NCAA Football 09 (first detailed impressions)

NCAA Football 09I guess the word is more or less out; NCAA Football 09 is a common disaster, but a fun one. The broken slider issue is inexcusable, and while I do not really care about the custom roster problems, this stuff gives the appearance of a complete lack of quality control. Tell me that is not the case. If a game should ever be recalled or patched, this one is a text book example.

At this point EA plans to release a patch to fix the roster issue; hopefully they will also do a minor gameplay patch to fix a few of the other holes.

I do not mind the issues that have been reported for kick off and punt returns. If I get a long punt return, I consider it a reward for stopping the silly passing game. Besides, it seems like the game has something positive to balance out each negative. For example, draws actually work, which is a pleasant surprise. Same for play action passes.

As always, penalties are not a part of the game. I have no idea why the developers cannot get some sort of random algorithm to at least attempt to get this right.

The best I can tell, it also looks like there is an issue with substitution frequency, which would be a major concern if I started a dynasty. I want to rotate running backs, but I cannot think of a game where the CPU has substituted a HB due to fatigue. This is the sort of thing that does not have a direct impact on gameplay, but the impact on statistics does have an effect on the overall college football experience. It does affect my fun factor; I am a statistics whore. I want my starting HB to have 22 carries, and see a handful of carries for my backup HB.

I have yet to see the Weather Channel offer me anything other than “partly cloudy and 75 degrees” – and yes, I am connected to the internet. Why offer features if they do not work? Once again, this does not affect gameplay, but it gives an experience of overall sloppiness.

Interceptions are low; I have thrown more than the CPU. Usually on quick outs, or into triple coverage. I have yet to get a “user pick” and my guys have dropped more than their share of would be interceptions. Unlike last year, fumbles are non-existent. I guess too few turnovers is better than too many, which would ultimately affect gameplay negatively.

NES Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo Super Bowl. When fun mattered.

Serious problems aside, the NCAA Football 09 is fun. I guess I am just a sucker for college football. If I do not watch replays of how the AI reacts to plays, my single biggest issue is a very unrealistic pass completion percentage (CPU gets 70-75% per game). Maybe some of that is user error (I am not a talented videogame player), but in the past I would make some minor slider adjustments to even things out. Not this year.

I have been holding off on starting a dynasty until I see what sort of patch is going to be released. We know a roster patch is coming, but what about some gameplay tweaks and minor adjustments? The roster bug does not bother me too much because I have never used real names at the start of my dynasties. I know who the players are on my team (and the teams I follow) or I can just look them up in a football annual or web site.

The one thing I have figured out is that the game is a lot more fun with lower ranked teams. Making teams equal may also get the same effect. As a UGA fan, it is just not that fun with a 99/99/99 team. Well, maybe a little beating up on Tech.

For years I wrote dynasty articles (the old Chronicles junk) using North Texas, which was always a lot of fun, until the Mean Green actually got sort of good. Well, now they are not so good, which makes them the perfect team to play with. I had a great game yesterday using North Texas vs. SMU; I won 12-10 … the game came down to me stopping SMU as time expired. I had a 40 yard field goal hit (and bounce over) the crossbar. I also had a 45 yard field goal fall just short.

The game is heavily focused on offense to the point where a lot of gamers are complaining that they cannot stop the CPU on 3rd down. While I am getting some 3rd down stops, there is no real formula for my success. The only way I can get decent pressure on the CPU is to “cheat” – I pull one of my linemen to the far end of the line and speed rush the QB. I am still not getting many sacks (I think I am averaging one per game), but it does help put a little pressure on the QB. I know its cheating, but it is helping me to make the game fun. I just call it a “Calvert Blitz” package.

Is the game wroth $60? Depends on how many fundamental football problems you can put up with in a videogame. No doubt, NCAA Football 09 has its fair share of bugs and issues. Pretty much a common disaster from that point of view, but the game has plenty of fun to offer. If we can get a few minor gameplay fixes via a patch; I think the game would be excellent if sliders and substitution frequency were fixed. At this point, most of the other stuff that has been discussed here and elsewhere is not going to be fixed. In short, a mixed bag.

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