Some football fans consider the NCAA Football franchise to be the red-headed stepchild of Madden. When it comes to the game technology, they might have a point. In an effort to differentiate between the two games, EA often introduces new technical upgrades in Madden, only to pass it down to NCAA Football a year later.
This year might be the end of that hand-me-down relationship between the two games, as NCAA Football 11, due out in July, features the same game-changing new locomotion engine as its NFL counterpart.
Just as in Madden, the new locomotion system improves how players move and react. Recruiting a star player is no longer just about looking at a player's speed rating; if your cornerback recruit has 90 speed and only 40 agility, he's going to get burned every time by great route-running receivers who can cut on a dime.
Skilled players can now showcase their electrifying moves by using the revamped right analog juke system — a new feature also found in Madden. Stringing together stutter steps, jukes and spin moves on a run play has never been this gratifying or easy to execute.
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One of the chief criticisms we frequently hear in regards to the NCAA franchise is the game's dry presentation. The commentary of Brad Nesseler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso gets repetitive quickly, and many say the game doesn't capture the school spirit at campuses every Saturday. To ramp up the authenticity, NCAA Football 11 features full ESPN integration into its broadcast presentation and features more school-specific cutscenes during the game. After big plays, the camera will pan to celebrating fans in the school section, cheerleaders, flag teams and mascots.
One of the major differences between college and professional football is the amount of unique offensive schemes employed in college. Tiburon has placed an emphasis on faithfully re-creating the playbooks to assure that if your school lines up in the pistol, option or spread formations, you'll see it in the game.
NCAA Football 11 also marks the return of the popular formation substitution feature, which allows you to customize who is on the field for each offensive and defensive formation. This is especially useful for players who rotate in pass rushing specialists for nickel and dime packages or offensive masterminds who like to move their star receiver around to find favorable coverage match-ups.
Fans of running the no-huddle offense will be happy to hear that you now have access to your full playbook when your team is running back up to the line of scrimmage. This is a major improvement over how the old games handcuffed you into choosing from your small selection of audibles.
These aren't the only major alterations to the game; EA Sports says the game has several more big changes that it plans to reveal as we move closer to the release date.
Is this the year that NCAA Football steps out of the NFL's shadow and becomes a must-play football game in its own right? We'll find out soon, as the game ships July 13.