Pros: At least they included cheerleaders this time
Cons: After NFL 2k3, this was an afterthought for Sega Sports - and it shows
The Bottom Line: Predictions on Eli Manning? Anyone? Anyone?
Now lets see... How long did Eric Crouch play for Nebraska? How long did Eli Manning play for Ole Miss? I ask because their video game counterparts in Sega Sports NCAA Football 2k3 dont look a thing like them. 2k3 came out back in 2002, and that was just two years ago.
In the now-standard deathmatch between EA Sports and Sega Sports, Im about to do something I never thought Id do: Tell you, in a clear-cut tone without beating around the bush, to go out and buy the EA Sports edition of the 2003 NCAA video game football competition. Youd figure that Sega Sports edition, using the same interface as its NFL brother, would be the superior. But no. While the two Sega Sports games are indeed very similar, Sega Sports still managed to royally screw up their 2003 NCAA game.
The part where Sega Sports really blows it, as usual, is in the atmosphere department. Yes, they got all the standard fixins of college football: The cheerleaders, the mascots, the fight songs, the rabid fanaticism of the students. Thats about all they got. All of these nice little things, which are so essential in providing college football with its unique atmosphere, have been stripped down to the bare bones. If you make a big play, the cheerleaders might kick a few times, or you might see the mascot perform a one-move dance in the endzone. No real looney antics from the mascot, no pyramid formations from the cheerleaders, just kicking and the same movement over and over again. With these two standard college football elements failing us, the remainder of the atmosphere is provided by the fight songs and the insane cheering. Now Im going to tell you something about sports audiences in video games: They all sound the same, no matter what. So whether or not the audience in this game sounds lifelike is irrelevant, because it sounds like a standard sports audience, be it from Triple A baseball, arena football, soccer, or any sport outside of your childrens little league games. So that now reduces us to the in-stands bands to pick up the slack, and while they certainly sound nice, the problems with the cheerleaders, mascots, and audiences are just too much for them to make up for.
The second flaw: The football team at my college was ranked eighth in the nation last year. But I go to a community college. So naturally, I wanted to create my own school to exert the dominance of the ECC Kats in college Division I football. Much to my dismay, however, the games create-a-school system didnt allow me to create a whole new team so much as it did just give a new name to an existing one. So my Kats were suddenly uprooted and moved out of Buffalo and into Los Angeles. Their uniforms also took on a new blue color, as opposed to the red they usually wore back in Buffalo, and the logo was ditched in favor of a logo that said Freedom Fighters. So I started off just wanting to place the ECC Kats at the top of the Division I pantheon and take them to the Fiesta Bowl. But I did so in name only - It was actually the Los Angeles Generals who took the crown at the Fiesta Bowl. Outside of the introduction to the games, the game made no attempt to differentiate between the Kats and this mysterious new team I coached.
Anyway, after failing to replicate my team, I at least got to draft players from the whole of the entire NCAA football division. While Im still perplexed as to how the kickoff duties fell on the shoulders of my quarterback, I did think it was nice of Sega Sports to let me grab the best of the best from the NCAA that year - cover boy Eric Crouch NOT included, since hes only slightly above average in this game. After taking a bunch of brilliant starters and walking like an overconfident cowboy into the NCAA football season, I quickly learned that the very best talent in the NCAA will only get you so far. Maybe my quarterback was incompetant, maybe my recievers were overcaffienated, maybe the average-by-default difficulty was ramped up too high, but whatever it was, my team stopped producing the moment it hit the gridiron. Whatever it was, for the first four weeks the quarterback was the sole source of offense on my team. My recievers were butterfingers, and my running back was regularly steamrolled behind the line of scrimmage, and so, like Michael Vick, my QB was my entire offense. After the initial expansion team trouble, though, the ECC/Los Angeles Kats/Generals found their groove after I went to the options screen and turned it to easy. In fact, they got a bit TOO good - my offense steamrolled opposing defenses so well, I would have, if I could have, given my punter some extra study time by kicking him off the team. He wasnt doing anything. The game became ridiculously easy: I know blowouts are common in the college circuit, but 90-something-3 is beyond a blowout. Obviously the game has a serious problem with challenge balance.
