Thursday, July 16, 2009

NCAA 10: Ohio State vs. USC -- The Epitome of the Good and the Bad

I have played several ex games (or at least parts of them), fiddling with various teams, trying out new features, etc. I started an OSU dynasty to get a feel for Dynasty Mode (something I think needs a lot more attention to detail but I'll get to that in a bit) and started off beating Navy 52-7.

Up next was USC. I was without starting HB Boom Herron who was hurt against Navy -- a plus for NCAA 10 is that injuries are more frequent. You'll see more dinged up injuries but Boom is out 2 weeks so it's Brandon Saine time.

Of course, a negative here is that there's virtually no difference between Boom and Saine. Maybe a few ratings points here or there but all of the players on the good teams are basically the same. Pryor is Pryor because he's fast and the USC QB, well, isn't.

Anyway, the USC game highlighted in stark detail everything right and everything wrong about NCAA 10. Here's a +/- bullet list because who doesn't like +/- bullet lists?
  • USC used one RB all game long. McKnight touched the ball 1 time. I am no USC expert -- but I don't think that's right...

  • The USC QB (the game starts Aaron Corp) had a decent game -- 18/31 for 222 but missed some open targets -- as did I controlling Pryor. I had a few dropped passes -- one crucial one on 3rd and 12 in the 3rd quarter, and a few deep balls that were nowhere near the target. This is with QB Accuracy at 25, FWIW. But NCAA 10 does a MUCH better job in this regard -- passes are not always on line, balls are dropped, and great catches still made. The game has never been so good in this area. Big improvement here.

  • Running backs fight for extra yardage -- Saine rarely went down on first contact unless blasted by several players. In addition, the animation where a player gets Platoon shot in the back is gone. There is even a nice animation where a player gets shoestring tackled and falls forward. Very nice.

  • Rushing the QB. Ok this year you can get to the QB if you speed rush or blitz. I can take a DE and sprint around the edge and make a move and maybe get to the QB. However, if a tackle engages you, you are 100% done -- locked up and defeated. This can lead to some extremely silly moments -- like when Corp literally had 8 seconds to throw the ball with a 4-man rush. At some point, a pocket needs to break down. 8 full seconds is a tad extreme.

  • Along these same lines, when USC blitzed it was rarely picked up and I was running for my life half the game, and the game speed is SO fast that you don't have any time to read what the defense if trying to do. Untouched blitzers can and should cause tons of trouble -- but every blitz?

  • I saw more than one occasion where my defender would stand still and spin/jig in place, like he was stuck in some weird AI pattern. Similar to the weird behavior from last year. On one play DE Thad Gibson stood up and literally spun like a top. I wasn't controlling him, but my buddy who is currently visiting (Billy Baroo) asked me to replay a play and asked "WTF is Gibson doing?" WTF, indeed.

  • The game itself showcased some of the strange playcalling AI -- at times it's great, and at times it's just loopy. Here are some examples of the USC playcalling

  • 1st quarter 4th and 13 on the OSU 24 yard line. USC goes for it.
  • 4th and 12 on their own 40 -- USC calls a fake punt run with the punter (fail)
  • 3rd quarter 20-10 USC leads, 4th and 9 on the OSU 28 -- USC goes for it
  • What is weird is that they DID make a 43 yd FG in the 1st so it's not like they can't make these kicks, they just didn't try.
  • 4th quarter, 20-17 USC leads, USC ball 4th and 5 on the OSU 24, :45 to play, OSU used its last T.O. USC goes for it by running a HB dive for 1 yard.

  • Risky doesn't begin to describe the playcalling.

  • The game showcased some of the cool passing animations, and the over the shoulder catches as Pryor hit WR Ray Small on a 54 yard streak, in stride, and the USC DB didn't try the patented "super human leap ball swat" animation as in year's past. He was beat and he acted accordingly. Very cool.

