Reviewed: August 3, 2006
Released: July 18, 2006
When it comes to video games, there is no denying that college students are the primary demographic. Free from parental control, food and book money are discretely redirected to the local gaming stores to feed an insatiable appetite, so it's no big surprise that one of the number one selling video game franchise is directly targeted toward college gamers.
NCAA Football 07, is the latest installment in a series that dates back to 1989. This year marked its debut on, not only the Xbox 360, but Sony's powerful PSP, and surprisingly enough, the PSP is a far more enjoyable experience. It might not have all the flair and features of the console, but it does offer a tightly packed football game with a lot of heart and a few visual treats of its own.
NCAA 07 offers a near-console quality experience, not unlike what you might get on the PS2 version of the game. The controls are remarkably similar with the only exception being the lack of the right analog "hit" stick, which has now been replaced with shifted face buttons using the left trigger to activate alternate functions like the juke.
Kicking is now more like swinging a golf club. Gone are the arcs or circular kick meters for power and accuracy. You now move the left stick down and up to recreate the kicking motion with power and accuracy being determined by timing and any lateral errors in your stroke. My only complaint is that the meter is small and fast making it extremely hard to hit the max power mark, especially with the twitchy A-pad. I never missed any PATís, but I did miss several FGís that I probably shouldnít have.
Playing defense is infinitely more fun now that you can opt for a view point of your chosen player from a reverse angle on the play. You basically get a shoulder-cam of your player as you try to pick your hole in the offensive line and rush the QB for the sack or block a kick. It's a fantastic concept that should be in the console version. And that's not the only new camera. The PSP also offers a wide variety of zoomed-in, slow-motion moments like the moment of possible pass completion, allowing you to fine-tune the movements of the receiver from an enhanced perspective.
The entire game is actually played from a much tighter perspective, partially due to the smaller widescreen format. This effectively puts you down on the field and into the game. It takes a bit away from your overall view of the field, but ultimately creates a more realistic vision of what the QB could actually see anyway. If nothing else, it adds greatly to the excitement and urgency of each play.
The AI in NCAA 07 is fiendishly clever making use of camera movements to trick you into moving offside. At first I thought this was a camera glitch and then I realized it only happened when a 5-yard penalty would benefit the computerís team (third and short).
I love the passing game, and thankfully the AI cannot intercept nearly as well as I can, since most of my offensive game is in the air. There is nothing more satisfying than having the QB drop back and launch a perfect spiral then switch to the intended receiver to complete the route and snatch the ball from triple-coverage.
The running plays are also fun and the implementation of the pitch button creates some strategic possibilities but for some reason the PSP version of NCAA 07 has a serious bug in the running game that stops tracking running yards at the point of first contact, rather than total yards gained. Itís not so much an issue if you play a primarily passing game or run for more than ten yards each time, but itís still a crippling bug that EA is still trying to fix.
NCAA 07 offers a substantial gameplay experience despite the lack of many of the missing modes of the console version. It also loses the mini-games, which really werenít that great, but they would have been nice for short bursts of handheld gaming. You do get a 10-year Dynasty mode, which actually becomes the core of the entire game.
For those looking for an impromptu game you can pick your favorite team and go for the rivalry mode or check out the mascot game where team mascots take to the field. But youíll always end up back at the Dynasty mode sooner or later.
College football is often more about the fans (and alumni) than the players on the field, and a good crowd can actually affect gameplay. This ďhome field advantageĒ is now reflected with the all-new Momentum system.
There is a meter with a neutral point and when either team scores the meter tips in their favor. Unlike the console version, momentum actually does something on the PSP. With a sizeable chunk of momentum bar my players started playing better and I even saw some flashy animation during runs and receptions. Having a system that actually rewards you with gameplay benefits encourages you not only to earn momentum but to keep it.
EA makes much better use of the ESPN license on the PSP than it did on the 360. Not only do you get the sports ticker you can also get ESPN Radio podcasts every 20 minutes once you go online, and the ESPN Magazine provides updated stats and season info. There are even some exclusive ESPN videos you can unlock when you achieve certain goals during gameplay.
Given the scope of this game I was impressed that the load times are surprisingly fast with most screens loading up in 10-15 seconds. This is especially helpful in the somewhat complicated world of the Dynasty mode.
NCAA 07 takes the presentation to new heights easily surpassing the Xbox 360. There are all sorts of cool camera angles that really put you in the game. Sure, the players might not be all shiny and rippling with wrinkles in their jerseys, but they look really good and move really well on the PSP, and when that camera zooms in and goes into slow-mo, you can really appreciate the extra effort.
Static presentation is amazing, with all sorts of collegiate-style splash screens and menus for each of the colleges and a chalkboard font. Navigating the playbook is a bit more cumbersome than the console versions, but it all works in the end.
Brad Nessler, Corso, and Herbstreit work extremely well together to deliver dynamic play-by-play and insightful color-commentary that is entertaining and often, educational. Itís also taken down a notch on the PSP with less commentary and more frequent repeats.
There is a great selection of music including all the theme songs for the various schools as well as cheers and fight songs during the game. The crowd noise is powerful on speakers or headphones and it synchs up with the new Momentum meter nicely.
This is one of those games that is perfectly suited to portable gaming. You can pause the game anytime and anywhere and resume when you can, even if itís just for a few quick plays. The 10-year Dynasty mode is an impressive feature for a handheld system and will keep you busy for months to come.
NCAA 07 offers both Internet and wireless local multiplayer. For games played via ad hoc, the game performs nicely with some lag in the menus and during some plays, but nothing major. The Internet multiplayer doesnít fare as well and games will often suffer from lag and poor performance. It's especially noticeable in the new kicking game, where timing is everything.
Even with the crippling "running bug" I had a much more enjoyable time playing NCAA Football 07 on the PSP. Of course my style of play favors the passing play so ground yards arenít a big deal with me. If you like to run the ball you might want to wait for the patch or just play on another system.
I was impressed (and saddened) that the PSP actually surpassed the 360 in ESPN authenticity, bringing back both the magazine and radio as well as the real-world sports ticker. And all of those cinematic camera angles, tight zooms, and slow-motion moments really add some excitement to college football.