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NCAA Football 07 Review

Developer: Tiburon Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: July 18, 2006 Also On: None

EA Sports got off to a rocky start last November when they launched a handful of sports titles alongside the Xbox 360. Since then, they’ve had a whopper in Fight Night Round 3 and, just for kicks, an impressive FIFA World Cup 2006 soccer game. Does their latest next-gen sports title, NCAA Football 2007, stand up alongside those other games and above the slightly disappointing 360 launch titles? In a few ways, yes, and in most others, no. NCAA Football 2007 for the Xbox 360 is a pretty game that fans of the annual series will probably enjoy, but it gets nailed behind the line when stacked up to the current-gen versions for its lack of college atmosphere and fun gameplay features.

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I’d like to start by introducing to you some of the touted features for this year’s college football game. First, according to the back of the box, is the “Momentum Meter,” which dynamically swings towards one of the teams depending on the on-screen action. Intercept the football, and your opponent’s momentum is sure to drop. Fall victim to a deep sack, and watch your momentum take a dive that’ll have you panicking about your next move. The shift in momentum doesn’t make your players Supermen, and it definitely doesn’t make them gimp, but it will have an effect on some of the bigger plays throughout the game.

The next feature is the “Living Stadium,” which is basically an improved visual and aural treat for Xbox 360 gamers. Fans will react to certain on-field situations dynamically, and generally, these reactions are accompanied by a swing in the Momentum Meter. So these two features go hand-in-hand. The Living Stadium feature isn’t overwhelming, though, because the college feel still isn’t captured here. You won’t see the cannon celebrations and rarely do you ever see mascots dancing around. And where are the cheerleaders? They made a big deal about the male cheerleaders in NCAA Football 2006, but neither male nor female cheerleaders are present for this game. I feel like the most college atmosphere found in NCAA Football 2007 is heard in the ridiculous, annoying, and occasionally eyebrow-raising color commentary from Lee Corso.

ESPN Instant Classics is a fancy nickname for the screenshot feature that NCAA Football 2007 allows you to use. Rather than saving replays (that’s so current-gen), NCAA Football 2007 lets you zoom in and pan around the stadiums to capture some of the best catches and hardest hits you’ve ever seen. I got particularly addicted to this feature, especially when I got big hits against chumps from high-prestige teams.

The back of the box brags about the “Deepest Dynasty Mode Ever,” but this is where I was the most disappointed with NCAA Football 2007. I was ready to accept the fact that the Race for the Heisman and Campus Legend modes were excluded from the Xbox 360 version of NCAA Football 2007, but I was very disappointed to see that all of the perks from Dynasty modes past were also MIA. No longer can you read the cover of ESPN Magazine and see what teams are hot and who the Heisman hopefuls are. The Dynasty options, for the most part, are exactly the same as they have been for…well, years. And that is single-handedly the most disappointing thing about this game.

The last feature on the back of the box are the “All-New Ways to Play” NCAA Football 2007. Featured this year are three mini-games: Option Dash, Tug-O-War, and Bowling. But what fun are all these “new ways to play” when the on-field gameplay needs so much work? I read it in other reviews prior to NCAA’s launch, but I never thought I’d notice how ridiculously stupid the receivers and defensive backs are. Perfectly-thrown footballs will sail completely past your wide outs, and defensive backs oftentimes run away from the speedy receivers they’re supposed to be defending. Collision detection is so off that running backs will often float straight through the offensive and defensive line, leaving them a wide-open field to waltz through. What’s the deal, guys? I like extra perks like mini-games, but only when the on-field play isn’t so glitchy.

NCAA Football 2007 is definitely a beautiful game, that’s for sure. The character models, though a little too muscular, are extremely detailed, down to the sweat that drips off of their arms and the patches of grass that clump on their helmets. The fields are, for the most part, beautifully recreated. I did notice that my team’s (Indiana University) stadium was nothing close to what it was supposed to look like, but bigger venues like Notre Dame and the Swamp look perfect. The animations that were made for 360 NCAA Football 2007 are also very impressive–for example, you’ll see some spine-snapping tackles and all that extra effort that a player puts into breaking a tackle, thanks to the new animations.

As I mentioned earlier, the commentary this year is especially creepy. Lee Corso must have lost his mind–as if that was some sort of secret anyway–and Kirk Herbstreit doesn’t blurt a lot of intelligent lines, either. Brad Nessler is his typical dull self, but does a standard job. Needless to say, I was very happy to turn on my Xbox 360 custom soundtrack, even though it overpowered the very impressive band music.

Overall, NCAA Football 2007 is hardly worth the $60 price of admission on the Xbox 360. It’s still a fun game to play, and it’s just as hard to put down as any football game, but I’m very disappointed. I thought EA Sports learned their lesson when they got a less-than-friendly reception for their underwhelming launch titles, and I was especially hopeful when I factored in how great Fight Night Round 3 was, but NCAA Football 2007 doesn’t stand among that game in the Xbox 360’s sports genre. It’s basically a college version of Madden NFL 2006 with mini-games, and that’s not a good thing. Now, drop and give me $60.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide