NCAA FOOTBALL 2009: Almost as Good as the Real Thing!
Third down and goal, Ohio State ball on the USC 3 yard line. After senior QB Todd Boeckman led the Buckeyes into the red zone, the Ohio State drive has stalled out and true freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor enters the game to give the USC defense a different look. The Coliseum is a cacophony of noise as Pryor lines up in the shotgun. He takes the snap, fakes a handoff to Beanie Wells and beats USC linebacker Brian Cushing to the pylon. Touchdown, Ohio State!
No, this isn’t an Ohio State fan’s dream about this fall’s huge matchup with USC. It is the wonderfully realistic NCAA Football 2009, by EA Sports. In a game that doesn’t change many of the basics from the previous edition, EA has really upgraded the visual and audio effects in this year’s edition and the game modes are also improved to give the average college football fan a ton of fun at their fingertips.
NCAA Football 2009: GAMEPLAY
Last year’s edition of NCAA 2008 had some noticeable flaws, such as defensive tackles routinely busting through the line of scrimmage so quickly that the quarterback was tackled while trying to hand the ball off! That has been corrected this year. In fact, the biggest addition to the game play is the improved realism of the running game. More sophisticated blocking schemes matched by more agile defensive linemen who don’t become pylons the second a blocker touched them makes for a very realistic running game. That may frustrate the avid player of last year’s edition, for whom a 4-5 yard carry, even on Heisman, was the norm but it makes the game very much more fun and would make Woody Hays and Bo Schembechler proud.
The passing game is equally upgraded, with more pre-snap movement and receivers who actually make a play on the ball. Furthermore, the deep ball is finally back as no longer is a corner with an 87 speed rating going to keep up with a wide receiver rated at 92 running down the field. Also, no longer can your quarterback routinely chuck an accurate pass downfield while running for his life in the opposite direction. There is a very noticeable difference in the passing game.
On defense, gang tackling has been greatly improved, to the point where you’ll see two and three guys pile on at times. Another neat addition is inclusion of tipped passes, which make for more interception chances. General tackling is also upgraded to compensate for the agile offensive players that can juke a defensive player’s brains out. If a defensive player gets to the ball carrier and no move is made, odds are that the runner will hit the ground, unlike last year’s game. Finally, the defensive linemen can break off their blocks to move laterally much better than in 2008, making the game much more fair and balanced along the line of scrimmage.
NCAA Football 2009: FEATURES
The best new feature is the return of the home field advantage to game play. Now if you’re the visiting team in a major stadium like the Swamp or the Horseshoe, you will have a shaking controller when the crowd gets excited and your plays overlaid on the field pre-snap will definitely waggle. If you have an inexperienced QB, this gets a lot worse, to the point where the button signifying a receiver is no longer displayed; A Question mark is in its place instead.
Another neat in-game feature is the learning process a QB undertakes after throwing an interception. A list of defensive coverages is shown and if you can pick the correct defense, then the QB will be less flustered by the pick. In all, it is a really cool addition to game play.
NCAA Football 2009: GRAPHICS & AUDIO
The game is noticeably crisper this year. The stadiums are designed with much more love and care and the moves are fantastic. All the players are in motion and the line of scrimmage is a much better representation of the controlled chaos that a real game contains. Juke moves are beautifully rendered and don’t lag, so you can control your players very well.
A really cool addition this year is the custom music feature. This allows for any music to be set to play under a large group of different circumstances for all 120 teams. For example, at Ohio State a deep bell tolls when it is 3 rd down. In NCAA 2009, you can insert that bell sound and the computer will play it on 3 rd downs for the visiting team in the Horseshoe! It very much contributes to the heighted realism that clearly was EA’s theme and it brings a very genuine touch of the college experience to the game.
The peripheries to the game are also much improved. Gone are the fake-looking sideline dummy characters, replaced by much better sideline players and coaches. The cheerleaders are a constant presence and celebrating with your team’s mascot or a teammate after a TD has become the norm. The biggest visual stars are definitely the stadiums, vastly improved from last year’s edition. Even Michigan Stadium looks good in NCAA 2009, something that we all know is one heck of a feat.
NCAA Football 2009: GAME MODES
The Dynasty Mode is very similar to last year’s edition, having received a much-needed facelift. Gone is the too-small text and in its place is a much more aesthetically pleasing recruiting board. Everything from the top 25 poll to the conference races are accompanied by lots of real pictures instead of the silly renderings that NCAA 2008 offered. Overall, the game simply looks more modern and sleek. While the basics of recruiting are the same as last year, new additions such as a top 100 prospect list and a recruiting strategy board for those who are more interested in actually playing the games allows a greater level of control for the gamer.
One addition that is missing that I have been calling for that was smartly included for a single measly year in 2004 was the ability to realign conferences. I would dearly love to be able to put the Big Ten into a divisional format and put Notre Dame in the Big Ten. However, that’s another topic for another story for another day. I think one of the coolest aspects of a dynasty is the ability to mold your team’s virtual future as you see fit, so why not have the ability to set up conferences in your favorite way?
NCAA Football 2009: THE VERDICT
EA Sports has produced a clear winner here. Within the first 24 hours of purchasing the game, I had successfully completed a National Championship season for Ohio State (culminating in a 20-3 BCS Title Game victory over Clemson) and I was dying for more. The only complaint that I have about the game play is that advanced gamers who are looking for a challenge from the computer, even on Heisman, will have to increase the CPU’s proficiency on the AI sliders list to get a real challenge when playing against equal or lesser teams. While last year’s Heisman could be accused of being too hard, especially passing the ball, this year’s edition might have gone just a little bit too far the other way.
However, that minute detail does nothing to diminish the absolutely excellent product that EA has concocted. The game is very realistic and the increased presence of the college atmosphere returns a feature to the game that should never have left. The increased ability to work with a QB’s psyche during the game adds another dimension of fun to an already great game.
Is NCAA 2009 as good as the real thing? Of course not. But with five long weeks of waiting before college football finally returns, EA has built a game that will allow you to get ready for this fall by winning a national title or two with your favorite team in Dynasty Mode. By the time the real season rolls around, you’ll have forgotten half of your favorite team’s players because they all graduated in your video game edition. This is a must-have game for any college football and video game fan.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for my conference previews! Here’s the schedule:
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s newest staff writer. If you’d like to join his college football therapy group, email him at matt.baxendell @ gmail.com with all your questions, comments, and anything else you would like to share.
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