NCAA Football 2004
9.4 / 10
The annual rite of Fall is about to begin: another college football season is ready to tee up and kick off, and that of course brings another rendition of the magnificent EA Sportsí NCAA Football franchise to eager gamers everywhere.
Football 2004, the newest offering of the best-selling college football
game is in a league of its own this year. Its only serious competition,
Sega Sportsí NCAA Football 2K series, threw in the towel by not even
publishing a 2004 edition, leaving the college football gaming to the
overwhelming favorite, NCAA Football. But that doesnít mean that EA
Sports was just sitting back on its laurels this year. No, EA Sports
gives the hardcore college football fan the best college football video
game ever, so packed with even more new features than gamers could even
had hoped for, that thereís no need for the final bowl game to decide:
NCAA Football 2004 is the unanimous and undisputed Champion among
college gridiron gaming.
NCAA Football 2004 is just like a Heisman Trophy winner: solid and polished from head to toe. NCAA Football 2003 was seemingly unstoppable as the penultimate college football game. But EA comes back full throttle with NCAA Football 2004, adding to the already overwhelming gameplay and features that were already part of NCAA Footballís package. As much as NCAA Football 2003 had, EA somehow was able to add all these new goodies: 200 new plays (including trick plays), a revamped
that will satisfy even the most fanatical fantasy league gamers; 160 new
teams added to the already loaded roster of teams, including 100 classic
teams and 36 of the top I-AA football programs; the gimmicky EA Sports
Bio, which entices future EA Sports game purchases; and finally, the
well-appreciated and instantly hall of fame worthy College Classics
mode, which allows gamers to replay some of the best and most memorable
college football games and moments in the last two decades.
Football already had a stadium-full selection of teams to play. But now
thereís classic teams such as the legendary 1924 Notre Dame squad, Bo
Jacksonís 1985 Auburn Tigers, and a bunch of I-AA schools, including
one of my favorite teams in the Philadelphia region I live in, the
of visual and audio treats await players in NCAA Football 2004. The
graphics follow up on the excellent presentation that NCAA Football 2003
had, including smooth animations that give NCAA Football 2004 an even
bigger authentic touch. Weather effects like rain are rendered
believably, and stadiums are painstakingly replicated. Again, however,
the graphics slip when it comes to the crowds sitting in the stands and
the sideline and cheerleader cut-scenes. A minor quibble, since they
donít have any effect on the gameplay and overall visual quality. NCAA
Football 2004 really hits pay dirt with the sweet sounds and excellent
announcing crew. Fight songs are played throughout the game-action,
making you feel like youíre sitting at the 50-yard line in premium
ticket seats at the stadium. The gameís announcing crew features the
ESPN College GameDay trio of Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and coach
Lee Corso, who do an excellent job with their commentary. EA does an
even better job at throwing appropriate commentary at the almost-always
right time during games.
a side comment. Itís interesting that the ESPN announcers appear in
this game, because Sega Sports now has a contract with ESPN itself to
include heavy ESPN presence in all its sports games, although Herbstreit,
Nessler, and Corso already had a agreement with EA in place. Thatís a
very possible reason why Sega Sports didnít put out another new
college football title this season, and may not until the College
GameDay crew is actually available to lend their talents to a Sega
Sports game like many of their ESPN colleagues, unless they somehow
convince the original voice of college football, the esteemed Keith
Jackson, to lend his vocals to their effort. Itís a great licensing
coup on EAís part to lock up the College GameDay trio, thereby
simultaneously boosting its productís excellence level while severely
crippling ((or in the case of Sega Sportsí college football series,
killing it off completely)) the competition.
Classics mode is by far the best mode included in NCAA Football 2004. It
puts you in key moments of classic college football games of the past 20
years, including Doug Flutieís miraculous Hail Mary for Boston College
nearly 20 years ago and Kordell Stewartís even more miraculous Hail
Mary heave for Colorado against Michigan.
