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Q3 2002



- Excellent looking game

- Another great all about the offense game

- Love the inclusion of some of the super-teams from yesteryear

- Your team won’t suffer from suspensions due to low GPA or criminal prosecution



- Defense? Huh? There’s a defense?

- No names anywhere? Have you ever tried to memorize 8-15 numbers in 30 seconds?

- Playbooks may be too deep…

- Given time, the announcers will annoy the hell out of you



Review: NCAA Football 2003 (Gamecube)

Review: NCAA Football 2003 (XBox)

Review: NCAA Football 2003 (Playstation 2)



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NCAA GameBreaker 2003

Score: 7.0 / 10


Ah college… where else can you experience incidents like couches on fire in the middle of the street and intoxicated riots by 18 year olds over the recent crackdown on underage drinking? Well, you could play NCAA Gamebreaker 2003 and experience college life without worrying about those self-righteous English professors that believe their dissertations on Shakespeare’s inherent left-turning tendencies represent a greater contribution to western civilization that the movable-type press. Enough of that aside…

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Utilizing the same game engine as NFL GameDay 2003, NCAA GameBreaker 2003 represents only minor tweaks to that formula. Starting off with the announcing crew, the basso-voiced Keith Jackson (that announcing dude in that new Gatorade commercial) provides color for Tim Brandt in their on-going description of the action in addition to their not-so-subtle hints in strategy. The commentary proves invaluable initially, but after a few series, you’ll be able to guess what they are going to say with relative ease. (If I hear another dumb-ass suggestion from Keith Jackson to throw the ball late in the fourth quarter while I’m running out the clock, I’ll personally drive to UCLA to smack him upside his head.) The game features all of the major division 1-A colleges (sorry Eleanor Roosevelt University or Oral Roberts) in addition to some of the super-power teams of the past – so you can figure out who would win, ’89 Colorado’s running attack versus the pass offenses of the ’95 Gators…. Hmm… To counter the sheer number of names that could be seen in this game, the designers have removed all names and refer to players only by their positions and numbers – I can understand the reasoning behind it, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Remembering the player numbers becomes important as the pre-game load screen identifies the dangerous players (that is a real pain in the ass to remember in the heat of the moment).





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Let’s start with the offense. Starting all regular downs from the huddle, you choose from a variety of formations. The selection screen shows 3 different formations at one time – the center one is blown up and the other two are smaller and below. This represents a problem in that it is hard to see the formation that is not blown up – so I recommend memorizing all of the formations so that you can choose by the name instead of the picture. Adding a further wrinkle to the situation is the presence of the “college” formations – 


ones that people who only watch NFL football aren’t going to know. (See the wing formations, the house formation, and all of the other strange 3-back formations – it is REALLY easy to get lost in the playbook, so be careful to not go looking for a master play at 2nd or 3rd down where it is easy to get hit with a delay of game penalty.) After the formation is chosen, you can choose a specific play – each play is shown in the same pictorial manner as the formation, but with each player’s routes as well as a highlighted route for the player who is usually called in that play.


Once the play has been chosen, you go to the snap. At this point, you have a few options: you can try and draw the defense offside by fake hutting, putting receivers in motion, program a hot route, or call an audible play if the defensive line-up can be exploited. Hot routes are changes to a specific receiver’s route during a play – this is usually employed to take advantage of a blitz, so that you can burn the over-committing defense for a few yards. An audible is a pre-selected play that you can change to if the defensive formation is set up too well against your play; for example, if the defense is in the prevent defense, it might be a good idea to switch to a running play, or if the defense is going to blitz their linebackers, switching to a slant pattern over the middle would burn the D hard. The offensive control is excellent – for running plays, the control takes over once the back has the ball and for passing plays, each of the receivers has a button assigned to them (brightly, so you’re not as likely to screw up which receiver that you were aiming at). If you are so inclined to take a more simulation-style approach, you can activate the “Total Control Passing” system which allows you to determine the type of pass (lob or bullet), if you want to lead the receiver (throw the ball before or behind the receiver), or if you want to over/under throw. When pairing the Total Control Passing system with direct control of your receivers, the defensive backs really don’t stand too much of a chance.


Countering the downright amazing offensive system is the defensive system which feels like using fingerless mittens or swinging a sledge-hammer to set glass – you know that sometimes that you could be doing better with what you’ve got but the way things are set up that’s not happening. Like the offensive side of the ball, you start out in a huddle with the opportunity to choose a defensive formation and play; unfortunately, it is even more difficult to determine what the play is from the pictorial choices. Whenever, I’m on the defensive side of the ball – I have an equal chance of accidentally blitzing whenever I meant to fall back into coverage. Before the ball is snapped, you also have the opportunity to audible to an alternate play to take advantage of a weakness, or to avoid getting burned. Once the ball is snapped, you have the opportunity to select which player you want to control and either try to sack the quarterback (or stuff the run) or try and break up the pass. I have found that either choosing a defensive lineman or a defensive back works the best, because whenever I control a linebacker, I always seem to be horribly out of position or the offense takes advantage of the space I just vacated. On average, a gamer should be able to have a decent control of the defensive side of the ball in 10 games or so (and that’s with the manual sitting open in their lap). The final way that this game is skewed is the surprising effectiveness of the open ball carrier; I can’t recall seeing an open player who was tackled in a one-on-one situation. The only way to effectively bring down the opposition is to slow down the carrier until help arrives – the only effective way to bring someone down is with a gang-tackle.


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Special teams represent the true double-edged sword: kicking and punting is frighteningly easy (it is very intuitive, and shouldn’t take you more than 2-3 tries to get the hang of it) but the return game will annoy you if you ever try and take a knee or fair catch a ball. For some inexplicable reason, the game doesn’t always accept those commands (at least the title I had didn’t) and there’s nothing worse than having to run the punt out of your own end zone (the game WILL NOT LET YOU KNEEL!!! – why in the hell would any rational person run the ball out of the end-zone with men sprinting at you?) when there is absolutely no up-field blocking or watching in abject horror as one of your players is about to be intruded to a full-speed tackle by a POed linebacker.


Graphically, this game is excellent. I believe that this is one of the best looking games on the market (despite the crap-tacular in-game messages that are ugly). All of the players look great, and the physical motions of the players even during the hits look downright realistic. The sound is solid in this game and doesn’t suffer from the “pregnant pauses” that GameDay did for the announcing crew. However, the AI did take a turn for the worse in GameBreaker; for some reason the defensive AI is retarded and it is disturbingly easy to bust open runs of 6-7 yards with frequency. Don’t even ask about the passing coverage – I was routinely able to snake a pass into TRIPLE coverage for pick ups of 30-40 yards (blown coverages are free touchdowns in case you were wondering).


Needless to say, this game is best for those who want to play a blowout game and not think about defense… ever. This is a good-looking game, and is fun to play, but purists should look elsewhere.


- Tazman

(October 28, 2002)


"Are you adequately prepared to rock?"

              - Principal Skinner (The Simpsons)

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