EA Sports has finally made a challenging football game. Playing the CPU on Heisman mode is like playing last year's Madden on Your Level. The game now adapts to the way you play just like a real (good) coach does. You can't run that option over and over, you will get stuffed!
In addition to making CPU play harder and more realistic, there is a new mode called Season Showdown where you chose your favorite team and everything you do on and offline gets tallied toward an end of the season winner. In Season Showdown mode, you get points based on many categories including Skill (making certain plays yourself), Strategy (Choosing the upcoming play type while on defense and successfully stopping it), and Sportsmanship ( where good sports that don't go for it on 4th get points and those that do or run up the score get them taken away). There is also an online trivia component where you go to the EA Sports website and answer 10 trivia questions each week for points. During the season, each week you can play your team's game online against players from the other team to get points. You get points whether you win or lose, but you get more for winning. Season Showdown is a great way to show support for your favorite team and it also gives a rating so when you are in a lobby you can tell if someone who is participating in Season Showdown will go for it every 4th or not and if they know how to stop plays by looking at their Strategy rating.
Teambuilder is another new mode where you can go to the EA Sports website and create your own school and design the uniforms, stadium and player names and attributes and then download it into the game. And you can use your Teambuilder teams in online dynasties, which is pretty cool.
Online dynasties are better, you can now create a custom team conference by swapping your members teams with teams in an existing conference. For example you can swap all the Big 12 teams with all 12 of your dynasty member's teams. This makes it easier for scheduling user vs user games. They also fixed last year's bug where you talked a player into staying (from going to the NFL draft or transferring to another school) they and they still left. The recruiting process is more involved now, you can talk down other schools the recruit is interested ins attributes and you have a recruiting adviser that tells you when someone is ready to sign, is interested in your school or gets a call from a mom who tells some of a recruit's interests.
The other new addition is Road To Glory, which has been in the game before but is vamped up with a video segment on your player after winning games that is hosted by Erin Andrews, who discusses your play during the game with Herbstriet and shows auto saved highlights from the game. Look for a similar video show presentation in Madden NFL 10 which will have a video show for the online leagues showing highlights from members of the leagues teams each week.
Season Showdown - It has brought a new sense of competition to the game, where everything you do helps your favorite school in the rankings.
Adaptive CPU Play - You have to really be on your toes to win against the CPU on Heisman mode now. All American mode is as hard as Heisman in NCAA Football 09.
Road to Glory - Your player is now ranked so you can see how others playing on your favorite team are doing. Plus you get to see Erin Andrews. lol.
Family Mode - This is another adaptation from Madden, which has an easy mode. Now, you can play a tough game against grandma. Family mode is a very simplified set of controls where even your sister can make a TD pass. So now, just about anyone can play and be good at it.
PS3 Trophies - For the first time you get trophies for your game play.
Tweaks to Graphics - Close ups are more polished, although most of the graphics are the same. Marching bands are now shown pre game and they have added additional uniform settings and TD animations (My team, USF, can now do the horns hand sign after TDs)
Players Are More Realistic - No More sub 4.3 40 yard dash players. Speed is not as much a factor as ability to catching or running through a tackle.
Ability to Tweak Team Play - Now you can tweak how your D and O play on different aspects such as blocking or tackling, with choices being Aggressive, Normal, And Conservative.
EA has now gone the money route. Additional items, like "Dynasty Accelerators" where you get things like an extra pipeline state in Dynasty Mode you have to play for, WITH REAL MONEY! You want to be a 5 star high school recruit in Road To Glory? You can pay for it now, 2 bucks. If you lost your manual for the game, you won't be able to download your Teambuilder team to the game without paying for it. And if you want to download other teams you have to pay for each team. Its not quite as bad as they have done with Tiger Woods Golf, but look for more of it in future additions depending on how successful they are this year.
Adaptive CPU Play - I know, I said it was a Pro, but its both. I am seeing players struggling in Dynasties that are set at Heisman mode, good players. When someone is ranked high against other players (top 1000) plays a game against the cpu in Heisman mode with Penn St and loses to Akron, you know something is wrong. Luckily, the CPU sliders are still included in this addition. Sliders can be adjusted to so that CPU and User play can be adjusted, like increase the likelihood your receiver will catch balls or your QB will throw more accurately.
Graphics and Presentation - While I know that they have worked more on game play and features this past edition, it would be nice to see a better presentation. Not all the mascots are in 2010 yet, there are more in the PS2 version. Many of the lines of the commentators are the same they have used for several versions now. The graphics are pretty much the same, although you get a glimpse of some better graphics during the brief close ups after plays.
Putting your D on Aggressive Stripping the Ball results on face mask penalties on just about every play. Its pretty much useless.
The video is pretty repetitive in Road To Glory. Heck Erin doesn't even have a wardrobe change. It would be nice to see her change wardrobe, and spice up the video some.
Overall, great improvements to last year's game. Much of this is because Tiberon, who makes the game for EA Sports, let seasoned NCAA gamers have a day with the game early enough in development to get input and use it to change and tweak the game before it was shipped. They also did this to Madden this year.
UPDATE: The more I play Madden, the less I like NCAA 10. Why? On the harder settings its like work. And conversely, Madden is pretty fun, even when you are losing. On the harder settings in NCAA 10, one mistake can cost you the game. The game presentation is boring and rather dull compared to Madden. Even though I am #1 for my school in Season Showdown, I still am considering selling my copy. Hopefully next year EA Sports will take the things that work in NCAA 10 and Madden separately and include them in both of next year's offering.