NCAA Football 98 Review

Don't get too excited that someone finally made a college football game for the PC.

Don't get too excited that someone finally made a college football game for the PC. EA Sports has shunned PC sports gamers by not porting over NCAA Football, and now that it's here, you might find it to be too much of a direct port of the console version, as it's missing a lot of customization and gameplay options PC gamers expect.

Oddly enough, some of these options are found in the PlayStation version, like a practice field, tournament play, and, worst of all, dynasty play, which lets you take your team through multiple seasons, recruiting freshmen to replace graduating seniors. You can, of course, play through one season on the PC, but that's the end of it. You also can't redshirt freshman or exit a season game without forfeiting.

The reason for the difference between the two versions could be expediency, incompetence, or both, especially considering the occasional bug that pops up. The worst bug I saw was after a kickoff and return, when instead of lining up for the first play of the drive, both teams lined up for another kickoff - but from the spot at the end of the return.

NCAA Football 98's lack of depth doesn't end with the missing dynasty play either. Coaching control is limited to a team profile that lets you make substitutions globally or locally for one formation, but not for one specific play. You can also modify your team's playbook by shuffling a limited number of plays around and in and out (no play editor or play flipping), as well as set three audibles for offense and defense. You can make substitutions from the midst of a game, but to do so takes you too far from the playing field (three screens away) to make it worth the effort, depending on your patience.

Like its console version, NCAA Football is mostly about on-field arcade action than anything else, but even that falls a few yards short of a first down. Probably the best feature of NCAA Football is the running game, since your ball carriers can break tackles effectively, meaning you can establish a solid, dependable ground attack, too often missing in other arcade-style football games. Even so, the balance might be too far to the offense for some, as it sometimes seems that a strong back can break tackles a bit too easily. Another problem is that speed burst and stiff-arm are controlled by the same button. It works fine most of the time, but it would still be nice to separate the two.

Like many other arcade-oriented football games, the major problems with game realism stem from defense, especially pass coverage. Quarterbacks are just too accurate, resulting in a lot of completions for big yards, or else a lot of pass interference calls on your defensive backs. If you turn down the frequency of defensive pass interference, the result is a lot of missed calls when you're on offense. We're not talking about the gray area of incidental contact either - view the replay, and you'll sometimes see your receiver blocked from completing his route without a pass interference penalty called.

The physics are acceptable, but when a pass is tipped by a defender the ball often stays aloft for an inordinate amount of time, especially in the middle of a congregation of players.

There is a slew of other minor problems that won't completely take away from your enjoyment of the game, but combined they can result in a bit of frustration. You'll find poor clock management from your computer opponent, the field of view is too narrow to see receivers close to the sidelines from the pocket, the game clock runs too slow (15-minute quarters take about a half hour), crowds often cheer after the big play is made, and tight ends or running backs can get tied up at the line so that they're unable to go out for a pass.

This might paint a fairly negative picture for NCAA Football 98, but for all its failings, it still provides decent gameplay with a nice touch of college football excitement. You'll hear your school's fight song after each score - even the crowds do some custom cheers - and most of the college stadiums are accurately rendered. However, if your alma mater doesn't have a top-twenty football program, there's not much you can do about a winning season (at least at the higher difficulty settings), since the powerhouse teams dominate play on the field. And without dynasty play or good coaching control, there's no way to build up your school's program.

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    NCAA Football 98 More Info

  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation
    NCAA 98 is the perfect game for college football fanatics.
    Average Rating37 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Farsight Studios, EA Tiburon
    Published by:
    EA Sports, Electronic Arts
    Team-Based, Football (American), Simulation, Sports
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Kids to Adults