviewers: We go for it on 4th down. Every. Single. Time. And if we -do- bring out the punt squad, everyone and their dog knows it's a fake. When you're on defense, on 4th down you don't even bother with punt return formations. You call a zone defense and get ready to sprint back with the safety if your buddy is dumb (p*ssy) enough to actually punt.

 
BFJ is the only person we can think of who might actually punt in NCAA Football 2007.

We can cut the reviewer some slack and let it slide that he thought that was the way to kick off the review, but no, the next section is focused on... throwing the ball away?

Another little feature that has been added could end up paying huge dividends as quarterbacks finally have the option to throw the ball away from the pocket. This way, if you're feeling the rush, you no longer have to try and scramble before launching the ball out of bounds. The new option actually looks like you're trying to complete the pass, throwing the ball toward a receiver, but it will bounce at his feet. It's a nice safety valve to have, especially if your QB isn't fleet of cleat. You have to be responsible with this new ability, though, especially because you're throwing the ball in the field of play. A bad throw is always liable to get picked off if the defense is in the right position or if you are throwing off balance.

Super. I can throw it away. I could also punt, but that's not happening either. The reviewer clearly forgets the context in which these games are played. Two young men, probably drunk, trying like hell to make cool plays. Throwing the ball away ain't cool. There's always that one guy, of course, that always "Plays To Win," managing the clock, running excessive draw plays, and yes, utilizing special teams. But they're not fun to play with, and after a week or two his friends generally refuse to play with him. But who knows, maybe this review was written for That Guy.

Anyway, after 12 excruciating paragraphs about features nobody cares about, the review finally gets to the important part. In journalism, they call this burying the lead.

Regardless, I was patient enough to finally get there.

But if you're looking for maybe the biggest change in the series, all you need to do is open the playbooks. I'm talking about the biggest playbook overhaul in the history of the series. Tiburon hired two offensive gurus who watched at least three games of every team, then went in and personalized each and every playbook. There are 102 new formations in the game (86 on offense, 16 on defense), including the spread offense that includes option runs to the WR, the double slant and go, the post stop, the Nevada Pistol formation (QB stands 3 yards deep with a RB directly behind him)...there are so many new plays, it's almost overwhelming (to the point you'll get called for delay of game while cycling through all the new hotness). There is also greater variety in the formations you already know. Just because USC and Texas both have I formations, that doesn't mean they both run the same plays out of the I. Now USC's I looks more like a pro setup, while Texas uses the I to run more options.

There are approximately 17 formations per team, including 270 plays.

Sweet. This, of course, is what we care about. Playbooks. It's especially juicy that the playbooks are becoming more and more custom-tailored to match their schools' real life play calling. This is why we play these games, which means, of course, that this should have been the lead to the review.

The upshot of the custom playbooks means endless hours of experimentation as you go through every team and figure out whose plays you like best. Not long ago, the playbooks were generic, where every team ran pretty much the same set of plays, regardless of the talent on their teams. There were minor variations, but not enough to get worked up about. The new playbooks have so much great material that during the first couple of weeks you probably ought to turn off Delay of Game penalties so you have enough time to go through it all. Just outstanding. And it's only going to keep getting better.

The review then, predictably, buries the other interesting aspect of the game (Dynasty Mode) behind something retarded (Campus Legend). Instead of just competing for the Heisman, gamers try to become the Campus Legend by... taking tests? Yes, the geniuses at EA Sports decided to put freaking exams in a game played primarily by people either drunk or skipping class. Great idea. Because the one thing I wanted when I was skipping Chem 101 was an exam for my QB on chemistry. Brilliant!

The review (finally) gets to a discussion of the new Dynasty Mode, which is the other reason we play the games. Because the only thing more fun than drunken competition on the game console between friends is pathological competition against Artificial Intelligence.

There are a lot of gamers out there that don't want to be a Campus Legend, they want to lead their favorite school to the BCS Championship, and if that's the case, Dynasty mode is once again your obsession. The new addition to Dynasty is the Spring game. This is your chance at evaluating your talent before the season and working out certain players, as the better they perform in the Spring game, the better their rating will be next year. This enables you to focus on the passing game to help young quarterbacks progress, or watch as your linebacker intercepts a pass and increases his awareness +2. That's why the Spring game isn't focused on your seniors who are already maxed out. It's about building for the future, and that's what laying the foundation for a successful dynasty is all about.

Dynasty is fun, but there's only so much entertainment in practicing. Running drills and tweaking your weight routine has a place in gaming, but in the end, if we're in the mood for that kind of game play, we turn on the PC for some SimCity or Civilization. Seasons are fun, but the tedium of micro-managing your college squad gets tiring. We play NCAA Football 2007 to play football. Not much else. We already obsess over the Spring Game and offseason stories enough. Christ, I have a blog. When I flip on the PS2, it's time to game.

Of course, I'll be purchasing the game, and will try to offer a few extra words when I actually play, but I don't need a review to tell me I'm gonna like it. I'm just disappointed to read a review that thinks I'd ever punt.

--PB--