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Q4 2002



- Options.  Options.  Options.  (Including the option)

- More modes than you can shake a pom-pom at

- Captures the feel of the college game, right down to the goofy mascots



- The game is a serious memory card hog

- Character models are a bit stumpy



Review: NCAA Football 2003 (Playstation 2)

Review: NCAA Football 2003 (XBox)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gamecube)



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NCAA Football 2003

Score: 9.5 / 10


NCAA Football 2003 is easily the most impressive college football game ever created.  Fans of college football need this game.  In fact, all football fans need this game because it provides the best football experience available on the next gen systems.  Given the quality of this year’s Madden and NFL2K franchises, that statement might seem brash, but I stand by it.  From the tip of the shiny helmets to the grass-wedged cleats, NCAA Football 2003 is a marvel to behold.  


ncaa-football-2003-gc-1.jpg (61790 bytes)          ncaa-football-2003-gc-2.jpg (93705 bytes)


NCAA 2003 is attractive for a number of reasons.  Initially, it was the recreation of the atmosphere of college football that drew me in.  Cheerleaders, fight songs, mascots, and heated rivalries are all present.  Add to those, admittedly tangential, features playbooks that accurately reflect the difference in the college and pro games and a noticeable shift in the pace and feel of the game, and we are left with an experience that is easily distinguishable from EA’s professional football offering despite being clearly built on the foundation of the Madden 2002 engine.


Graphically, the game is solid.  As in the other EA football games, the players are a bit bulky and unrealistically proportioned, but they still look pretty good – just a bit “cartoony” maybe.  The field and uniform textures are a bit flat and the overall color scheme leans too far to the bright, primary color side of things.  Still, it is easy to overlook those flaws because so many other things are done right.  The animation is simply great.  EA has upped the number of different animation routines significantly over last year’s model.  The one handed reception is particularly exciting, as are the new animations for juking, spinning and jumping with the running backs.  The frame rate is rock solid.  Background shimmer (a real problem on last year’s PS2 version) is non-existent.  Everything is smooth and anti-aliased.  NCAA 2003 simply looks very good.





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As great as the look of NCAA 2003 is, the game play is the true star.  Using a simple, intuitive interface (polished to a shine after years of EA football games) players can easily guide their favorite team to the BCS crown.  Controlling the skill positions couldn’t be easier.  Options abound to tweak the game for a player’s personal style, but the default options work wonderfully.  In fact, I didn’t consult the user manual any during the first season of my franchise.  If there is anything to complain about as far as game 


play goes, I suppose it would be the lack of innovation.  NCAA 2003 plays a lot like NCAA 2002 (and Madden 2001, 2002, and 2003).  The prevalence of the option and I-formation changes the overall feel in obvious ways, but there is nothing truly surprising under the hood.


With great graphics and game play, NCAA clearly could have afforded to not be as feature rich as the average Madden game.  It still would have been easily the best college football game on the market.  But EA certainly didn’t slack here.  No football game, and possibly no sports game, has ever offered the player more options.  The standard exhibition and season modes are here, but that is to be expected.  Even Dynasty mode has become standard, though the NCAA 2003 Dynasty mode is so long and feature rich that it is a game in itself, and one that most players are unlikely to fully explore before NCAA 2004 comes out.  Still, EA gives users even more.  Most striking is the new Rivalry mode.  Players can play pretty much any of the famed rivalries of college football.  For those rivalries that carry a traditional trophy, those trophies are winnable and will appear in the player’s trophy room.  (Alas, the famed Beer Barrel, prize of the Tennessee/Kentucky rivalry, is not present as it has been retired in a fit of political correctness, sad.)  Another new feature is the create-a-college mode.  This allows players to create their own alma mater if it is not already one of the 144 Division 1-A and 1-AA schools already available out of the box.  Also of interest, for some, is the mascot mode, where players can field a team of their alma mater’s mascots and take on those of another team.  It certainly is amusing, though probably of little value to the hardcore fan.  


ncaa-football-2003-gc-3.jpg (17800 bytes)          ncaa-football-2003-gc-7.jpg (80852 bytes)


The game as a whole, though, is certainly designed for the hardcore fan of college football.  Pretty much any option a player could want is available here.  In fact, when I asked my self the “what would I like to see improved?” question that I always ask just before I write a review, the only thing that sprang to mind immediately was the amount of space the game require on a memory card.  If you are planning on playing a dynasty, plan on buying an extra memory card.  In fact, even an empty Memory Card 59 won’t hold everything you need to play a dynasty mode if you plan on creating your own college team.


In case you haven’t been paying attention, I love this game.  NCAA Football 2003 sets a new high water mark for college football games, and sports games in general.  I have no trouble imagining myself still playing this game when the 2003-2004 season rolls around.  It is simply that deep and that good.


- Tolen Dante

(September 14, 2002)

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