Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

NCAA 2002 (PS2) Review

Publisher: EA Sports

Background Info

PS2 Screens(12)

Buy Now!

One of the high points in my gaming life was when I saw NCAA Football 99 in action on the original PlayStation. Being a fan of the college game more than the pro-style attack, I scarfed that version up and played season upon season. My zeal for the NCAA series has never waned, and it was one of my most anticipated PS2 titles.

To answer the call, EA Sports has granted football fans their wish by bringing college football to the latest console. Graduates and fans of all 117 Division 1-A schools and 27 1-AA schools can take their team up through the ranks and into one of the 26 bowl games. Never has there been so many post-season bowls represented in the series, and getting to the top bowls is made all the tougher with the game's use of the imperfect BCS system (darn EA for bringing this flawed true life ranking system to the game). So grab your helmet, hit the practice field, and gear up for some pigskin.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
The introduction movie in NCAA 2002 does not give the game justice. In years past we've been treated to actual footage of teams rushing out of the tunnel or making spectacular plays. In the PS2 version, the scene is set using CG movies. Based on the intro you may be expecting a letdown once the game starts, but the opposite is true. The rendering for the stadiums is just about perfect. While the fields seem to miss that certain realistic look, the infrastructure is spot on. Press boxes are in their appropriate spots for every stadium and midfield logos are intact. If you play the Volunteers the recognizable endzone checkerboard pattern is there. About the only complaint you can make about the stadiums is that the flags are static and don't flap in the wind. To make up for this oversight, EA implemented some attendance logic. If you play as a strong, big name program you can expect a packed house. Playing as the Rice Owls, who aren't a big draw, I opened the season in front of a few diehard fans. As my record improved, the crowd base became larger.

What really stands out are the player models. The players carry a strong resemblance to those in Madden 2001 for the PS2 minus the ghostly stares and squatty physiques. Each player has a unique shape and size, and position players wear the appropriate helmets. By the way, for some programs, helmet stickers are awarded for good play. The nicely textured helmets look freshly polished, and once a few stickers are added are very realistic. Play as FSU and earn some tomahawks.

Once the players are in motion you'll see a variety of animation sequences. The receiving animations are more diverse than the multiple single-handed grabs found in Madden. While there are one-handed catches, you'll also see receivers diving for the ball, making various two-handed grabs, and performing sliding catches. The running game features players that stumble to the ground over several yards, get tripped instantly, or the popular whip tackle. I've even seen an arm tackle around the neck. QBs can embarrass the daylights out of the defense on option plays. Starting with the snap, QBs take a step back followed by a run to the left or right. And in true option fashion QBs will often carry the ball two-handed in front of them. A fake pitch often freezes players in their tracks as the QB's arm naturally pops out and back. If he does pitch the ball, it flips through the air before landing in the running back's grasp (or, if you're unlucky, on the ground).

Playing the game is easy with the default camera while on offense. Prior to the snap you can zoom out to check the coverage on your wideouts. If desired you can also select a wider view to take in the whole field at once. On defense, you unfortunately can't zoom out to see where receivers are with the default camera.

Perhaps the only significant flaw is some spotty collision detection. I've been tackled many times by an elbow as my running back brushes a defensive lineman. Upon watching the replay you'll question the validity of the tackle. Likewise, caught balls magically make their way into a receiver's hands at times. Finally, some penalties are clearly bogus upon closer inspection. Clipping and holding calls don't leave replay evidence behind. Still, the overall graphical presentation is very nice.

Presentation/Audio : 80
Probably the thing that grabbed my attention in the original NCAA game was the audio. The audio was certainly understated, consisting of a public address announcer, the players, the umpire, the fans, and the bands. With the PS2 release, EA decided to add a television style booth to the game. The game's audio is actually enhanced with the addition of Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Brad Nessler. Prior to the game the trio will comment on the upcoming matchup and make their predictions. After the kickoff they supply diverse color commentary and play-by-play that doesn't repeat itself regularly. The only complaint I have is that they criticize me every time I call a fair catch in the endzone. They never do the same when the AI team does the same.

What's truly unique about the booth feature is that it's only available on televised games. During the season you can view the weekly schedule prior to the game. Some games are carried regionally and others nationally. The remaining games don't even earn a local broadcast. In my first season with Rice, I didn't get a televised game until I traveled up to Nebraska. Late in the season, as my Owls rolled along with an undefeated record (Huskers, you suck), the media took notice and started televising my games. After finishing the season with one loss, the following season saw most of the games televised.

Trust me, you'll want to hear Corso and company. In their place you'll hear the wretched play-by-play of the public address announcer. More times than not he blows the calls. He's always off by a yard on runs, changes in possession usually have negative yard calls, and touchdowns also have lost yardage calls.

Aside from the PA announcer, the game's sound just doesn't have the pizzazz of previous editions. The crowds will chant ("Go, go, go" on 4 and short situations) and cheer, but the din is not overwhelming. Likewise, bands are subdued and not all schools have their fight songs included. I'm still waiting for "Louie, Louie" to played at the Rice games.

