Maybe it's been the hopes of too many summers unrealized, but the gleam in my eye when EA Sports used to release a new version of their college football game has been replaced with cold cynicism. In years past I used to race out to the store to try to play-test the game. Finding out the changes in gameplay and possibilities about dynasty mode were something that interested me. I never got what I really wanted, but usually there was something interesting to take the edge off. Maybe dynasty mode was expanded, or more I-AA teams, or a Heisman mode. I'd look at some of the versions and say, "Maybe I could work with this".
As '07 hit store shelves this year, the neglect to I-AA teams in general was pretty apparent. No I-AA playoffs. No I-AA Dynasty mode, to allow for recruiting over multiple seasons. Even the rosters were in many (if not all) cases carbon-copies of last year's rosters. For I-AA fans, it's hard to recommend the game since so little has changed from last year for our teams. Yes, gameplay has changed a little, but you have to ask yourself the question - if EA Sports doesn't want to take care to get my school right, why should I buy the game?
Curiously, if you do a quick Google search you'll find out that the "game review websites" give the game super-high marks -- suspiciously so, in my mind. (Check out metacritic: no other game gets a higher review.) Look at these snippets:
Not surprisingly, NCAA Football 07 is a no-brainer buy for the college football fans and is well worth a look from even the most casual of sports gamers.
By once again capturing that electric atmosphere in NCAA 07, and combining it with an ever-evolving set of control tweaks and gameplay modes, EA Sports has created a game that no fan of football video games--be they college or pro--will want to be without.
Which ad agency wrote these? First of all, if it's a no-brainer buy for college football fans it's because it's the ONLY college football game out there. It could be a repackage of Atari 2600 football, but if you want to play college football, tough - it's the only game in town. Second, it may be an electric atmosphere if you're a fan of a I-A school like Notre Dame or USC, but if you're a Delaware or Montana fan, you're still in Skunk City.
When you talk to real fans, especially I-AA fans, you get a different story than the "ad agencies". It's not a slam-dunk either way - a very mixed bag. Some like the new gameplay, others think they should have done much better. Specific to I-AA, folks are upset that the Big Sky conference is incomplete since someone forgot to notice that Northern Colorado was joining them this year. Also, no new I-AA teams. No I-AA dynasty. No I-AA playoffs.
It's your call as to who you believe, but read the links and judge for yourself. My money's with the I-AA fans.
To be fair, there is a very positive development I'd like to mention before leaving on such a sour note. First, there is hope in the future that I-AA coverage will be expanded, based on this interview of EA programmers Larry Richart and Anthony White. Here's the snippet:
GS: If there's one thing you could add to the NCAA Football series, what would it be and why?
AW: I'd add an I-AA dynasty mode option that allows you to play in the actual conferences, and at the end of the season if your team is good enough, compete in the I-AA playoffs. As for my reasons, I enjoy watching I-AA football, especially when it's playoff time.
Let's hope for '08 Mr. White's suggestion gets implemented - of course, complete with Patriot League teams. In all seriousness, it is very encouraging that folks at EA Sports are finally getting the fact that people want these features.