NCAA Football 09 - first look

Only two days before the NFL Draft, we watched EA Sports producers take to the stage and demo a pre-alpha build of NCAA Football 09. The presentation began with a bullet-point list of goals for the team at EA Tiburon that included the requisite “college atmosphere” and “wide-open gameplay.” Then they gave college football fans everywhere – those with an Internet connection, anyway – what they’ve craved for years: online dynasty mode.

It’s a smart move. As online leagues are becoming mainstream in just about every EA Sports title, NCAA is looking to have one of the most robust modes yet. Up to 12 players can jump into a persistent Dynasty for up to 60 seasons, complete with stat tracking, recruiting modes and a commissioner position not unlike those found in fantasy sports leagues.

Meanwhile, the demo has finished loading and producers are battling out in the Swamp as Florida hosts Tennessee. The game is set on Freshman difficulty setting, so it’s no surprise that the first kickoff of the game is ran back for a touchdown. What is a surprise is how well the updated animation system seems to running at this early stage of development. With the exception of some early visual bugs that should be ironed out along the way, the broken tackles and player movement looked great as the Gators carved through the Vols’ Swiss cheese defense.

Remember like 10 years ago when there was no juke button and players had to cut back using only the left stick? Well, EA is kicking it old-school, allowing players to juke by wiggling the left stick, cutting quickly to elude defenders. What’s most impressive is that a runner can enter and exit an animation seamlessly, allowing for a more dynamic brand of gameplay that should keep you seeing new things on the field even a decade into your Dynasty mode. The same branching animation tech will be used on the right stick as well as you’ll be able to execute special spins and jukes twisting and turning on the right stick.