Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 07/23/01 | Genre: Sports
Having been raised in Texas, football is pretty much imbedded into my genetic code. So about the only thing I like better than tossing the old pigskin around in the yard with the neighborhood kids is when some dang fool stops by and wants to challenge me to a round of NCAA Football 2002 from EA Sports.
NCAA has been around for several seasons now. EA Sports has always found ways to differentiate this title from their incredibly successful mother of all football games, Madden. Long before there was a franchise mode in the pro ranks, NCAA had a simple but effective dynasty mode. That allowed players to recruit fresh faces to replace their graduating class of seniors. The game has also featured team specific fight songs and chanting crowds urging their team onward to victory.
This latest episode of NCAA for PS2 doesn't change the formula at all. There are so many good things to say about this game that I know I'm going to leave something out. I'll start with the graphics and move on from there. In terms of how players look I'd say they're solid. Linemen are wide bodies often cursed with stumpy legs. Backs and receivers are slender and more closely fit the listed height than do players from this title's previous efforts. If a guy is listed at 5'6" then he looks much smaller than a player listed at 6 foot. It's a detail those new to the series won't appreciate but vets will notice right away.
The sideline is animated this year, a purely aesthetic upgrade. Coaches pace the sidelines and even show some emotion after the defense gives up a big third down conversion. The chain gang moves around a lot. Strangely though, they like to fall when players gets anywhere close to them. It's neat the first time but gets truly bizarre in a hurry.
The field and stadiums are decent. When it rains the turf tears up in chunks somewhat like it might in reality. The signs that line the stadium wall are mildly clever but very repetitive. I particularly like the one that says, "Hi Mom, I'm in the game!" It clearly plays on the whole "It's in the game" slogan EA Sports has used for years.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the replays. In a word: SWEET. The camera follows the flight of the ball through the night sky in slow-mo just like it does on those old NFL Films videos. You can even read the word Wilson as the ball rotates toward its target.
Sound is very good. The three man announcing team of Nessler, Corso, and Herbstreit is easily recognizable to anyone who's ever watched a Thursday night game on ESPN. The crew only appears in televised games and that helps cut down on some of the annoying repetition. Other great sounds include players shouting that they're open (though you can't tell who's saying that), tackles that sound like a cannon being fired, and your receiver saying "my fault" after dropping a ball that should have gone for six.
Game play is top notch, as you would expect from EA. The control scheme is basically the same as for Madden. You have the option to use the right control stick to throw passes manually. It sounds like a good idea but after spending about a half hour getting used to it in practice, I decided it was just too hard to use during an actual game. Momentum is much more realistic and coincides greatly with a player's agility.
The options are plentiful. You can customize the AI in more ways than ever before. Instead of just choosing a difficulty level you can increase or decrease the QB's accuracy, defensive back's awareness, kicker's leg strength and more. There's a useful practice mode, as I mentioned earlier. Exhibition mode is there so you can whip your friends (or enemies). There's also a Campus Challenge system that rewards players for their performance in games. I don't care much for the Campus Challenge as it seems pretty pointless, but it's not like you can't just turn it off. Also, those fans that loved the "create a school" option will be disappointed to learn you won't find that in this version.
And what would NCAA be without the dynasty mode. You can take the reigns at up to twelve schools and try to build the program into a powerhouse. New for this year are the prestige rankings for both the schools and coaches. You sign a three-year contract and if you don't meet the prescribed expectations for your school's prestige level, you'll be hunting for a vacant job. Win and all is forgiven. Recruiting will be familiar to vets and can be a challenge if you're school isn't well known.
If you like college football or are a fan of the series, NCAA Football 2002 is a no-brainer. Good graphics and sound combined with excellent control and game play mean you can't go wrong picking up this puppy. The road to the national championship starts right here. Good luck!