The game capably competes against any other college football product on the market.
One caveat in the realm of console sports gaming is that first-year products in general are marred by a variety of glaring flaws. No matter how impressive, the first-year sports game is usually not able to compete with the refinement of seasoned competitors. However, Visual Concepts shattered those conventions with NFL 2K for the Dreamcast, as right out of the gate, the game seriously challenged EA's veteran Madden series for console football supremacy. With NCAA College Football 2K2 for the Sega Dreamcast, the company has achieved a repeat performance--the game capably competes against any other college football product on the market.
NCAA 2K2 shares some of its look and much of its gameplay feel--particularly the control scheme--with its pro football counterpart. However, there are plenty of new college-specific additions and refinements in the game. A new development team within Visual Concepts took the NFL 2K1 engine, kept only the best parts, and rebuilt the rest of the code from the ground up. The enhancements, in gameplay terms, can be seen in the advanced defensive AI, realistic passing game, and tight, responsive controls. The primary improvement--when compared with NFL 2K1 and just about any other football game, college or otherwise, is in the passing game and defensive AI. Money passing plays, which have been a significant problem in most football simulations to date, are virtually nonexistent in NCAA College Football 2K2. Really, for the first time, defensive backs display realistic decision-making tendencies. For example, play bump 'n' run, and the AI defensive backs will crowd the receivers and actually put their hands on the receiver to slow him down and throw off timing routes. Out routes, which in other games can be generally counted on to pick up chunks of yardage, are no longer automatic in NCAA 2K2. Double-team the out route in the game, and the safety is able to read the route and is generally in position to knock the ball down or even pick it off for an interception. In NCAA 2K2, it is doubly important to mix up the offensive plays and to read the safeties before making a pass.
The running game, now with the college-specific option plays, is nearly as adept. AI running backs cleverly read defensive formations and blocks, while on the defensive end, the computer-controlled down linemen and linebackers run blitz packages on third and long and are able to realistically react to option plays. However, despite all its gifts, there is one glaring flaw in the game's offensive AI. When running option plays, the computer-controlled quarterbacks are prone to making the most brainless decisions. More than a few times, the AI quarterback makes pitches regardless of the situation--he throws the ball right at a defensive player standing between him and the intended running back or runs the ball into a defensive hole and makes an unnecessary and futile pitch. Generally, these mistakes result in turnovers or loss of yardage. The problem is something that must be addressed for next year's game.
NCAA 2K2 includes seven primary modes of play. They are scrimmage, tournament, exhibition, season, legacy (or franchise), tutorial, and network. The scrimmage, tournament, exhibition, and tutorial modes are rather self-explanatory. In the network mode, up to eight players on two Dreamcasts can compete head-to-head online over SegaNet. As with NFL and NBA 2K1, games played online generally have limited lag when they're within the player's geographical region. Cross-country online games can be troublesome over a 56k, and NCAA 2K2 does not support broadband. Offline, the primary modes of play are season and legacy. In the season mode, you can take your favorite team through one college football season and the subsequent bowl games. Interestingly, EA holds the exclusive rights to the Bowl Championship Series for this year, so BCS bowls such as Orange and Fiesta are not in the game. Additionally, although awards like the Heisman Trophy made it in, Sega was also not able to secure the rights to have an All-American team in NCAA 2K2; a fictional Sega Sports team has replaced it. However, the game does hold the rights to the Rose Bowl, which is of course the venue for this year's national championship game.