Review: NCAA Football 11 (Xbox 360, PS3)July 9th, 2010 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
The conferences aren’t completely changing, at least not due to the events of this summer, but at least you can change the virtual landscape of college football. NCAA Football 11 features several upgrades and changes that improve the visual, presentation, community, and the controls quite a bit. Despite a few kinks in the armor, NCAA Football 11 offers enough improvements that it is easily worth a purchase for football fans.
The biggest additions to NCAA Football 11 are Pro-Tak, Real Assignment AI, and Locomotion that improves the movement animations significantly more than anything the series has had since the last generation. Pro-Tak first appeared in Madden 10 as it’s new technology that offers much better gang tackles, which are at least a step up from the canned animations of past games. Real Assignment AI is the revamped AI system for your offensive linemen that helps them execute more effective blocks and makes it much easier to have running plays develop the way they should that feeds into Locomotion. Blocking still isn’t perfect, but it’s a big improvement over how it has worked in the past.
Locomotion greatly changes how players move on the field in NCAA Football 11, which takes into account the player’s weight and momentum and actually leads to a much more realistic running game this year. With Real Assignment AI, you can now watch your linemen make the right blocks so your back can get around the end or hit the gaps and follow his blockers, which is a great thing to watch them open up big holes in front of you. Locomotion also affects the defensive side of the ball so that linebackers can more easily get around the defensive linemen on blitzes and the battle between the offensive and defensive linemen is decided by the skill of the players rather than luck.
The revamped offenses in NCAA Football 11 are the other big change that affects the gameplay. Each of the 120 teams have had their playbooks and play styles tailored to be much closer to their real-life counterparts that includes the many variations of the spread offense, triple option, the multiple offense, and others that help each team feel different enough from the limited amount of testing we could do in the past week. The big key is that your personal play style may make it harder to use some teams at first due to how their offense is run, so don’t expect to just pick a random team and be able to do well right away.
The dynasty mode has received quite a few upgrades that make it a much better experience in NCAA Football 11. The first thing you’ll notice are the new menus that look like a version of the PS3’s Cross Media Bar that eliminates all of the needless button pushes just to get to your rankings and news, stats, and the parts of the mode. Along with that, they use the empty space on the right side of the screen to show some dynasty news, stats, and other useful information depending on which section you’re highlighting.
The other big change for the dynasty mode in NCAA Football 11 is the revamped recruiting that makes it less of a grind than before. The process of talking to prospects on the phone is much less about covering as many topics as possible before he gets angry and hangs up on you and more about making the best use of the time you dedicated to that prospect since each action takes up 10 minutes of that total time. You’re scored on how receptive that recruit is to each topic depending on whether you’re getting his opinion, making a pitch for it, or showing how much better your school is in an area over his other suitors that feeds into the competition between schools and gives it a more tangible unit of measurement in the rankings for each player. It fails in that aspect since you don’t get immediate feedback about how your score compares to the others and waiting until you advance the week just means you probably won’t be able to tell if you’ve improved with any recruits without a notebook, which shouldn’t be necessary in the first place. The other big change for recruiting is that you can now set a specific difficulty for recruiting itself to make it easier if your own recruiting success in past years has been based on dumb luck.
Online dynasty gets those same enhancements along with the new Dynasty Wire feature that will allow the 12 players in the dynasty to write up their own news from the console or the new online dynasty website. Previous iterations of the website didn’t allow much more than easy access to your dynasty’s schedule and the ability to share videos, screenshots, and basic stuff like that. This new portal allows you to write up news stories, recruit, check out stats and that week’s rankings, and even some basic web functionality to get email alerts, RSS feeds, and the ability to export this stuff to Twitter or Facebook if you want to go that far. The game will automatically save a few screenshots for the Dynasty Wire news stories that you can expand upon with some extra videos and pictures that you can manually save to put into those stories along with writing up an entire article that even allows for comments on both sides to enhance the community aspect of the mode that was mostly dependent upon other resources to communicate with each other in the past.
The main issues we had with NCAA Football 11 are that two of last year’s most interesting features (Gameplan and Season Showdown) have been largely hidden from those that enjoyed those modes. You may have a hard time finding them without some help and even then the Season Showdown metagame has been turned into an extra set of leaderboards from the full mode that it was last year.
NCAA Football 11 has finally received an upgrade to the presentation to take advantage of the ESPN license that they’ve had for years now, which makes the in-game interface a marked improvement that adds a lot to the atmosphere. The players and the action itself look a lot better this year thanks to a big upgrade to the engine, though there’s still a bit of awkwardness with the way player models can bump against each other despite the new animation technologies that have been built into the game.
NCAA Football 11′s main menu also received an overhaul in design to be much more like the Xbox 360’s new dashboard to simplify the process to get to where you want to be without navigating a clunky interface. The playbook has returned to the classic three play row style that works well with the new approach the developers had to simplify the overall interface for the game. The biggest bug we noticed was that the camera for field goals and PATs would occasionally be out of place, usually from the other side of the field.
The big change in the audio department for NCAA Football 11 is that Lee Corso is no longer a part of the commentator crew, though you can still find him in the game if you know where to look. Brad Nessler has been given a chance to shine by taking over the play-by-play duties, though the 50% change in voice talent still doesn’t make for great commentary. There’s still the issue of the commentary being largely repeats or full of vague reactions and comments that could apply to almost any team and situation that still lags behind most of the competition.
Overall, NCAA Football 11 makes a number of big improvements to the way the game plays that makes this one worth checking out if you’ve been unsatisfied with the lack of improvements over the past few years. Adding in the changes to the dynasty mode for both its offline and online forms, those modes has received a big enough facelift that it’s a shame that Road to Glory was largely ignored this year.