It was fourth and long with SU down by a field goal during the fourth quarter of a rivalry match up against Pitt. The quarterback goes into a play action fake, and throws a perfect ball to a well-guarded receiver in the end zone. Pittsburgh’s defender nearly nabs the ball, but it bounces into the hands of Syracuse’s receiver, resulting in the team’s second conference win. The game was close throughout all four quarters, but Syracuse managed to pull out on top, likely nabbing some new recruits in the process.
All of this played out in a quick 20-minute session of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 11 during a dynasty mode match. While this isn’t a perfect outing for EA Tiburon, it does provide a nice step forward in the franchise and offers plenty of hours (partly why this review took us so long to post) of gameplay. There are some admirable improvements to the gameplay, graphics, and even team management, but don’t expect any earth-shattering moments.
Perhaps the best gameplay feature is the locomotion engine, which helps players weave in and out of traffic, shifting the runner’s weight with a move of your thumb. The system changes from the previous year, which essentially had the player make hard moves with the right analog stick; this year’s entry puts more weight into the player’s hand. Everything in the running game is a lot tighter as a result. You don’t even have to use the right analog stick to see the game’s improvements over last year. The locomotion engine makes it so your receiver nabs the ball, makes solid contact with the ground, and turns hard before making a run.
Pass plays have received some generous attention, meaning your receivers will work very hard to catch your passes. Look for receivers to roll their toes on the sidelines in order to keep the pass in play, or take in-air hits to properly catch a pass that went a bit astray. The blocking system is a lot tighter than in previous entries. This is mostly a result of the improved AI. Your defensive line typically does a solid job of sticking with blocking routes, but on occasion they blatantly miss their mark, typically resulting in a sack or at least some loss of yards. Your opponent’s AI is pretty typical of a sports game – it’s not perfect, but does a pretty decent job of matching the team’s status with the game’s execution.
Diehard NCAA football fans will want to jump right into the Dynast Mode, which again leads your favorite team through a season. One big disappointment is to see the lack of attention paid to Road To Glory, using the same Erin Andrews video segments from last year’s run. Overlook that, and play Dynasty Mode online. This new feature allows you to essentially manage your team remotely with Dynasty Wire. Bored at work? Make some smack talk about your team, or check on some new recruits. This provides some nice extracurricular activities for those truly obsessed with college football.
As nice as the online addition is, recruiting still feels like a hassle (of course, some micromanagement fiends may love this aspect). Since the game suffers from long load screens and slow menus, recruitment fees like it takes up half of your game time. The process is a bit confusing too, but again, if you are really into stats, research, and the more numerical side of the sport, then you’ll probably love spending your time trying to get the best players personally. There is a nice feature that grades your team against your recruit’s other top school pick. This offers a welcome dose of simplicity to an otherwise dull process.
The presentation has been revamped, with the help of all that ESPA gloss. The light has been tuned up a bit, giving players a more realistic appearance. The menus, slow as they may be, are shiny and slick, providing all the details you need about your team and players. The opening sequences for each game are pretty much identical, and if you are anything like us, you’ll be skipping through it after you’ve seen it once. Commentators Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler do a fairly mediocre job, but perhaps we are asking for more than a college football game can provide.
NCAA Football 11 is a nice step in the right direction. College football fans certainly have plenty to keep them busy while their favorite teams get ready for the season, especially when it comes to online interactions. The new online dynasty mode is the ultimate tool for those of us obsessed with their home team, and the improved gameplay means there is something to really sink your teeth in. Still, there are some noticeable visual flaws and gameplay hiccups that keep this game from being the definitive football romp. Despite these flaws, NCAA Football 11 nonetheless has quite a bit to offer the college football fan, and therefore comes highly recommended.