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NCAA Football 2004
Score: 94%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8 Multitap / 1 - 2 Online
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:
Only getting better year after year, the sports genre continues to be a front-runner with updates. EA Sports' new rendition in the college football market is no different. NCAA Football 2004 has both incredible graphics, and outstanding music and sound fx. I can't remember ever having played a better football game in my life (note: the NFL 2004 games aren't out as of the time of this review). Everything from player models to the commentary by the announcers is clean, crisp, and doesn't detract from the game in any way, as they have sometimes done in the past.

Once again, the heart of NCAA Football lies in the Dynasty mode of gameplay, where you can play season after season with your favorite teams. Unlike the (real-life) travesty of the college football ranking system, the beauty of this game includes the playoffs and doesn't stop at the end of the season. In fact, from the moment the last gun is heard, you'll be fully involved in the upcoming season through the outstanding draft process. Here you'll be able to try to recruit any player in the country, always keeping in mind that you need to fill certain spots not only for the next season, but also to build your Dynasty of the future.

While on the field, college fans will be in football heaven with many features, including a ton of new teams and plays. Of course, everyone's favorite play -- the option -- returns with all of its 'this-only-happens-in-college-football' goodness. Another new feature includes the new EA Sports Bio that gets saved to your memory card, and will update with multiple EA Sports titles. Now you can unlock special rewards just by playing these games together. Another cool update is the ability to take your favorite teams to the field using only mascots as players. It may be impractical, but it's very funny!

But perhaps the biggest new feature for NCAA Football 2004 is the ability for gamers to take it online with the PS2 Network Adapter. The online experience can sometimes be a daunting one, but EA does a pretty good job of relieving this. You'll be able to create a buddy list, as well as surf the game lobbies for worthy opponents. But in my mind, the ability to play online with the click of a button ('Play Now') is a great, great feature. People that really want to play don't have to dink around in lobbies any more. Finally, another one of the many features of the game includes the new EA Sports Talk option. If you have a USB headset to connect to the front of your PS2, you'll also be able to talk live with opponents online. (Unfortunately, I don't have a headset, so this feature is currently untested.)

NCAA Football 2004 has an incredible set of difficulty options. Whether you're a seasoned vet or a rookie, you'll be able to tweak gameplay options to give yourself any gaming experience desired. You'll be able to not only choose different difficulty levels, but also be able to tweak computer AI settings. Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to (compared to Madden) is that not every team will be able to compete with the ranked teams. There are so many differently skilled teams in the game that you'll have to be more careful about the matchups you choose, especially when playing online.

Game Mechanics:
NCAA Football is an outstanding sports game in general, but the controller layout and user interface makes the game easily the best on the market. If you're used to playing Madden, it may take a bit to get used to the ability to lateral the ball (and doing so by accident -- oops!), but after some time, you'll easily fall in love with the freedom that the lateral gives you.

The depth in the Dynasty mode and the ability to take Rivalries to the field, combined with the ability to play online, makes this year's game easily the best of all time. Whether you're into college football or not, NCAA Football 2004 is the best on the market, and any sports fan should pick up a copy today.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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