Interface/Options : 85
There's one thing you can always expect out of an EA football game, and that's a substantial dynasty or franchise mode. NCAA 2002 is no exception as the multi-year dynasty mode is the main feature of the game. During the off-season you can recruit nationally and cut or red-shirt players. Furthermore, there's the added pressure of the coach mode where you must establish a set of goals to keep your job. Oddly, though, my Rice coach was tasked with winning the national championship once over the next three years or going to bowl games in two of three years. Someone needs to tell EA the Owls are all about education: the players are truly scholar-athletes. This ain't no gun totin' Miami. Besides the dynasty mode, the game has a season and exhibition mode

For any game you can fully customize the play. AI settings are controlled with sliders and cover things like running back, QB, and receiver effectiveness and secondary abilities. And like Madden, the defaults won't satisfy the extreme football fan, so the ability to change the AI is appreciated.

The statistical engine tracks stats for the entire spectrum of teams, by team, or by conference. The stats listed are realistic, though some of my players weren't always represented in the stats. My running back had a hefty run average but failed to make the NCAA list. Oddly he was at the top of the WAC charts. I can only assume that the game has a cutoff for some stats (for example, averages may require a certain number of carries).

Another feature of the stats engine is the top 25 bowl and BCS system. Two polls are available. The coaches vote in one poll while the media handles the other. Over the course of the season the media was on top of the action. Their poll was right on and seemed realistic. It wasn't until late in the season that I even cracked the top 25 despite an undefeated record. The teams ahead of me all had good records. In the other poll, however, some suspect voting was occurring. It is not uncommon to see teams with 2 or 3 losses in the top 15 during the first half of the season. The coaches appear to give too much respect to the bigger schools. After week 8 the BCS kicks in. The much-criticized system takes into account your ranking in the two polls, your strength of schedule, and the number of losses.

NCAA takes an idea from Madden and introduces the Campus Challenge. Based on your performance on the field, you earn credits which can be redeemed for campus cards. The campus cards include things like extra performance for certain schools, past teams, mascot teams, and extra bowl games. Unfortunately the campus cards are nowhere as addictive as the Madden cards.

Initially I found the memory card management confusing. If you want to save rosters, dynasty stats, settings, and user profiles you'll give up half of your memory card. I freed up the amount of space listed on the back of the game and proceeded to save everything. My initial dynasty run got blown away after I was unable to delete a roster file mid-game to free up space. I'd select delete but the memory card status never appeared to update. By the way, the game ships with nothing but player numbers. You can fill in the names and the PA announcer will say their names but you need to enter the roster. Rather than enter the names manually, grab yourself a Sharkport and download them from our affiliate At the end of the season you can even export graduating players and early outs on the memory card for the upcoming Madden.

Gameplay : 80
When it comes to sports games I'm a huge sim fan. However, if the game bends the sim rules a bit I don't mind as long as the gameplay is entertaining. In many respects NCAA 2002 is a sim title, but there are certainly areas where it falls flat on its face.

Without a doubt, the running game is exceptional. My preference for football games is to run the ball. Since NCAA is using an upgrade of Madden's engine, we'd expect good things, and good things are what we get. Backs have a realistic gait as they try to find the holes in the line. Finding holes is definitely the key to the running game. It takes quick reflexes to find and hit the hole before it closes. Once it does you're trapped behind the line frantically looking for a way out. Runs to the outside require you to read the defense and check for blitzes from the ends. Even on option plays you have to be wary of a cornerback blitzing from the side and running your QB down from behind. Pitches are implemented well. The AI defense will mark your QB. You can fake a pitch to the running back and hope you freeze the defense, but this only works some of the time. Likewise, if a defensive player commits to the QB you can try to pitch at the last moment. But if you wait too long the pitch could be errant and lead to a turnover. If you find a play that works once, you might be able to try it again once or twice. But after a couple of tries the AI catches on and is wise to your playcalling. You won't be able to run pitch plays all the way down the field. The only significant complaint I have with the running game is the cheap tackling at times. When trying to break through the line you can expect to be brought to the ground by a lineman's elbow or brush of the leg. And in general the tackling animations aren't too convincing.

While your running game mostly plays superbly, the AI team still can't run. I have yet to find a console football game that runs realistically. To its credit NCAA doesn't abandon the running game early like previous versions or the Madden series. However, it still can't run effectively. It's easy to hold the AI offense to under 50 yards. Incidentally, I have played a few dozen games on the All-American level, which is one step below the most difficult Heisman level.

The game breaks down in the passing game. On offense the game is easy to pick apart on out patterns. Passing over the middle is more difficult, but the AI typically runs single coverage on the wide outs, and crossing patterns easily disrupt the AI secondary. On defense you'll curse your inept secondary. I don't mind if my cornerbacks and safeties are slower than the offensive players, but their awareness is lousy. Even with the sliders maxed out the secondary play lacks.