So after ECC/Los Angeless inevitable win of the Fiesta Bowl, I got to go to the offseason and pick up top prospects from high school, then train them. The training program is a joke - you have nothing to do with it outside of deciding how much time they spend on each excercise. For shame. If it had a few mini-games, it really could have given a competition to EA Sports. The recruiting program isnt a whole lot better, and none of the menu interfaces have that personal coachs office touch which made the franchise modes in NFL 2k3 and NBA 2k3 so nice and glitzy. Of course there are also season and single game modes, but the options really dont make up for the terrible gameplay and murderous or softee AI, depending on your difficulty level of choice.
About the gameplay: First, the pinpoint accuracy of Sega Sports gameplay is still there, so you still have full control over you guys. But you can only get this control when the game decides it wants to give it to you. Indeed, whenever a new play begins on offense, its not unusual for the computer to send your quarterback off in one direction which has nothing to do with the chosen play. On option plays, you can never hand off the ball to who you want to when you want to. Often the QB will just wind up keeping it, and youll often find yourself trying to blow around the side after one of these option plays inevitably breaks down. And it will break down. In fact, every offensive play in your schools playbook breaks down very rapidly because the offensive linemen seem to be made of wet paper. Your only choices then will be to take the sack, randomly throw the ball to a reciever, or dash like Sonic the Hedgehog. The running game, as Ive mentioned, is ridiculous. Anyone whos ever seen a football game knows what a pain running is, but still, most runners still manage to pick up a number of yards, and even if they dont, they still probably wont walk out of a game with their total yards in negative numbers. Of course, these problems can all be easily solved by turning down the difficulty, when your offense becomes an army of supermen.
Fortunately, the computer does unto you what it would like you to do unto it. This means that the terror-ific defense problem is a two-way street, and your defense is gonna do some real rocking and stomping once it hits the field. There are those times when the computer can move the chains, but most of the time, it will just run into a brick wall. Your defensive line is like an unstoppable force, and theyll crash through the opponents offensive line like they were bowling pins. Getting a sack is criminally easy, and the running back wont have a whole lot of room to maneuver either.
Since Sega Sports made this, the graphics are, true to par, ultra-real, lifelike in movements, and have dynamic player animation that rarely repeats itself. Replays are prevelant, and theres a large number of camera angles that just look really cool, sometimes putting you right there in the middle of the action (I mean in replays, not in action.) But while the player animation is so variable, the sidelines close-ups are boring. I went over this problem before - no impressive cheerleader dances or kooky mascot dances. Also, I retain one of my complaints about NFL 2k3 - a lack of color. All the colors in this game look like they went through the laundry machine ten or eleven times. Faded. And the number of replay shots taken from NFL 2k3 really makes this game look like an afterthought.
Its the very same way with the commentary - a large number of lines sound like lines from NFL 2k3, and in some cases they were directly stolen. The commentators in NFL 2k3 have been replaced by a duo with voices that really begin to irk you after awhile. Whats more, they dont actually seem to be calling the action that happens onscreen at all sometimes - they call things that were supposed to happen, like how a running back shot through a five-hole when you actually had to improvise and go up the gut after the play broke down. I wont even mention that they kept talking about how my school, in Buffalo, is in Los Angeles. If Sega Sports isnt courteous enough to not put in some sort of pronunciation device, they could at least avoid placing the city in the commentary. Other than that, the sounds are clear and rough sounding, and the music is college-y and uneventful. Very typical.
Many people see college football as the little brother to the NFL. Sega Sports seems to think in the same way, and it shows. The number of commentary lines lifted from NFL 2k3 shows it, as does the thought that they didnt include the gameplay aspects which made NFL 2k3 so endearing. When it comes to college football, Sega Sports treats it like a little brother. So if you want a good college football game, go with EA Sports.
Enhanced In-Stadium Effects Surround yourself with an electrifying campus experience with pep bands playing individual university fight songs, students in the rooting section yelling school chants and cheers with hundreds of motion-captured moves.