EA Sports appeals to your school pride and sportsmanship with this year's version of NCAA Football, encouraging you to play the game right and giving you the tools to make its complex tasks more simple.
But what motivates college sports fans about these games is the fantasy of it all - being a heavily recruited high school prospect, the leader of a national powerhouse or one of its star players, the tactician who takes a cupcake team and knocks Goliath on his ass, or the beloved figure who delivered his school's most indelible sports memories. NCAA Football 10 adds plenty of new features, but still keeps those dreams alive, like no other sports game.
Building a New Tradition: This game's model railroad, what-if fantasy has long been a core strength. The return of custom schools to the next-gen platforms restores the NCAA football franchise as the deepest and most detailed sports simulation on a console, baseball included. TeamBuilder - a since-patched roster problem notwithstanding - absolutely over-delivers. EA Sports took the feature online, where you can build and tinker with your program more elegantly by keyboard than you could with a controller in. If your school does not have a Football Bowl Subdivision program, or doesn't even have football at all, you can still play them against the big boys. Upload its official logo (this page is an excellent resource) on the TeamBuilder site - it will let you match uniform colors to the logo's values. No more RGB totaling or eyeballing it. You get four uniform designs and, if you're like me, you'll spend hours on them. TeamBuilder infinitely deepens your team-choice options, and allows die-hards of smaller schools to bring their squads into their homes.
Counter-Intelligence: This is hard to review for, but EA Sports promised fine-tuned player AI, and it seemed most noticeable in the running game. Particularly in runs featuring a pulling guard. Your line behaves more sensibly in NCAA 10 and following your blockers on outside runs is a much more reliable tactic. The running game has been difficult and discouraging for novices, but now you don't have to be an elite stick jockey just to establish your run, which as we all know sets up your pass.
Chain Mail: Speaking of, one new feature in your playbook are setup plays. Basically, two plays that are connected by a chain icon mean that one sets up the other. Halfback dive chains to a play-action; shotgun pass chains to a draw, that sort of thing. When you've established one half of that equation enough, the play-call window will show you the other play is X percent set up, and the higher that is, the more likely opposing defenders are to fall for it. Longtime playcallers may still prefer their method of fooling defenses, but this isn't reliant on or limited by audibles and is a great way to teach you how a playbook fits together.
Give ‘Em the Keys: On defense, I'll make a bunch of gratuitous pre-snap adjustments when when what I'm really thinking is, "You know, I'm really trying to stop the pass here," or "I need to take receiver X out of this play." Defensive keys, new to this game, are a great help. In a pre-snap menu, you can globally tell your defense to play against a run in a specific direction, or a pass, regardless of the formation you have called and are showing your opponent. You can also designate a receiver for the defense to key on. This is a powerful enabler for those who find football defense byzantine and frustrating, and are harried into uninformed decisions by the lack of time from breaking the huddle to the snap.
Prospecting for Gold: The recruiting simulation in Dynasty Mode gets another upgrade that deepens the football fan's obsession with finding talent. Now, budding Lane Kiffins can pick up the phone and talk garbage about rival teams, lessening a recruit's interest in them. Or, if your pitch is poorly timed, yours. A new progress bar shows you how successful your call to a blue-chipper is while the conversation's going on, helping you cut your losses if you've blabbed too long, or lay that scholarship offer and reel him in now that he's hooked. Most folks will lean on computer assist modes for the bulk of the dirty work. But it's always fun to get your hands dirty with this, and I can easily see some players simming all of their onfield action and doing nothing but recruiting - essentially acting as the general manager of a professional franchise.