NCAA Football 09 doesn't quite step out of the shadow of Madden, but it offers a distinctive experience and is great.

User Rating: 8 | NCAA Football 09 X360
Gameplay (8.5/10): First, let me discuss the game's flaws. You'll still find the old problems from the NCAA/Madden series here. Guys who catch balls near the sideline will sometimes inexplicably step out of bounds with no defenders near them, especially backs running outlet routes to the flats. Also, picks remain too prevalent for both yourself and the AI. Pretty much any ball thrown near a defender is instantly intercepted, including some particularly egregious no-look interceptions and interceptions where the defender seems to move at warp speed in front of your receiver to grab the ball. This is also true of your own defenders, and even on Heisman difficulty I rarely gave up more than two touchdowns a game because I averaged 3-4 picks a game.

There are other problems. Running backs are a bit overpowered thanks to the new animation engine, which allows previous moves to be interrupted midway and can be abused for some physically improbable stunts (I've had friends string four spin moves together, completely flummoxing defenders with impossible change-of-direction skills). And passing also has its flaws, with the AI QB tending to have impressive accuracy no matter what his rating is. QB's in this game have a ceiling of completing 55-60 percent of their passes, and the top-tier signal-callers complete 75-80. It's unrealistic.

That being said, the central football experience is still the best in the series' history. There are fewer flaws than in previous iterations, they clearly worked hard on this one, and the result is a very entertaining, if slightly unbalanced, game of football. If you like college football, you'll love taking your favorite school to the BCS Championship game - again, and again.

NCAA also has a ton of gameplay modes: instant action, dynasty, Superstar mode, you name it. You definitely have plenty to do.

Presentation (8.5/10): The graphics here are pretty impressive, on par with Madden NFL 09 and better than the 08 incarnations of either series. Sound is solid, and the commentary is decent if forgettable.