NCAA Football 07 was a great game but it suffered from many of the same problems that other series experienced in their transition from one generation of consoles to the next, most notably a lack of game modes and features. That's not a problem in NCAA Football 08. Even if the presentation is largely unchanged, there's no shortage of ways to stay occupied. The new campus legend mode and super sim are also nice additions to an already great-playing game.
Running the option never gets old.
Last year's relatively light list of game modes is a thing of the past. You can play a quick game, hop online for an unranked or ranked game, play a few minigames, take over a college program in dynasty mode, or try to become an all-time great player in campus legend mode. NCAA 08's minigames are the same as 07's minigames. Tug-of-war, bowling, and option dash are a lot of fun if you didn't play them to death last year, but it would have been nice to have something new.
Online play is OK, but lag makes it consistently difficult to tackle and kick. Though online play and minigames are underwhelming, the rest of the game modes make up for the underwhelming parts. If you're online, you can use the new Weather Channel feature to play in the same weather as the real stadium in which you're currently playing. You could always change the weather on your own before, but this is a cool addition especially because playing in rain and snow really affects how players move more than ever.
At first glance, dynasty mode isn't terribly different from last year's mode. You still pick a school (you can't create your own), set your lineup, adjust your schedule, and try to lead your team to a national championship or win as many games as possible so you can earn offers from a more prestigious school. To find success on the field, you'll need to work hard off the field recruiting, and this is where you'll notice the biggest change to dynasty mode.
Recruiting now has a lot more of a hands-on feel to it. You select 35 players to focus your efforts on, rank them, and then call them on the phone to establish a relationship. Once you've got them on the phone, you choose from a variety of topics to discuss with your recruit. You can talk about your school's fans, TV coverage, athletic facilities, tradition, and more. Your school is ranked in each category, so you'll want to pick your program's strengths and hope they match the interests of your player. If he's feeling your pitch, a football icon at the top of the screen will smile; if you're not on the same wavelength, the icon will frown, and eventually, the player will hang up on you.
Once you've garnered significant interest from the recruit, you can schedule a campus visit and up to three activities during the visit. You'll want to pick the things the recruit is most interested in, which is why you should find out what the player feels is important about his college experience when you've got him on the phone. But you've only got 10 hours per week to talk, and each pitch you select takes several minutes off the clock, so you'll need to budget your time wisely. You can offer a scholarship at any time, which the player can accept right away, mull over, or reject based on his interest level.
If you're having a hard time nailing down a commitment, you can make promises to the player. This option is only available in the offseason and lets you promise playing time, personal accolades, or even championships to the player. If you make good on a promise, your integrity rating goes up and you're given access to more promises. If you fail to keep your promise, your integrity goes down and your promises won't carry much weight. This new recruiting system is a lot of fun for a while, and you really feel like your decisions are affecting each player's interest in your school. But by the end of the first season, you'll start to notice that you're just doing the same thing over with each player, and that yapping on the phone with 35 players is rather time consuming.
It takes a lot of work to build a college football dynasty.
If you're not in the mood to take the reins of an entire program, you can create a high school player in campus legend mode. Once you've picked your position and school, you'll find yourself in your state's playoffs. You've got extra incentive to win and play well because scouts are at each game rating your performance. When the playoffs are over, you're presented with a list of schools that are interested in your services, as well as where you rank on their depth chart. At first, you're not going to be a starter at a top-25 school. To move up the depth chart, you'll have to attend practice. Here, you're given 10 reps and you earn points for successful plays. When you've got enough points, you'll move up on the depth chart.
This might sound like a lot of work, but even if you're the fifth-ranked player at a position, you can take the starting spot in a matter of weeks, and once the job is yours, you can't lose it. Not only will you have to attend practice, but you'll also have to make decisions on how to spend your free time. These choices are presented in a "choose your own adventure" format. You will have you decide what to eat, whether or not to play darts, how long to study, and when to hang out with your friends. If you make a good decision, you'll often be rewarded with attribute boosts, but if you choose poorly, you can find yourself with bad grades or even injured. This is an interesting concept, but you never know what the "right" decision is, and many of the situations are just plain goofy (like when you burn your hand frying pickles).
Thankfully, actually playing in games makes up for the somewhat uninteresting time between them. You'll only play when your player is on the field, which is nice because you can breeze through games in no time at all. Because you're the player and not the coach, you might not get the ball every time, but it's always fun to get it through a key block that springs another player for a touchdown. The camera focuses on your player, and while it does a decent job of keeping up with you, it often doesn't show enough of the field around you, which is frustrating when it causes you to run into a defender just offscreen.