When in a pass defense, if you rush the QB you will encounter an offensive line that at times is impenetrable. Once a lineman locks on it is very difficult to break away, even if you move laterally. If you utilize the spin and swim buttons the blatant holding isn't nearly as bad as Madden. Still, it's annoying when the QB scrambles out of the pocket and you can't break free from the offensive lineman. Blatant holding calls on both sides of the ball are rarely called. One positive note about the QB play by the CPU is its awareness to run out of the pocket or dump the ball. If your coverage is good the CPU will stay in the pocket until it collapses, whereupon the QB will make an escape. You still have to keep the pressure on as he'll make throws while scrambling. If the heat is too intense he'll simply chuck the ball out of bounds.

Aside from some nice QB play, EA has substantially improved the AI clock management. You no longer have to watch the CPU burn three timeouts in succession followed by running plays. The AI is now smart. I've seen the AI try to gain yardage near the end of the half only to get a third and long. Rather than burn another timeout or hurry the offense, they'll use the full 25 second clock in an attempt to keep you off the field with a chance to score.

Something that takes getting used to is tackling. On defense tackling is Momentum-based so that you can't simply tag an opponent and expect him to fall down (though those elbow tackles are certainly effective). Even when you dive at an opponent there's a chance you'll lack the power to make the tackle.

Another area which needs help is the special teams play. The AI has superior pass and kick coverage, while your coverage is lousy, especially on punts. If you call a safe punt return where you bring 4 blockers back, the blockers completely miss their blocks. You'll actually fare better if you call a punt block formation and bring the defender on the right back to block. By contrast, when you're placed in a kicking situation the new kicking interface is great. Borrowing a page out of Tiger Woods, EA has brought a new kicking system to NCAA. The first button tap starts a kicking meter. A meter winds up in power, and the second click sets the power. Instantly the meter reverses direction and a mark moves towards a yellow-colored zone. Depending on the characteristics of your punter or place kicker, the zone is large or small. If you tap the button a third time while the mark is on the zone you're almost guaranteed of a good kick. If you press early or late the ball will hook or slice. The new interface makes the kicking game less automatic and reflects the college kicking game well. If your kicker's yellow zone is narrow you may change your playcalling logic and go for it on fourth down in your territory rather than risk a blown kick.

Some other nagging issues include injuries, or lack thereof. The injury flag is either on or off. I have yet to experience an injury to one of my players that lasted more than a quarter. Some of the injuries sound serious yet players are out for only a couple of plays. Furthermore, the play calling is limited. I've been spoiled by the incredible diversity of plays in Madden, and NCAA lacks that. Each team has a certain style of play, and you can use another team's playbook. The lack of a create a play feature restricts you even more. Furthermore, fans of the create a school feature of previous versions will be disappointed by its absence.

It won't take gamers long to figure out the most annoying feature in NCAA 2002. I've been playing almost all my games on All-American. I tried and failed at the much tougher Heisman level (much better secondary play at that level), and the All-American setting was a nice fit for me. During play, I can only describe the scoring AI as suspect. If you take a lead into the fourth quarter the CPU will make spectacular catches, break tackles, or gain first downs on key penalties on you. If you're on offense, a holding or clipping call will bring back a first down (and when you look for evidence on the replay, it's not there) or your back will fumble the ball away. And fumbles are nearly one-sided. While the CPU fumbles it seems to recover the ball most of the time. When you fumble, you players can't seem to get a handle on the ball. Now the Rice Owls are not a football powerhouse, but when I'm leading by 14 late in the fourth and the CPU completes passes into triple and quadruple coverage, I start to suspect a rat. I don't mind getting beat, but I do mind feeling cheated when I play a game. I'm sure EA wanted to keep the scores close to offer a challenge, but keep it real. Blowouts happen. Upsets happen. Tight games happen. We don't want every game to be close. It's completely unrealistic and blemishes an otherwise great game.

Replay Value : 80
The key to the replay value of NCAA Football 2002 is your tolerance to the CPU's cheating tendencies. There are times where I want to chuck the controller at the television and rip the game from the disc tray. The cheating really can be that annoying. Yet there are other times where the CPU plays an almost straight game and the value improves. You'll experience both types if you play in the extensive dynasty mode. In fact, the dynasty mode of NCAA 2002 is among the best in sports games. The off-season recruiting is extremely gratifying and is a game within a game. Even though the game is deficient in AI running and poor AI and human secondary play, there is enough depth and good quality for me to take my Owls through multiple seasons.

Overall : 83
NCAA Football 2002 is the best college football game on the PS2. Of course, when your only competition is the laughable Gamebreaker, EA could have released Atari 2600 football and graded better than the 989 product. But EA has put forth a good effort with NCAA 2002. There are certainly some flaws that still need to be worked out. The secondary play continues to be a sore point, and the CPU still can't run the ball effectively with the default AI settings. On the positive side, the human-controlled running game is as good if not better than NFL2K1 on the Dreamcast. The AI's clock management has been tweaked for the better. The PA announcer misses game calls, but the three-man booth of Corso, Nessler, and Herbstreit is refreshing. Finally, the graphics are a little cleaner when compared to Madden with more convincing player models and animations. While it's not the best in the NCAA series, it's certainly a worthy contender.

By: James Smith 8/18/01

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series



Anna Kournikova (Beach)
Buy This Poster!

Jason Kidd
Buy This Poster!