Your goal is to either match or reverse the finishes of these games. Some College Classics are just a single play, while others are the last few minutes of a game. Many of these arenít easy at all, especially the Flutie and Stewart Hail Maryís, which I still havenít been able to do even after about a 100 tries (which gives you an even greater appreciation for how amazing these classic moments really were).
greatest reward of the game comes in the form of the unlocking of these
classic teams for use in the game once a College Classic has been
completed. So if you complete the difficult objective, youíll unlock
(if you know the particular player played for a certain team; NCAA
Football 2004 obviously doesnít include actual named players, instead
labeling them only by position and number because of NCAA regulations)
college-players-for-the-ages such as Bo Jackson, Charlie Ward, and
course the main unlockable bonuses are again the many pennants, nearly
400 in all. By performing feats, like gaining over 100 yards rushing,
passing for more than 300 yards, or getting a safety on defense you gain
points. The bigger the accomplishment (such as getting two 150-yard
rushers, which is extremely difficult to do), the more points you can
earn. You're able to buy pennants with these points (at 25 points a
pennant) that unlock new teams, bowl games, stadiums, and cheats.
great mode is the Rivalry mode, which allows you to play in all the
long-running college rivalries that have been built up over the years
(and win the many trophies that accompany a triumphant victory),
including the revered annual Army-Navy match-up.
what would an NCAA Football game be without the bizarre-yet-fun Mascot
mode? My favorite mascot to play is the pint-sized leprechaun mascot of
the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. These Mascot games can be particularly
challenging to play against a human opponent, because most teams are on
par with each other talent-wise, so you have to actually display your
NCAA Football playing prowess to win.
If the rest of the modes arenít enough, NCAA Football 2004 scores a major touchdown with its Dynasty mode, which lets you control a college program from recruiting to coaching. Serious fantasy leaguers will enjoy the create-a-player, create-a-school, and create-a-stadium options that let you design your own university, stadium and player roster literally from the ground up.
NCAA Football 2004 is a challenging game. Gone are the days when you
could go to the same basic ďmoneyĒ play and run rampant over your
opponent on the scoreboard -- human or AI-controlled. NCAA Football 2004
has been balanced nicely on both sides of the ball. A big reason for its
balanced gameplay is the expanded playbook featuring all kinds of
traditional college plays, including the Maryland I and my favorite, the
option. I love the option plays in NCAA Football 2004. Even though they
carry the major risk of turnover on any given play, the reward of big
runs more than make up for it. For aspiring quarterbacks, passing is a
lot harder to do in NCAA Football 2004. Plenty of practice and a nice
touch on the ball is the key to developing a quality passing attack.
The only issue that deflated NCAA Football 2004 on the GameCube was the GameCube controller itself but despite the GameCube controllerís shortcomings, NCAA Football 2004 controls remarkably well.
Sports Bio is an interesting new addition that really serves as a
blatant attempt to get gamers to buy more EA Sports titles. The Sports
Bio actually keeps track of all your EA game statistics in one menu,
giving a virtual resume of your EA Sports gaming activity. Youíll be
able to see your greatest in-game moments and also how much time
youíve spent playing each game.
if you own the PlayStation 2 version is online gameplay available. And
NCAA Football 2004 is a memory card hog when it comes to the Dynasty
mode (which is not a problem with the Xbox version). But if you only own
a GameCube and are an avid college football gamer, NCAA Football 2004 is
a great GameCube sports game.
Football 2004 brings every possible feature to appease college football
gamers (short of Keith Jacksonís legendary college football announcing
talents). Without any reservation, itís easy to proclaim NCAA Football
not only the best college football game of all-time, but also one of the
best football video games period. This game is so good, itís almost
impossible to think that thereís a possibility that the NCAA Football
series can improve. NCAA Football 2004: this is college football gaming
at its best.
(August 20, 2003)
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