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NCAA Football GameBreaker is a heartbreaking near-miss. While the options are fantastic and the graphics are gorgeous, the playbook is a layperson's nightmare - and game control is extremely frustrating. College football fans just shouldn't have to come so close, yet still be so far....
First, the good news: GameBreaker will be a treat for college football fans, whose games usually play second-fiddle to the bigger, badder NFL slamfests. GameBreaker runs on the new, improved GameDay engine, and has the options and small touches to bring out the school spirit in anyone. Then there's all those teams, displayed in fantastic motion-captured graphics. And let's not forget the abundant animation capped off with excellent pep band music and an echoing announcer's voice. In short, this game is simply gorgeous. It's easily the best-looking college football game anywhere.
Wait, sit back down.
GameBreaker is knocked out of the game thanks to its atrocious playbook interface. There's little doubt the designers meant well when they compiled the mother lode of all playbooks. But the options are so numerous (and so spread out) that it's far too difficult to find the right play for the right situation. Even the special teams section is hidden, meaning there's no choice but to cycle through the entire menu to find it. With seconds left and no time outs, the last thing anyone wants to do is peruse the playbook. Simple features could have made play selection so much easier: For example, on fourth down, the special teams box could (and should) have been front and center. And if that isn't enough....
GameBreaker's got a tough one-player game - one so hard that even an experienced thumb-back can end up losing to the worst teams on the easiest level. This fact is largely attributable to the computer's ability to instantly find the perfect play and perfectly execute it (complete with precisely-timed stiff-arms). This may present a great challenge for the experienced, but players new to console football won't enjoy it at all...and with four difficulty settings to choose from, this is inexcusable.
This all adds up to put college football fans in a tough spot: There're plenty of frills, but no gameplay. College football freaks will enjoy this game despite the tough interface and gameplay. But first-timers (and NFL mavens used to the easy handling of GameDay, Quarterback Club, and even Madden) won't like what they find. Simply put, this game's not ready for the big leagues. --Hugh Sterbakov
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