While the Road to Glory mode isn't new to NCAA Football 11, its return is welcome for those of you who couldn't care less about number-managing. It's the exact opposite of the Dynasty mode, in which you create a single high-school player and track his progress all through his four years of college complete with ESPN commentary.
It's very liberating, in a way, to play a receiver or running back and not have to worry about calling plays or reading the field on a pass play - all you do is run your route and make your blocks (and tear down the field if you get a break). Constant loading times make the "management" part of this mode a bit of a pain, and it would be nice to set an entire week's regimen at once rather than waiting every day, but it's a fun diversion to soak up your time with the game.
It goes without saying that the presentation is stellar. The graphics look great, and every single one of the teams is rendered in loving detail - the Duke stadium beneath a cloudless August sunset looks just how it would if I drove down the road right now. The playbooks are faithful to how the teams actually play in real life, and twenty or so of the teams (out of a roster of more than a hundred) have be their own custom pre-game animations. Notre Dame slaps their "Play like a champion" today, Texas runs out behind its captain holding an American flag, and so on - they seem small, and perhaps in the long run they are, but it's the little touches that go a long way toward giving NCAA Football 11 a solid sense of verisimilitude. You aren't actually playing for LSU, but the game tries its best to make you feel like you are.
NCAA Football 11 doesn't revolutionize anything. It's tremendously solid, and a refinement and evolution of the series' mechanics, but it doesn't bring anything new to the table - not that there's anything inherently wrong with that. Let's be honest, here: You already know if NCAA Football 11 is up your alley or not, because it's exactly what you expect. It's good if you like that sort of thing, and if you like the sport of football but not football games it might just win you over, but it doesn't set the world on fire.
But you know what? Sometimes that's just fine by me.
Bottom Line: Frequent out-of-game loading times and occasionally (but not often) repeated announcer commentary are the drawbacks, but everything else is as solid and refined as you expect from a major EA Sports title. Your favorite college teams are represented in extremely faithful detail, the Dynasty mode has enough depth to satisfy all of you number-crunchers, and 1-Button play makes it easy for newbies to pick up the basics of play before getting overwhelmed by the depth.
Recommendation: If you're a NCAA Football or Madden NFL fan, you won't go wrong with this. If you like football in general, it's not a bad idea. Otherwise, rent it - you might have more fun with it than you think, but it probably won't deliver any major surprises.
Game: NCAA Football 11
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PS2
Available from: Amazon
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
John Funk wants to actually start following a football team one of these days.