This was a crazy week for NCAA football, with teams all over the country suspending, benching and outright booting an entire squad’s worth of high profile “problem” players. Even Cal got caught up in the fracas, with last year’s bowl-game star Steve Levy nearly getting cut for throwing a pint glass at somebody’s face. From all indications he missed, and that is unacceptable for a Cal quarterback. We have standards, people.
[image1]That’s why we like NCAA Football 07 for the PSP. Even though it cuts some very notable players from the console version and misses some key gameplay features, this half-pint translation is already the best gridiron entry for the PSP (out of a whopping two). This is due, in large part, to its inclusion of great features like the momentum meter, stadium noise, impact players, jumping the snap, and the crazy special teams camera. These all-stars perform just as well here as they did on the console versions.
The brightest of them all might be the momentum meter. As you make big plays on offense and defense, you gain momentum and steal it from your opponent. If you fill the meter up, all of your players become stronger, faster and harder to stop. Sometimes this simply leads to blowouts, as one team gains momentum and never lets it go, but it can also lead to incredible comebacks and tense finishes. Yet again, EA has figured out a way to realistically add an intangible but important factor to their college football game, even if they made it a silly meter.
They also managed to make defense fun with the new “Jump the Snap” feature. This lets you anticipate snaps and try to spring past offensive linemen, adding zest to the normally boring defense. If you’re fast enough on the X button, you’ll be in the quarterback’s face before he can say “Tuck Rule.” Then again, quarterbacks can use fake snaps to psyche you out. Hit the “Jump” button during one of these and you’ll jump right offsides. We accept.
Kicking is easier than ever; you just pull the nub back then push it forward, and an interesting new camera angle is available when you’re blocking kicks on special teams. By pressing the Triangle button, you can switch to a close, third-person view of your player for a better view of gaps in the offensive line. The downside is that if you try to switch players, you automatically switch back to the normal view mode, which is pretty confusing.
[image2]The PSP control scheme is also a little mind-boggling, with the occasional two-button combo required to execute moves that were much easier to pull off in the console versions. Running backs and defenders, for instance, no longer have an impact stick because there’s only one nub on the PSP. That means defenders have to press both L and X to deliver big hits, while running backs are supposed to hit “Select” to lower their shoulders and charge. Awkward? You bet.
A Practice mode would have hit the spot like a pint glass in the face, but unfortunately EA omitted it, instead including Exhibition games, Dynasty mode, Mascot Games, and Rivalry Games. For some reason, the interesting Campus Legend mode didn’t make the cut, nor did the slew of mini-games present in the other versions, yet the developers saw fit to salvage the bland Mascot Games? Gimme a WHY!
The Dynasty mode is just as dense as ever, although it’s been shortened from thirty years to ten. It’s also very, very slow, and I’m not just talking about loading times. Simply flipping through player profiles on the In-Season Recruiting page takes a surprisingly long time, although the fact that you can sort players by position definitely helps.
So does the online content, which is relatively easy to get into for a PSP game and features most of the elements console players are accustomed to, including leader boards, messaging and lobbies. The match-making options are mediocre, though, only allowing you to sort by skill level and percent of games finished. What about signal strength? There’s no way to tell how well you’ll connect to another player until you’re in a game, possibly trying to cope with terrible latency. But aside from this gripe, online play is a great and extends the life of the game.
[image3]Whether you’re online, offline or even screwing around in a Mascot game, NCAA Football 07 looks awesome, featuring current-gen graphics, a stable framerate and a slick overall presentation. There may be a few too many one-handed catches and players may also get stuck on each other from time to time, but these problems are just as persistent on the PS2 and Xbox. Dan Fouts, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso provide the play-by-play and color commentary, although their phrasebook seems to be missing some current-gen pages; they aren’t nearly as accurate. But the fight songs are, and they infuse NCAA Football 07 with tons of school spirit, minus the bad pop music.
While it isn’t going to win any awards, NCAA Football 07 does something even more important - it makes you feel a little bit better about all that money you spent on your PSP. And as much as we wish the whole thing was bigger, stronger and faster, we’re happy with it just the way it is and recommend recruiting it for your PSP collection.