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NCAA the real deal

Tae Andrews | Friday, September 28, 2007

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

EA Sports developers took good heed of this age-old advice in creating NCAA 2008, subtly tweaking and adding a few new wrinkles to their tried-and-true formula in the latest incarnation of this popular video game franchise.

For college football fans itching for their video game fix, NCAA 2008 remains the definitive hook-up for some pixilated pandemonium. For those who have the misfortune of not possessing 4.3 speed or a hand cannon powerful enough to throw footballs over mountains, NCAA 2008 is the closest a couch quarterback can get to “the real deal.”

NCAA 2008 is a control freak’s game: The game features a myriad of options allowing the gamer to micro-manage every aspect of the game. Well, almost everything – the folks at EA Sports have yet to add a “Post-game Press Conference” option in which the coach can embarrass himself on television (ala Mike Gundy or John L. Smith), but it’s a fair bet they’ll add this feature in the future.

On the offensive side of the ball, NCAA ’08 has all kinds of new hot routes, coverage audibles and zone reads, all within the reach of your twiddling thumbs. Plus, NCAA 08 offers nifty new motion plays sporting flashy green arrows which automatically put your players in motion, giving them a head start and some momentum in the quest for the end zone. As always, NCAA ’08 features all manner of playbooks and offensive styles to rain ruin down on your opponents, having added most recently Boise State’s legendary hook-and-ladder and Statue of Liberty plays.

As most red-blooded American males will tell you, the best part of playing video games is the trash talking. And NCAA 2008 offers gamers a whole slew of new weapons in which to embarrass friends and foes, including fake punts, direct snaps and flea flickers.

Perhaps the best new feature is the aptly-named Highlight stick, which functions much like the juke stick of previous years, only now the player can make like Reggie Bush and pull off stutter steps and other shifty moves to rip off scintillating runs and make opposing teams (and by extension, the unfortunate soul directing the defense with the controller sitting next to you on the couch) look plain silly.

Even better, the highlight stick is tailored to the specific player using it; lightning-quick backs and receivers will juke defenders out of their jockstraps, while bigger, lumbering tight ends and fullbacks will just smash through enemy lines like tanks, dragging defenders with them or pancaking them along the way.

There are more defensive options as well, including quarterback contain defensive audibles to prevent opposing signal-callers from flying the coup and picking up massive chunks of yardage on the ground, safe zones and different blitz packages. The hit stick returns in order to deliver bone-jarring tackles and punishing take-downs on opposing offenses. In other words, you have everything you need to get a leg up on opposing offenses and shut them down short of a new signal stealing option inspired by Bill Belichick’s dastardly deeds with a camera.

If you’re in it for the long haul and feel like delivering our alma mater from her current football woes, you can throw the game into dynasty mode and build your program up from scratch, recruiting players as you go in pursuit of gridiron glory. If you play as Notre Dame, good luck against USC and some of the bigger boys on the schedule; as of now there’s no way to arrange to have the stadium grass grown longer to slow down electrifying opponents.

Of course, no video game can encompass the all-inclusive experience that is college football, but NCAA comes pretty close. Pretty much the only things missing from the current game are the fans doing student cheers and the band’s halftime show, although you can put on a show of your own with all the new high-octane hijinks available at your disposal. For rookie gamers and seasoned veterans a like, NCAA ’08 fixes to impress.