NCAA Football '09: Now With Online Dynasties

EA Sports launched NCAA Football '09 at a gala event in New York on Friday night, taking advantage of so many college stars being in town for the next day's NFL Draft. As AOL Sports' Fanhouse pointed out, the game is touted as the "best-looking yet" while, to a trained eye, is just now getting around to putting in the kind of atmospherics that made NCAA Football 2002-2004 such a joy to play.

Sports Gamer has a first look at the title, too, and it will deliver online dynasty-mode play. You and up to 11 others can compete in a concurrent dynasty simulation that seems incredibly deep, as usual, and for my money is the first real bridging of the worlds of sports simulation and fantasy sports.

Online dynasty will require a league commissioner to marshall all the participants together and tell them to get their games (and assorted activities for a certain week) completed before the sim can advance. This sounds like a job no one would want. EA also is taking a risk by adding in an unpleasant scenario to its game experience: everyone waiting on a guy who had to work late three days in a row, before harshly simming his week for him. But in a small enough league with committed gamers, it could work.

Online dynasty will also feature competitive recruiting, and if you thought the league's recruiting feature was obsessive-compulsive enough playing by yourself, I imagine recruiting against other live gamers will be even moreso.

As for gameplay, there will be more sophisticated ways your quarterback's confidence will soar or tank. For those who hit the power button after throwing a stupid interception returned for a TD, you now have reason to stick around. A minigame will pop up, and if you can identify the defence that picked you off, you'll recover some of that composure.

I like that detail because it shows sports simulations at their best: When they teach you something about the game. Honestly, I have learned more about play-calling, strategy and defence in six years of playing NCAA and Madden. And with incentive to read defences, I'm sure I'll feel more in control of the game.

And I'm glad to hear EA is, apparently, restoring details — cut scene animations, crowd reactions, pre-game shot, big victory/loss scenes — that made this thing such a model railroad for a gamer who wanted to build an inhabit a world where he was a big-time college coach or player. I haven't read what exactly is coming to the 360/PS3 version. I hope it's everything, and I'm not going to give EA extra credit for putting in something that was part of first-gen games going back to 2003.

But I will buy the title, for the sixth year in a row, hoping it recovers from last year's disappointing 360 version. And if not, I'll be glad to hook up with any of you forming online dynasty leagues.

NCAA 09 First Look [Sports Gamer]


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