July 19, 2007 - Last year, NCAA Football made its debut onto the 360, and for players looking for the evolution of the college experience on a more powerful console, they were sadly disappointed. The title was missing a ton of features found on the Xbox versions of the game, and while it looked nice, there were still a lot of issues that hampered the overall presentation of the game. If anything, this was the proverbial, "wait till next year" situation that every sports fan hates to hear. At least there was a lot of work put in by all squads in the off season, because NCAA Football 08 is a much better showing this time around, with much deeper gameplay across the board.
Hard hits are a new focus with this year's game.
The first and most immediate change that's been made to the gameplay is the scrapping of the momentum system for the new Motivation mechanic. What this does is allows any player to take control of someone on the field, performing individual actions with them like user catches, tackles or picks to boost their motivation levels and get them in the zone.
Once that player is in the zone, they have the opportunity to make a big play and further inspire the players around them on the field. It's an intriguing system because it forces you to rely upon your actions to trigger these game changing moments, but it's also extremely underutilized compared to the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game. Whereas a measurable stat boost is distributed to the squads on the field on the older consoles, the 360 version issues a strange orange circle from your athlete, which is supposed to mark his "sphere of influence" when you make a big play.
Unfortunately, that generic visual comes across as a rather cheesy and somewhat ineffectual addition to an otherwise impressive field presentation anchored by a ton of improved animations. In last year's game, you couldn't really make cuts, spins or even directional changes without being forced to complete certain animations. For instance, this could sometimes result in accidentally running out of bounds on an out route because your receiver couldn't catch the ball and break up the sideline without their momentum forcing them off the field. In NCAA 08, players are given the ability to interrupt their actions based on what the player wants them to do, which means that you can perform an incredible sideline grab, make a quick juke step to the middle of the field and accelerate from a defender in three smooth moves.
However, just because you can potentially be elusive on the field doesn't mean that you'll be guaranteed success with these new moves. Players will find that there's a new emphasis placed on hits and tackles. NCAA 08 focuses a lot of attention on gang tackles this year, so players will find that a back in the secondary will be hit by two or more players as they gain yardage. The same could be said for the extra weight placed on mid-air collisions, so receivers that go up for a ball may find themselves paying the ultimate price for that reception as they're flipped or spun to the ground from a fierce hit by a defender. Even the hit stick has been redesigned, so larger defenders can truck ball carriers while smaller DBs can take out another player's legs to stop their progress. While you can possibly avoid this by hurdling these low tackles or use the new Lead Blocking controls to take out some of the defenders, you can expect a harder hitting game this year, which you might need to defeat the included trick plays like the Statue of Liberty or the Hook and Lateral.
Don't expect every one of them to connect, though.
The presentation of the game has also been augmented, thanks to the inclusion of The Weather Channel feed fuction, which provides the current weather situations that are occurring at that stadium in real time. That means that if it's raining at The Big House, for example, your rivalry matchup against the Spartans of Michigan State is going to be a wet one. Depending on how you play your game, you may find that your title is worthy of being considered an EA Classic. However, you are also given a chance to create your own highlight reel thanks to the new photo and video highlights feature. As you enter different games and make impressive plays, such as key stops or incredible catches that you take to the house, the game will take snapshots of these plays and allow you to save them on the hard drive so you can relive the glory moments of each game or upload them to EA's servers to share with friends.