NCAA 09 Probably Doesn't Suck
- Hope. Surely, this is the year they add something bleeding obvious like simming through the end of blowouts or online dynasty. And there's no way they'll have every other pass dropped or intercepted again.
- Suspicion. Feature X sounds pretty stupid and time-consuming. They probably could have spent their time better if their weren't directed by EA market-droids. And they do this every year.
- Joy. THEY FIXED IT. I LOVE IT.
- Annoyance. You know, I don't think the computer should never miss a field goal. And they call timeouts weird. And the CPU quarterback throws more interceptions than completions. I'm tired of winning 99-0.
- Rage. AAAAAAARGH NOT ANOTHER SIX INTERCEPTION GAME. Maybe I'll bump it up to Heis- AAAAAAARGH I'M LOSING TO ARMY BY 60. [flings controller at cat]
Lather, rinse, and repeat until about May, at which point "hope" starts anew. It would be cute if it didn't cost 50 bucks.
Via Dubious Quality comes welcome news for those uncertain about whether Tiburon's latest version of NCAA is more than a roster update and some stupid-marketer-driven unrealistic features*: Gameshark editor Bill Abner has latched onto an early copy of the game and is blogging his first impressions a week and a half before the game's official release date. Abner is a seasoned video game review vet and on his blog he's thankfully blunt. He's also an Ohio State fan. Can't win 'em all.
Some highlights follow.
First game against Michigan State ends 31-3:
I can already tell that playing with a good team on AA lvl (default) isn't gonna fly. Not just due to the INTs but Ohio State is just friggin loaded. I feel like I can lob it to Robiskie almost at will. Keep in mind I have *never* liked NCAA on default settings so this is by no means a shock or something to take too seriously. It's the first half of one game on settings we all know to be a bit easy out of the box. ...
But -- I really, really hope we are not stuck, again, with the CPU INT problem. If sliders do not fix this, it will yet again by a bust as a solo game and it will depend on online dynasty mode to save it. Normally I'd say "Eh, it's just one half" but with how NCAA 08 turned out in this regard, the red flag is up.
Heisman -- previously a realm of controller-throwing frustration -- seems better:
And best of all -- at the half it's 13-10 OSU and that was the only USC INT. USC QB is I think 8/13 at the half. Beanie has 70 yards on the ground. AND -- Heisman feels extremely playable this year. If you are an NCAA vet--trust me. Start on Heisman. Don't even mess with AA. Well, if you are playing with a good team at least. Even so, it plays SO much better.
But to me it seems clear at least thus far that it's w/o a doubt a Heisman thing. [the lack of 16 CPU interceptions -ed] The game just flat plays better on this level and look..I'm killing Iowa so it's not like the AI is going to whip you at this level mercilessly.
The first truly annoying issue to rear its head:
Kick coverage is 100% ass. Sorry to keep repeating this--but this needs fixed. Maybe longer punts? You are going to average 30 yards per kick return in this game.
...but they've accurately modeled Jay Paterno!
But late in he game PSU had several 4th down plays when they were down 21-13. On 3rd and 5 with 2:12 left they called off tackle and lost a yard -- 4th and 6 ...same play. No gain. Kinda odd. Then the next possession they had 4th and 10 and threw a 5 yard square out and the WR caught the pass out of bounds. The HBs and FBs still have NO Idea where the sideline is on flare patterns. This is an OLD problem and that is still in the game. This sealed the game for me for the most part and was kinda anti climatic.
The interception issue gets largely cleared up and Abner gets waxed by FSU as Tulane, plays an every-yard-counts defensive struggle with FSU as OSU along with some other games. The end result:
I have not even opened up the recruiting model yet and I'll try to take a look at it this weekend. But right now -- based on the still somewhat small sample size of games -- NCAA is a green light. I have not had this much fun playing NCAA since the 2004 version. Usually by this time we had discovered either the crazy INTs (NCAA 2008), the huge number of dropped passes (NCAA 2005..), terrible secondary AI (NCAA 2007..) -- something that ruins the experience, for me at least. So far, this is a really, really fun game and I cannot WAIT to start our Online Dynasty.
This is Stage II of a typical year with NCAA: "I Love It, They Fixed Everything." HOWEVA, further gameplay...
That said, there are things that the more I play the more I think might be real issues that are not just going to go away. The CPU run game isn't very good. I know I am using OSU but even in the games where I used lesser teams the AI struggles UNLESS I refrain from switching players. If I stick to playing my chosen player for the entire play the CPU runs a lot better. But if I switch...it's lights out. He can't get away and most HBs average about 2.5 a carry. Note: I have yet to mess much with the CPU Run and RBlock sliders.
The Ghost Juke cost MSU the win in the 31-30 game. This one is really annoying. MSU was returning a kickoff and found a seam and then raced to the sidelines. He was home free -- gone. All he had to do was outrun OSU backup LB Brian Rolle but instead of just running for daylight he juked no one in particular and allowed Rolle to catch him. I have seen the Ghost Juke about 5 times now. Not good.
I also don't see much variety in the AI offensive playcalling. Deep passes are *rare*. I see them , but maybe 1 per game tops and it is not uncommon to see zero. (By deep I mean 20+ yards in the air.) A lot of dinks, dunks, and 7 yard passes over the middle. Because of this it is hard to tell a difference between playing against, say, San Diego State and Michigan State. The plays all feel similar it's just that MSU is better at running them.
...often reveals issues that range from minor to infuriating. Still, Abner's upshot even after these annoyances reveal themselves: "I still feel it's the best version on the field (I have not touched recruiting or checked the sim engine or the ranking AI) since NCAA 04, which was in my mind the high point of the series." That + online dynasty might be worth a look even if you're severely jaundiced towards EA and their exclusive licenses.
*(okay, there is one no-BS must-have feature: online dynasty is a huge freaking deal and might cause me to not only spring for the game but for a 360.)