  • The game also showcased the complete bullshit interception animation where a guy IS beat and kicks into Super Human Overdrive and magically glides over to be in the path to make an interception. This cost OSU the game, basically, as USC scored on a pass in in the flat that was picked of like this -- the CB was nowhere near the ball but moved into light speed to make the play. He literally glided -- didn't run.

  • Finally, we have this -- and I am kicking myself for not uploading replays but this was just out and out frustrating. USC 20-17, 4th quarter. 3rd and 4 on the OSU 40. I decide to send the house. USC calls a HB Blast. I blitz, controlling the ROLB but get caught in traffic. The hole up the gut opens but my blitzing MLB fills it. I'm hoping an AI controlled Sabino can make this play -- it's Sabino vs Gable. Until it happens...

  • Sabino gets suction blocked literally by a OG five yards from the point of attack. All of a sudden Sabino starts to move OUT of the hole and TO the USC LG, who of course locks him up. It was like the OG used a Jedi power. Gable, who was staring straight into the eyes of my MLB now has a WIDE OPEN hole and he rumbles for 7 yards and a key first down.
Baroo cracks up and I throw my arms up in amazement. This one play, despite the pros and cons of how this game played out, absolutely ruined what was otherwise a fun, if a bit flawed, game of college football. I run the replay to verify what I thought I just saw and yeah..Sabino stands in front of Gable, moves at him then veers off like someone shot off his left tire and into the waiting arms of the USC LG.

Here's the thing.

NCAA 10 is a better game than NCAA 09. That much is very clear.

But it's a Band Aide, a sturdy, well padded Band Aide, but not the heavy dose of penicillin that it needs.


srudoff said...

patch out for the ps3 - very very good comments about it on OS

Rob said...

Thanks for the updates on this game. I think I'll be passing on it this year. Finances don't allow me to take chances on games the way I used to. I'll hold out for Madden (something I never thought I'd say).

Newhouse said...

Overall I'd agree that the AI playcalling you mentioned was unrealistically ballsy, but I must say that "3rd quarter 20-10 USC leads, 4th and 9 on the OSU 28 -- USC goes for it" wasn't a bad call. At that point they've got a 45 yard field goal (hardly a gimme in college) and a decent lead in the second half. Granted it depends on whether they ran a pass or a stupid HB blast.

jeff said...

In my opinion the best way to play NCAA 09 and NCAA 10 is in an online dynasty with 6-8 dedicated people. It's much easier to overlook some flaws in the AI when you are playing and recruiting against other people.

The on the field game in NCAA 10 looks to be pretty solid. And the online franchise works flawlessly.

I think Blood Bowl is kind of the same way. As a single player game it can be frustrating dealing with the AI and other anooyances in the game. While when played in an online league with 7 other dedicated people Blood Bowl is amazing.

I think it's interesting how people are willing to give BB a pass because of it's great online league play but are not willing to do the same for NCAA 10, which has a wonderfull online dynasty feature.

D said...

The first NCAA Football game by EA came out in 1993 (Bill Walsh College Football). They have had over 15 years to sort out their AI issues. I think that people should stop giving them a pass.

Blood Bowl, on the other hand, is in its first release by these developers. Huge difference.

jeff said...


I don't think either game deserves a pass.If you are looking to play the game single player only I would give NCAA 10 about a 7.5/10. But if you have 4-5 friends that you can play with in an online dynasty, which now allows custom conferences and seems to work pretty much flawlessly, I'd give the game a 9/10 and a hearty recommendation.

I would say the same for Blood Bowl. I just find it interesting that Blood Bowl seems to be getting much more positive buzz. It would be interesting to see if that would be the case if it were published by EA. Whom we all agree eat babies and kill baby seals while dancing on the NFL exclusive agreement at their company picnics.

D said...

I totally agree that NCAA being made by EA does affect my (and probably many others) feelings about it.

After thinking more about it, if they had not hoovered up the exclusive licenses on sports, I would have a much more favorable opinion of EA. The fact that they took away my choice AND produce less than perfect games (and often seriously flawed games) biases me against them from the moment I see EA was involved with a game.

I am, however, eagerly awaiting the console release of Blood Bowl :).