NCAA Football 2003
System: Playstation 2
Publisher: EA Sports (Electronic Arts)
Developer: Tiburon
Released: July 2002
Genre: Sports (Football)
Capabilities: Dual Shock 2 Analog & Feedback Compatible, Memory Card Compatible, Multi-Tap compatible for up to 8 players

Review Written: August 28, 2002

The Game

Itís another year of football games for the PS2. There wonít be as many NFL games flooding the market like there were last year. There are now two less NFL titles to choose from this year because the Primetime and Quarterback Club series wonít be around for the 2003 season. Last year NCAA 2002 was the only college football game available on PS2. However, there are now two more college games to choose from. They are Segaís NCAA 2K3, and Sonyís Gamebreaker is back after a one year rebuilding hiatus. I wish I could get my hands on the other two, but Blockbuster only had this one for rent. This is the first college football game I played since Super Play Action Football on the Super NES in 1992. Letís see if things have improved since then.

Graphics

NCAA Football uses the same game engine from Madden NFL Football, so everything looks nearly identical to it. When you tear down the graphics down to the bone, I think the key element is player designs. The player models are proportioned to their real life counterparts. For example, the linemen are heavy and slow, and the receivers are fairly built and fast. After plays, the gameís camera will zoom in and youíll notice various facial expressions on all the players. Theyíll look ticked if they just got sacked, or missed a pass. If they made a touchdown, or interception, youíll probably see them do one of the many celebrations in the game. All the animations you expect such as jukes, brand new gang tackles, and the college exclusive option fakes are designed to perfection.

All the stadiums in the game are modeled after their real life counterparts. I love all the little touches to the stadiums, like how some have the track rings going around the playing field. The presentation rocks in this game. When the home team runs out to the field with that patented college band music, it makes you feel like youíre watching the beginning of the last game in Rudy all over again! The replays are well done, they are identical to the replays in Madden, but they are still spectacular. Interception replays have those Matrix effects to them, and you just have to love seeing a QB getting tackled as he tries to get rid of the ball. There are only a couple of complaints about this version of the game. The first reason is the obvious long loading times that are the trademark for all EA football games. The other is that the graphics look like cartoons when you compare them to the X-Box version. This version has way more jaggies, and everything has less detail and polish to it than the X-Box version of NCAA 2003.

Sound

The sound effects for your standard stuff like tackles, grunts and so on are all well done and sound just the way they do in most other games. For the soundtrack, we have various school songs going in the background. They also chime in during game play whenever you make a first down, or some other big play. This is a great touch, and a great addition to the college atmosphere of the game. NCAA Football has a three man commentary team compared to Maddenís two man team. The hired guns for commentary are Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso. This team sounds eons better than the old farts in Madden, but still strides away from the commentary in Segaís 2K games. Theyíll get excited and make comparisons with each other about the play that just happened, and make other random observations about big stats and so forth. Like most other games, the commentary tends to get repetitive, but not to the point that it annoys you to death like in Madden.

Game play

If there is one genre of games that benefits from the four shoulder buttons on the Playstation controller, its football games. On offense, itís great to have all those extra buttons to juke and stiff arm in a certain direction. The same applies to the defense controls where you can choose which arm to attempt to strip the ball away from. Itís much harder to reach all the way over to the white and black buttons on the X-Box controller to perform the aforementioned moves. At the line of scrimmage you can send receivers on hot routes or shift your line while on defense. Youíll notice that there are some exclusive college formations in the game such as the 5-2 on defense, and patented college plays like the option.

This game is just stacked with modes and features. For playing the game youíll have lots of options at your hands. Thereís your basic quick game and exhibition match ups. Those two modes are perfect for hopping right into a round of college ball and getting use to the controls, and special college rules (such as having only one foot in bounds counting as a complete pass). If youíre not up for an actual round of play, then there is practice mode where you can do full scrimmages, and practice any play from your playbook. There are a few new game modes introduced in this yearís game. There is the brand new rivalry mode, where you can go against an actual team that has a historic feud against you. Some of these classic match ups can be Army against Navy, and Yale vs. Harvard. Some of these rivalry games may only gain you bragging rights, but some other games contain actual trophies on the line. Some of these trophies are Paul Bunyanís Axe in Wisconsin/Minnesota rivalry game, among others. You can store your hard earned trophies in a trophy cabinet.

Another new mode is the Mascot Mode, which was only playable via code in last yearís game. In this rather interesting mode, your whole team consists of the actual mascots. There are many types of interesting mascots used such as gophers, knights, and chickens. Only about 50 of the 120+ teams in the game feature mascots that can be played in Mascot mode. It plays just like any regular game, but Iím sure this isnít where youíll spend most of your time in the game. It is great for laughs, and as a nice breather from the next mode Iím about to tell you about. That is the spectacular Dynasty mode. Itís the equivalent of Maddenís Franchise mode. You select any college team (or upload your own), and start them off from the bottom of the barrel. You can work your way through a college season, complete with actual rivalries (if your team has any, that is), and try to make a bid in one of over 20 bowl games. You can play season, after season, while you improve your coaching rating and overall team ratings. In off season options, you have to replace the graduating seniors (which can be uploaded to Madden 2003 through game save). To do that, you send recruiters down to high schools and have them tour your school, and hope they like what you have to offer. Some of the hot prospects will deny you, others will accept. This mode has tons of depth, and will probably be where most of your time will be spent.

EA has included lots of customization features in the game. The standard stuff is here with the ability to edit/create players. Everyone knows the NCAA doesnít allow Players licenses in video games, but you can edit them to match their counterparts. If the name is a common one, then the commentators will actually call you by your name then by your number. You can also create your own school. This actually has a lot of depth than most other create-a-team features in other games. This is the first football game where I see the option to make your own event center. You can actually customize the look of your stadium down to the tiny details such as the end zone banners, and the position of the scoreboards. Then you can customize your schoolís jersey, helmets, logo, school song, and many more features you just have to check out! I couldnít believe how close my creation of my local college team (2002 NCAA Division II champions, the UND Fighting Sioux, WHO ARENíT IN THE GAME) was to the real thing.

Replay Value

There is just so much stuff you can do in this game. EA added another feature from the Madden series in this game. That is the ability to buy packs of ďNCAA CardsĒ by earning tokens by completing certain challenges. You get tokens from making big plays like touchdowns and interceptions. The harder you increase the game difficulty, the more tokens you are awarded. Earning the entire collection of cards isnít the only thing you want to complete. You also have a Trophy Cabinet, and Pennant Collection that needs to be filled from winning all the Rivalry games. Donít forget about the countless days youíll waste in the Dynasty mode either. If you get burned out of all the heavy-sim action, then Mascot games are a nice alternative. One thing I would have liked to seen was online play. I only say that because this yearís Madden has it, and it wouldíve been great for this game.

In Brief

+: Dynasty mode is the best of its kind, New Mascot & Rivalry modes, Itíll take forever to earn all the NCAA Cards, trophies, and pennants

-: Lots of jagged graphics, long loading times, Division II Champs UND Fighting Sioux arenít in the game

The Final Ratings Rundown

Graphics: 7.8
Sound: 8.3
Game play: 9.2
Replay Value: 9.8

Overall: 8.7

Rounded to fit GameFAQs Score: 9

Comments

Even though this is only the second college football game I have played, I can easily say itís the best one out there. From what Iíve read, Gamebreaker, and NCAA 2K3 donít even come close. The Dynasty, Rivalry, Create-a-School, and countless other features make this game fantastic! The game is very surprisingly deep, and if youíre a big college fan, then you should pick this one up today.

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