I Tried

I tried. I gave it my best shot. I believe I have given the game a fair shake, a reasonable evaluation window, a nice long looking over. Intelligent people who generally seem right about these things told me it was a good game, and I desparately wanted to agree with them. But I can’t. The plain, hard, awful truth is, no matter how hard I try, I can’t like NCAA 2007 on the 360. It’s crap. I’ve always said that the job of a good football game is to let you win while not letting you notice that it is doing so. I’m not a player who is interested in an “realistic” simulation of an actual team. I want a fun “simulation” of taking a team to the Super Bowl and winning every year. But it has to feel like I worked for it. Over the years, the mature football engines have been tuned to the point where this is possible. They have bugs and glitches and money-plays, but these concerns are fairly minor because the overall package plays well, and I get to win a lot. What’s the point of playing a football video game and having a .500 season?

NCAA 2007 is not like this. The game is cheap and random, and the gameplay is glitchy and hard to predict. Then you lose. The result is a frustrating mess.

Passing is like flipping a coin. If you hit a good coin flip, your QB (or the CPU) can thread the ball between three defenders, and your receiver will dive backwards behind himself to catch the ball. If you hit a bad coin flip, that pass over the middle into wide open space will be picked off by a DB sporting magic warp drive shoes.

Running the ball is a bit better. The running backs handle more like the PS2 Madden than the Xbox 360 Madden, so it doesn’t feel like they are running through quicksand. You can occasionally change direction. Still, sometimes you will be moving along and the avatar will suddenly spring into some random animation that you can’t control. That’s weird. The old problem of running into your lineman and getting stuck also persists.

Other on-field gameplay glitches abound. You will see players warping 15 yards across the field to make a play. You will be sacked by linemen who never touch your quarterback. The CPU team never misses a field goal, unless it is blocked and they recover their own blocked kick and run with the ball 30 yards to the endzone. Every game I play seems to have 4 or 5 INTs or 2 or 3 fumbles, or both. Every game.

The “jump the snap” feature is also heinously unbalanced. Jumping the snap allows the defense to jump into the offensive line with extra force if you time the button press just right. However, if you jump the snap, your lineman falls over his feet and shuffles to the side in a harmless manner. When the CPU jumps the snap, the lineman clips through your center and smashes the QB to the ground before he has even gathered the football.

I dislike the new play calling screens. I didn’t really like them in Madden 06 either. They seem great in theory, except that the system is actually slower to use because you have to pick the exact play and hit A, rather than picking the group of three plays and hitting A, X, or B. It also does not help that the UI spazzes out and flips to the next or previous page of plays seemingly at random. The UI is also buggy in other ways. I’ve had defensive formations disappear (where did 4-3 Normal go?) and offensive play groups suddenly be named “text text”.

The graphics and presentation are also disappointing. There are noticable anti-aliasing problems when the players are small. Also, the football is too dark and hard to find on the screen. The on screen tickers and scoreboard displays are horrible. They flash and dance for no reason. They don’t really tell you much about what is going on. They are also missing those helpful messages that indicate whether you have made a first down, or whether there was just a touchdown, or whether your stupid moron running back just coughed up the ball again, which is why that cloud of players are all running down the field the wrong way. The audio is boring and repetetitive. I don’t know who Lee Corso is, but if he says “Scooter special” to me one more time I’ll go insane.

As a final insult, there are obvious bugs of a fatal nature. In one game, I recovered a fumble for a touchdown. The touchdown appeared in the scoring summary of the game, But I got no credit for the points, even though I kicked off on the next play, as if I had scored. Go team!

My summary: it’s barely better than Madden 2006 for the 360, but if Madden 2007 is not better than this, I’ll have to get the PS2 game again. NCAA 2007 is a glitchy, buggy, frustrating mess. Oh yeah, the new kick mechanic is stupid too. And I hate the option play. So there.