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NCAA Football 2002
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Tiburon
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:
The first question that popped into my mind when I got NCAA Football 2002 was: 'How much better will the PS2's graphics be?' Three words for you: Much better. Tiburon did another envious job in making football look like it's supposed to. All of the Division-1 stadiums are rendered to exact detail, and the crowds look a whole heckuva' lot better. The fields are sharp and precise, with every color snapping to where it should be. The players have had a little attention paid to them since Madden 2001 as well. The height and weight characteristics of each player have been tweaked for a more individual appearance. In short, they look human now, instead of like bulked up dwarves. The helmets shine in the sun, and all of the 142 teams represented have their logos perfectly placed on their uniforms and helmets. There have been beautiful tackle and catch animations added. It's absolute fluidity as you receiver jumps up in the back of the end zone for a fade pattern, and pulls the ball down for the winning score. You also will see many of the famous mascots for each team, rooting their team on to victory. Unfortunately, not all the teams have had their mascots rendered, but the mascots that are there are as good visually, if not better, than the players themselves. NCAA F2002 is the most visually captivating football game to date. One might ask: 'How do you handle such unequalled beauty?' Well, in my case, I cried. And that's not necessarily wrong.

Probably the biggest factor that sets college football apart from any other sport, including croquet, is the atmosphere created by the marching bands. Tiburon spared no expense in putting beautiful 'game time' music in NCAA F2002 . The music sounds stellar, and you can actually see the marching bands where they really sit in their respective stadiums. Attention to detail, I like that. More fight songs have been added, (although LSU's is still out of the mix) and they all sound true to any nationally televised game. The crowd is more of a factor now, sounding extremely rowdy if you score at home. Hey, it's not a college football game if you don't have a crowd. The color commentary is provided by Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso, probably three of the most famous announcers this side of the Mississip. Tiburon did a decent amount of commentary, but sometimes the commentary didn't make sense. For instance, at the beginning of the game Lee Corso (find me an LSU fan that likes him) says that I'm sure to lose, but as soon as I take a lead in the game, he says: 'What have I been saying all game, LSU is an impressive team.' Probably the neatest thing about the announcers is they only will announce regional or national televised games. If you're playing a non-televised venue, then you have the normal stadium announcer announcing the plays. Again, another great point which adds to the mystique of the college football game.

Most of your normal football modes are here. Practice Mode for the young chap or maiden that would like to hone their gridiron skills. Exhibition Mode is there so you can provide endless pigskin thrashings to your closest of friends. Season Mode is present for an annual-sized feast of coaching your team for one season. Last but not least, we have the ever-present Dynasty Mode, where you sign on as coach and try to build a successful team through roster management, effective recruiting and a complex playbook. Beware though, if you prove fruitless in your coaching regime, you will lose prestige as a coach, allowing you to only coach in the toughest of places. On the other side of the ball, if you are successful; you gain prestige, your team is highly recognized, and the Athletic Department likes you. There's a simple equation in college football. If the Athletic Department thinks you're cool, then you keep your job. After you've chosen your team (there is no 'Create-a-Team' feature this year), and set up the roster, which can include your create-a-player, then a schedule is generated for you. A big drawback here is that you can't set your schedule. As you progress through the season, conference awards are, player of the week awards, All-American, and eventually the Heisman Trophy are given out. There are also two top 25 polls, and once the season is far enough along, you might find yourself ranked in the BCS poll. When the season is over, and the officially licensed bowl games have been played, then you move on to recruiting, which is a game within itself. You can scour the country for hundreds of recruits, or stay at home and try to win your state. Every ounce of plausible information on the recruit is there at your fingertips. Similar to Madden 2001's challenge cards, are NCAA F2002's campus challenge cards. Certain events will give you certain amount of points like throwing for 300 yards, intercepting a pass, or recording 3 tackles with one player. You can use the points to buy campus cards, which can boost your team's performance in the game. With recruiting and campus challenge, NCAA F2002 is such an intricate game that it's replay value is virtually limitless!

There are four different difficulty levels, and A.I. tweaking within each of those levels. The A.I. tweaking goes a long way into making the game perfect for you. While Heisman level isn't too difficult, it more than makes up for its lack by forcing your team to commit turnovers. I was winning 14-0 on Heisman (thanks to the money plays I had found). But four fumbles and four interceptions later, I lost 56-14. There are some unfair advantages that lean towards the A.I., but nothing absolutely frustrating. Then again, it isn't so easy to where you're bored of it. It's really quite a delicate balance that Tiburon has handled quite well. The control-scheme can do an amazing array of functions, all simple to learn, and simple to master. The players control like real players would and make the game that much more fun. If I felt like any game with great control would merit a 100, then EA Sports has a 200 on their hands with NCAA Football 2002 . The controls don't make the game any more difficult and of course, if the game ever gets too challenging, then you can always go to Practice Mode, and iron out any wrinkles in your game plan.

Game Mechanics:
NCAA F2002 loads surprisingly fast for a game so vast. It does take up a considerable amount of memory card space, so if using memory card space goes against any personal creeds, try incense. It's cheaper, smells better, and allows you to throw any memory card reservations right out the door. The manual is precise, and explains everything in detail. It's a good read, and a lot shorter than War and Peace . The controls are sharp like they should be, rounding out this gem of a game.

Riot Rundown: NCAA Football 2002 is an amazing game. It's fun, it's stunning and it only costs a fraction of what a real university and football team would cost. It is very complex, yet retains its simple-to-use interface. It's an amazing football game, and once again EA Sports came through in a big way. It has some flaws, but nothing that only the pickiest will even notice. It's definitely a wonderful addition to any PS2 owner's collection. Heck, any game with Tiger Stadium and her 91,700 screaming fans is worth buying!

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

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