No, can it be? Has NCAA 2011 finally become a game worth buying on it’s own? It’s not just an addicts fix to tide them over until August when our saving grace finally comes in? If you’re like me then you have always felt like NCAA plays like a year old version of Madden. Also if your like me you annually shell out 60 bucks of your hard earned cash on a game that gets a month of play. Well my friends I think the year has finally come for NCAA to join it’s big brother on center stage, and for fans to rejoice. The game we have always wanted out of a college football game has finally arrived.

Instantly you will recognize the appearance of NCAA 2011 as stunning. I’m going to make a bold statement and say it is the best looking sports game to date. Yes, I know how wonderful FIFA World Cup looks and I still feel comfortable in my claim. Everything has been touched up: the pre-game shenanigans, the fans, the players, the menus. It all looks more beautiful and more realistic than anything sports related to date. ESPN related graphics and animations are tied into this years game for the first time and it really brings that authentic look and feeling of Saturday afternoons to your PS3 or XBOX 360.

The animation system is extremely fluid and instantly recognizable as worlds above last years game. I finally felt like I was wearing the cleats in the relationship between the man on screen and the man on couch. I didn’t feel like an untrained puppeteer wishing things were more responsive. They just are this year, and with the smooth running animations came a greater ability of following blocks and making moves. Not only can I make my cuts needed to follow my blocks with ease, but the AI was making smarter moves towards blocking my way to six points than it ever had in the past. If I sound like a drooling fan boy it’s because I kind of am. This is the game we’ve been waiting for and it delivered in a big way. For the first time in EA sports history we have a sideline catch system that actually works. Throw your hands to the sky like a ref signaling a good field goal and say, “Hallelujah, it’s about damn time!” You will notice that there is no more turbo, but this really didn’t tend to be a problem for me. The only issue is getting used to not ramming down the right trigger for all four quarters.

Now this is a great game, but it is not a game without faults. In the few games I played to get a feel for the game I found fumbles being a too common occurrence, but there is an explanation. In games of old you have had the option to press RB (R1 for PS3 owners) and cover up the ball to prevent fumbling. In previous games I have rarely if ever used it, and never found myself coughing up the pig skin like Adrian Peterson. This year it is essential that you get your hands over that ball and protect it with your life! That’s an over exaggeration, but it is an new dimension to the game that comes into play often. After about 3 or 4 quarters I got used to covering up, and I actually found myself enjoying the realistic element it brought to the game. Did I just make my first criticism into praise? Sorry guys. I will find a problem.

The game has it’s rare buggy glitches we have come to expect. That’s not to say we wont get an update to fix the problem in due time, but every now and then you will experience some unnatural quirks. The biggest problem I had to overcome this year, and it was a whopper, was the fact that Tim Tebow’s mug was on the cover. It was a hard egg to swallow, but I digress. This year the announcers are Herbstreit and Nessler, and they kind of suck. I don’t know how else to put it. They are either behind the play, duller the dirt, or simply saying things that don’t make sense. Lee Corso was never great last year, but I’d be happy to have him back

The Verdict: NCAA 2011 is the best football game to date. It is one of if not the most beautiful sports game thus far. It has little things that will bug some people, but all in all it’s a great game that warrants more than a month of tiding us over for the big boy of EA football titles, Madden. I give it a 9/10. Take away a half a point for the bugs and commentary, and half a point for Tebow’s face.

9/10

-DJ