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NCAA Football 2005 Review for GameCube
Posted on Sunday, July 18, 2004 @ 01:35:59 pm E.S.T

College football Ė itís not a game; itís a way of life. Thousands of college students rush the stands to get the seats closest to the action every Saturday in the fall. Everything in their schedule is cancelled, as they watch their peers take the field and give their blood, sweat, and tears to their school. It gives students a sense of pride, something to inspire them throughout the school year, while offering collegiate students around the nation a release from the stress of hours of studying and other school-related work. Now, college hopefuls, students, and alumni alike can experience the rush of adrenaline that football provides every day of the year with EA's NCAA Football 2005.

As in previous years, no other game can quite replicate the feel of the college game like the NCAA Football series can. While many other franchises just put the jerseys of the countryís top universities onto their pro game and hawk it off as another competitor on the market, but EA has always strived to do differently. Although developers Tiburon could easily do the same thing that those other franchises do, seeing as they have one of the best sports lines ever created in the Madden NFL series, they attempt to create a game that actually resembles collegiate football. The experts that have worked on the game for years are purists of the game, knowing that thereís a big difference between the play of the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes. By keeping the features that have made previous incarnations so great (such as the always-impressive Dynasty mode) and tacking on some new features that change the game vastly (like the innovative Home Field Advantage factor), it definitely shows that the college kids can come out and play with the big boys in this yearís edition.

One of the best things about the NCAA Football series, as said previously, is the environment the game sets you in. Tiburon has always been able to replicate the college football experience perfectly, and this year only improves on whatís been touted as a digital carbon copy of the collegiate experience. Never again will you have to deal with the monotone cheers of gridiron games of the past, thanks to the new Home Field Advantage. This simplistic, yet innovative feature allows for multi-tiered crowd responses, ranging from dead silent to ear-shattering loud. While this may seem like a simple cosmetic change, the concept goes much deeper than this; Home Field Advantage takes the toughest places to play in the nation and modifies the sound correspondingly. If youíre playing as the East Carolina University Pirates and take your team into The Swamp to take on the University of Florida Gators and give up two touchdowns in the first quarter, youíre going to literally feel the effects. As the crowd gets more intense, not only will your screen and controller shake, but if you attempt to make an offensive or defensive audible, one of your players may not be able to hear the call you just made and blow the play. While itís a very simple idea in theory, Tiburon has come up with what may be the most original and innovative feature in any sports game.

Confidence and success go hand-in-hand in the sports world. When you look at stars of the sports world such as Terrell Owens and Shaquille OíNeal, you can immediately tell their achievements are extremely relevant to how confident they are in their ability. Although the kids are younger in the college football game, the same rule applies here with the new Player Composure feature. If your QB throws three straight incomplete passes, then finishes off with an interception, heís going to doubt his ability and play worse for the rest of the game, and maybe even for the next couple of games. This also goes for every other player on your roster as well, from tailback to defensive end.

The Player Composure feature directly affects the game on every play, and is gauged in game using the Matchup Stick. With the Stick, you can look at every opposing playerís composure and overall rating, and adjust your play accordingly. If one of your elite receivers is playing horribly, you can take a peek at the stats of the DB and see if itís a fluke on your part, or if heís up against one of the best backs in the nation. If so, call an audible and move him over to the other side. Just be careful; your opponent has the same abilities you do, so relocating isnít going to guarantee success every time you run into a problem.

To make the game even more true-to-life, Tiburon has added in the ability to punish your players for various NCAA violations, ranging from poor academic performance to missing practices, even staying out past campus curfew. If your player starts to perform poorly on the field, he may be inspired to be reckless and break a couple of rules. If so, you can penalize them by not allowing them to start the game, or even taking away their playing privileges for the rest of the season. Any existing infraction and penalty that is issued by the NCAA can be tacked onto your players, so managing your team goes further than the depth chart.

Even with all of these new features, itís not as if everything that made previous games in the NCAA Football series has been completely scrapped. The extremely deep Dynasty mode is back and better than ever, with the ability to play an infinite number of seasons, cementing your schoolís legacy for the next 1,000 years if you wish. Your trophy case can also be filled with all of the rewards and trinkets from last yearís game. Also, the amazing online play is back and refined, even including play on Xbox Live for owners of Microsoftís big green machine.

Visually, this game is simply jaw dropping. Each and every detail on players, stadiums, and fans are done with much care and perfection. Year in and year out, Tiburonís products never cease to amaze. The only downfall of the graphics is that there is some slight slowdown when you run the ball, especially as you try to break through the middle, or as you come closer to the goal line. With the exception of that minor problem, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a game that looks more stellar out on the market today.

For audiophiles, itís much the same. The commentary, headed by Lee Corso of ESPN fame, is purely excellent. The only flaw in the play-calling is that some of the lines tend to become redundant after playing a few hours of the game. But the saving grace in the audio department is the crowd response, which is something thatís never been heard before thanks to Home Field Advantage. If you like your sporting simulations aurally perfect, then you definitely wonít be disappointed with NCAA 2005.

Even though there are a good amount of additions that will change the way we play sports games for years to come, such as Home Field Advantage, the Matchup Stick and Player Composure, it seems as if Tiburon has forgotten the phrase, ďThe only constant is change.Ē This isnít necessarily a bad thing; itís still one of the best football games available on the market. But as proven with sports franchises in the past (the NBA Jam and the now-retired Triple Play seriesí both come to mind), if you keep releasing the same product, things tend to get stale and what was once considered innovative becomes run of the mill. Thankfully, the NCAA Football franchise hasnít reached that point just yet, and hopefully next year will have big changes in store for lovers of the college game.

Review By: Matt Hack - 922 Reads

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