VGJ Review: NCAA Football 2009 (Xbox 360)

There are many football fans out there that prefer the school spirit, atmosphere and genuine enthusiasm of the college game as opposed to the pro game. The folks at EA have gone out of their way to translate that palpable excitement into the latest version of NCAA Football. Along with some atmospheric elements, the game has also been bolstered by an Online Dynasty mode that may make this the definitive version in the franchise.

Anyone who considers themselves a football fan knows that, in the college game, home field advantage can mean everything. EA has made that very clear in NCAA Football 2009 as some elements, key and otherwise, are affected by whether a team is home or on the road. A home team can get the crowd pumped and, if the other team is trailing or in a tight game, the routes of the receivers can be blurred on screen and the controller will shake violently, which can make an important field goal that much more difficult. Of course, taking control of the game can nullify these advantages and you, not your opponent, can go celebrate with the other team’s mascot after scoring a touchdown.

While atmosphere is top notch in the game, one key element of gameplay has been seriously broken from last year’s version to the 2009 model. Special teams has now gone from a minor chance to score and possibly a decent chance of getting good field position to a very good chance that, if you have a returner with good to great speed, you are scoring seven points. EA seems to have done too great of a job making everyone do their job perfectly in the blocking game and, with a bit of patience, you can wait for your blockers to engage and take the ball to the house. It also does not help that any player with good speed and acceleration can turn on a dime and literally run circles around any linebacker or defensive player trying to stop them whether it be on a kick return or interception.

Gameplay issues aside. The one great feature addition to the game has been an Online Dynasty mode that gamers have been clamoring for since the current gen consoles hit the market. The mode has a 12 player limit but that numbers is both manageable and realistic as getting more people than that together is tough and no one wants to play as Akron when Ohio St. and Michigan are being used by friends in the same league. Dynasties can be played using all teams in the country or, for some more head to head action in the regular season, players can choose a single division and pummel each other to a National Championship. This mode has been a long time coming and EA has done a great job in giving NCAA a signature online feature to hang its hat on.

Despite some hiccups, NCAA is still a solid football title and one that most football fans would not be disappointed with if they go pick it up. The additions to gameplay really add to its value and the EA Locker, which enables online trading of files between NCAA players, makes it possible to download rosters for the game, giving it actual player names in a semi-official way. NCAA Football 2009 has not lost any of the excitement of college football in translation and is an overall upgrade from last year’s version.

Score: 8.5