Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NCAA '07 strong kickoff to hot video season

If you play PS2 or the old Xbox, you're going to love EA Sports' new NCAA '07 videogame. It will remind of you of last year's Madden '06, only better. Players are rendered better, game play is smoother, and every feature you can imagine is in the game.

But if you play the new more powerful Xbox 360 you may be disappointed.

You get eye-catching graphics, HDTV support and Dolby Digital sound but you're going to be missing some of the features that are included in PS2 and Xbox versions.

I can't figure that one.

There's no ESPN Magazine, no Race For The Heisman.

Shoot, there's not even a spring game, a cool new feature on Xbox 1 and PS2. There are more things missing, but you get the idea. How can your "franchise" product not have all the features. Let us hope that the new Madden is not so afflicted.

There is some good news for 360 people. The game plays better, as you might expect. There are new subtle animations that you really need the more powerful machine to appreciate. You can see arms churning and legs pumping in play. Tackling animation is much, much better.

This is the first year of the ESPN integration with EA games and you'll get dynasty results, conference updates and real-time sports scores and news updates with the ESPN ticker. It really looks like what you see during a real game.

There are a few new things I liked: you can save your highlights anytime to a NCAA photo album and share them online via Xbox Live, and there are new modes like defensive hot routes, smart routes and (thankfully) an improved kicking mode. Now you use the right analog stick to push up and down to create the action, like in Tiger Woods golf.

You can also switch to a computer controlled receiver to make a move on the ball on offense or defense without fear of ruining the play as in past years.

Best of all, you'll see fans come to life at the right times and do team specific chants. You won't believe how much reality this will add to your experience.

On all versions of the game, a momentum meter gives teams an advantage if they can string together big plays, defensive stops or even pull off trick plays. Another needed feature. And it's awful hard to bounce back when things are going against you.

And even with my quips with the 360 version, it's still the best. At the end of the day, when you play the game and see the stadiums come to life and see the graphics, you just get involved with the game itself. Most of the features missing are pre- and post-game.

With them, the 360 version may've been the best football game ever made. Withtout them, the 360 version still gets an A rating, as do the other versions. Let's just hope Madden on 360 is as complete as can be.

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