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NCAA Football 2002
Review By: Jared Black
Developer:   Tiburon
Publisher:   EA Sports
# of Players:   1-12 (alternating)
Genre:   Football
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   8-20-01

For all the glitz and glamour that professional leagues bring to sports, thereís still something thatís just pure and good about amateur competition. While professional leagues (such as the NFL, NBA, etc.) tend to emphasize the individual athletes that excel in their respective sport, amateur athletics (for the most part) still emphasize the team aspect of sporting competition.

Perhaps thatís why (along with alumni), despite the multi-billion dollar advertising budgets and hype, college sports fans tend to be more fanatical than professional sports fans. And since these fans are generally more hardcore, itís important that a game based on college sports does a great job of capturing the feel of the college game. That is the monumental challenge that EA Sportsí first PS2 college football game set out to overcome, and luckily for us it succeeds quite admirably. NCAA Football 2002 is, quite possibly, the best college football game ever.

Despite what others may tell you, the most important part of capturing the feel of college football is capturing the differences between the pro and college game. In this area, this game shines. The game is based on the tight Madden NFL 2001 gameplay engine, but it also adds some enhancements from the forthcoming Madden NFL 2002. So basically, if you loved how Madden played youíll love this too. It doesnít just stop there though.

In addition to the awesome momentum-based gameplay engine (which actually factors momentum into every play, thus no "stop on a dime" cutbacks like NFL2K1), Tiburon has also tailored the gameplay for a more college feel. Every school has its own unique playbook based on how that team actually conducts itself. The Nebraska playbook features a lot of plays that emphasize the running game, while the Florida playbook emphasizes an aerial assault. Included in these are such college formations as the Maryland Wing and the Wishbone, as well as plays such the trusty Option. In short, theyíve plunked down an upgraded Madden gameplay engine into a college structure, and the results are fantastic.

However, this also results in the gameplay having the same flaws that the Madden series does. And almost all of these flaws are found in the passing game. First off, I felt that the passing game in Madden NFL 2001 was lacking, and the passing here is virtually identical. While the ping-pong problem has largely been fixed, the passing game still lacks the necessity of good timing. Slants donít require you to lead the receiver that often, hooks donít require you to deliver the ball right after the receiver turns around, etc. In fact, itís often better to run around in the backfield for a while and just wait for someone to get open, as theyíll usually get open more often once they break their routes. Although itís been tightened up some over Madden, it still relies as much on luck as it does skill.

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