Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: July 12, 2004
Following the current trend, Electronic Arts has once again released their well received college football title NCAA Football 2005 a few months ahead of the actual college football season. For those die-hard college football fans that have been waiting for their virtual college football fix, NCAA 2005 couldn't have come soon enough. EA Sports has made several improvements to this years version over last years, but easily the biggest improvement to 005 is the inclusion of full online play over Xbox Live. Unfortunately, this is also the game's biggest disappointment thus far.
One of the coolest new additions to NCAA 2005 is the effect that home field advantage has on the game. EA Sports has done a great job of trying to reproduce the tremendous impact of home field advantage that college sports has. In 2005, when you play another team at their home field, the crowd plays a big role in what happens on the field, much as it does in real life. Calling plays like audibles becomes much tougher for the away team when the noise level rises. This effect is not just limited to play calling, though. The noise level of the crowd, at its highest, can actually effect the players ability on the field when it comes to executing a play like catching a ball. The screen itself will also shake, and the controller will vibrate, making you feel like you're right there on the field yourself. This really helps to get you immersed into the game like never before!
Despite the realism and immersion that the home field advantage adds to NCAA 2005, it is not without its flaws. Picking the right plays has never been more important in a football game, as the more incompletion you have the more your players on the field start to break down mentally and botch plays. After a few incomplete passes, your players will start to drop even good passes that are right on the money. On that same note, if you make a few good passes, your QB will get hot and be able to hit guys in the tightest of spots with no problem. While this doesn't seem like such a big problem on the surface, when things are going bad, your players end up dropping far too many good passes. Overall though, despite its flaws and some balancing issues, this is still a great feature that will hopefully have the bugs ironed out in future versions.
Other improvements to this year's version come in the form of all around better AI and some sweet new animations. The running game has especially benefitted from the improved AI, and now you can actually run for more than a few yards at a time. On the other side of things, the tackling has become much more interactive. You now have an option of doing a standard tackle or a powerful tackle when bringing down a runner. The powerful tackle can be used to force fumbles and strip the ball loose, which gives the player more control over the defense and makes a fumble less of a random occurence.
Besides the new animations, the rest of the graphics are pretty much unchanged from last year's version, other than some major slow-down that I will address in a minute. Being a PS2 port, things like the quality of textures are a bit on the muddy side compared to what the Xbox is capable of. But overall, the graphics in NCAA 2005 are not bad and does a great job of capturing the look of an actual college football game...as long as the game's not moving. As I noted above, the Xbox version has some major issues with slow-down. Unlike past EA Sports games ported to Xbox that only featured slow-down during cut scenes and rarely effected the actual game play, the slow-down in NCAA 2005 is rampant throughout the game and does effect the game play from time to time. I am not just talking about small losses of a few frames here and there, 2005 can get downright choppy at times.
What makes this worse is the fact that the Playstation 2 version has none of these problems with slow-down. This really shows that EA did not spend much time or effort with the Xbox port of this game, as it actually runs better on a far less powerful console. If you can get over the frame rate issues though, you will find the same great NCAA game play you have grown to love over the seasons. The outstanding Dynasty mode is back again and has been beefed up more this time, giving the player more options in the off-season to help build a better, more attractive team for the next recruiting season. You have full control over the budget and how you displace points for different categories like training and recruiting. Moves you make in the off-season can have a big impact on your next season. Making smart moves will allow you to really build up a team over the course of a few seasons, making them a much more formidable program.
Us Xbox gamers have been waiting and wondering since the first day Xbox Live was released if and when EA would support Xbox Live. Those questions were finally answered at this years E3 in May, when Microsoft and Electronic Arts announced that all upcoming Xbox EA games starting with NCAA 2005 would support full online play over XBL. So of course, this being EA's first XBL title, we were all very curious to see how it would play online. Unfortunately, the experience thus far has not been that good. We here at WP.com have experienced a number of problems when trying to connect Xbox Live with NCAA 2005. Many times we could not even connect to the service. When we did get connected, we experienced frequent connection drops and laggy game play. Over the past few days though, the experience has improved some, but it is still far from a seamless online experience. Hopefully, EA can iron out these bugs and improve the quality of experience with NCAA 2005 and their future Xbox titles.
Overall, NCAA 2005 is still an excellent football game, despite its flaws. Being the first Xbox Live title from EA, it is extremely unfortunate that the online portion of this game could not have been better. It’s also extremely disappointing to see EA do such a sloppy job on a port to Xbox. There is no excuse for any game being ported from Playstation 2 to have slow-down on Xbox when there is none in the PS2 version. If you're an owner of both consoles, this is one of the few times I'd highly recommend you getting the Playstation 2 version of this title, as it doesn't have any of the slow-down problems found in the Xbox version. If you only have an Xbox and are really looking for a college specific football game, then go out and buy NCAA 2005 right away. For the rest of the football fans, who are not huge fans of college football, I would recommend renting NCAA 2005 first.
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