Morain ranks NCAA 2003 tops fro PS2

by Matt Morain

Part II: Playstation 2

NCAA College Football 2003 Game Console – Sony Playstation 2

Genre – Sports

Maker – Tiburon (distributed by EA Sports)

Price – $49.95

NCAA College Football 2003 is the next logical step in a long line of EA games dating back to the early 90s. As with most sports games, it is a simple, straight simulation title that aims to reproduce the athletic competition from the field to the living room (without breaking the furniture).

CF2003 offers the option of 117 Division 1-A and 27 I-AA to play as or with. Not satisfied with the teams out there? Create your own school, controlling every aspect like uniforms, playbooks, fight songs, logos and stadiums.

Physically there’s little differentiation from last year’s version, with the notable exception when executing the option. Updated option controls allow for a more fluid delivery, extra formations to run it out of and improved defensive tactics to stop it. Listen to crowd reaction, referees over the PA, or the insightful and play-specific commentary by ESPN’s “College Gameday” crew: Nessler, Herbstreit and Corso.

This game employs a lesser engine than its “Madden 2003” counterpart, yet graphically is still fairly adequate. Sports games aren’t traditionally a litmus test for a console’s visuals, yet CF2003 impresses the player with smooth hi-resolution imaging and detail. Play in drizzling rain, sleet, snow, at night or in a dome and observe the effect the weather has on game play. Watch sunlight gleam off of helmets and facial expressions change with outcomes of differing plays.

Rivalry games become much more heated when hardware is up for grabs. Compete to add 23 rivalry trophies to your trophy room, or collect all 59 total proofs of achievement, including the Old Brass Spittoon or the Old Oaken Bucket. Play other humans with memory cards and ante one of yours vs. one of theirs in a winner-take-all competition.

Dynasty mode offers a wealth of opportunities to squander valuable leisure time. Turn dreadful schools around to rival powerhouses like Miami or Nebraska, or pick a top ten team and utterly crush the infidel universities beneath your superior cleat. Control every facet of recruitment, including head coach visits and phone calls, to attract the blue-chip high school athletes to your school. Tailor your schedule to square off against teams that will up your strength-of-schedule in the BCS rankings, redshirt developing players and use TV exposure to gain esteem for your team.

The risk of tedium with sports titles is increased due to the repetitiveness of play, with only your opponent changing from week to week. Yet, true sports fans will find it worthwhile and might even try to complete an entire dynasty (30 years). While NCAA College Football 2003 won’t keep you occupied until 2004, it affords you the option of drafting your star players to the bigtime if you own Madden NFL 2003, an interesting avenue to pursue for the faithfully dedicated football enthusiast.

Reviewer’s grade: A- (91%).