Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It Begins: Day 1 Reflections

I have it, I have it, I have it, I have it. Don't believe me? Here's some proof:

Okay, so some thoughts from Day One. Whew. This is a little bit quick and dirty, since I've only logged a few hours of time in and haven't explored the vast intricacies of the game yet, but here we go.

Bought the game on my lunch break and tore it open when I rolled home. I spent a while on practice mode lobbing touchdowns over the Northwestern State defense, primarily because I need to get acquainted with the controls on XBox. As a lifelong Playstation user, I made the big switch this off-season to the XBox, so I spent some time getting used to the crazy controller and unlearning a lot of my muscle memory. Once the cobwebs were dusted off, I fired up a Notre Dame Dynasty. Some comments:

  • Kudos to Challenges: It's a pretty amazing thing how each successive game in the NCAA franchise is, by and large, similar in design and layout, and yet somehow they find a way to make you look like a complete idiot the first time you play it. A few months ago, I was romping up and down the field against USC in NCAA 2006, and today I'm staring in horror as Reggie Ball torches my secondary for his ninth passing touchdown. While the gameplay tweaks are subtle, they are major enough to make for an entertaining and challenging learning curve.

    Me, after my first game against the computer.

  • Major Kicking Overhaul: Kicking has completely changed in 07, which I think is a welcome update. The old power meter just seems a little bit too Tecmo Bowl or Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf. We've made some big advancements as a society in the last dozen years, it's about time we bury the old power meter. As a result of my inability to decipher how to kick, my opening drive against Georgia Tech was sabotaged when I racked up three consecutive delay of game penalties followed by a nine yard punt.

    Meters are so 1990.

    This segues into another excellent point...

  • I Blocked an Extra Point! Hallelujah Saints Be Praised!: The defense on extra points has changed around completley, making actually a realistic possibility that you can block a field goal. This was always one of my gripes with prior NCAA versions, which absolutely neveer featured any blocked kicks or punts. Considering that there are a meaningful amount of blocked PAT's every season, it makes the game much more realistic. Plus, extra points were always such a waste of time. I always thought that since PAT's were so accurate, it would be just as well if they gave them automatically, a la NFL Blitz, rather than waste a minute of time lining up and kicking it.

    This was made possible by a new feature called "Third Person Viewpoint", which shifts the camera behind the defensive line when defending kicks, allowing you to fight through the line and dive at the kicker. I like the feature, but I have a big complaint about the name. When the camera switches behind the line and focuses on the player you're controlling, it should be called a "First Person Camera". Plus, you know, all cameras are "Third Person", unless you have the Being john Malkovich-esque headcam.

  • The Game Seems to be Very Long-Bomb Oriented: Maybe it's just because I was playing as Notre Dame, but there doesn't seem to be a correction on the oversimplicity in hucking the ball deep. I spent most of the evening firing up 50 yard bombs to Samardzija and watching him effortlessly snag them on the Impact Player camera (another very cool feature). I did also notice that slants and short routes are much more realistic and simpler than in previous versions.

All in all, a very excellent game. I haven't got to dig too deeply into the playbooks, which apparently has expanded a hundredfold. That's probably a project for tomorrow night. Also, I'm happy to report I followed up my humiliating loss to Georgia Tech with a 63-6 drubbing of Penn State (including a blocked extra point). If this year's game is even half as enjoyable as that hour of my life, we're all in for a treat.

Any other readers have commentary on your first day with 07? Feel free to drop a comment.

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