A year ago, EA Sports released NCAA Football 07 on the Xbox 360. It wasn't a bad game - the gameplay was pretty solid as is par with the series. It wasn't a good game either. Features were missing, animations were choppy, and the overall feel of the game was not great. Luckily, this year is a different story, thanks to a much better effort from EA. Last year's entry is a distant memory, thanks to stellar gameplay, solid visuals, a fleshed out dynasty mode, and the inclusion of the ever-addictive Campus Legend mode.
The biggest addition to the gameplay this year is the new Hit Stick 2.0. This feature brings new control to the undisputed best part of the game: the hitting. You'll use the right analog stick to aim high or low at the ball carrier. This lets you try to go shoulder to shoulder with a player, or try to take out his knees. This makes for some very satisfying hits, but also for some embarrassing misses, as a runner may have the reflexes to hurtle right over your low tackle. The Hit Stick adds an excellent risk/reward factor.
Another feature EA has added is something they've dubbed "Lead by Example." When a team leader does well, an orange light shines on the field, and he supposedly inspires his teammates. It doesn't seem to do anything significant, other than add some visual appeal. It seems sort of tacked on, but hey it doesn't hurt.
Visually, this game is very solid. The presentation is pretty standard for EA Sports games, which is saying that it's not too exciting, but classy and gets the job done. The stadiums look very nice, and you'll more or less get the feeling of being at a stadium in a college football atmosphere (the mascots roaming the sidelines help). The player models look excellent and are very smooth - the great lighting and shadow effects help out a lot in this area. For the most part, the animations and movement are solid, but every now and then you will see some clipping and cutting, though very rarely will it affect a play. The framerate is the smoothest I've seen in a football game.
If you've played recent NCAA Football games on the Xbox, you'll find that the gameplay is very familiar, except somewhat revamped. Everything feels very tight, and the excellent new animations (especially while running the ball) make the game feel so much smoother. The controls are standard, with the addition of the new Hit Stick 2.0 adding another layer of depth on defense.
If you ask any fan of the series what the biggest omission in last year's entry was, they'd probably say the Campus Legend mode. Campus Legend mode is the football role-playing mode in which you'll choose a name, position, and appearance for your created player and try to take him from 4th string to, well, a campus legend. You'll get to start all the way back in the state playoffs, which is a neat addition, and try to impress the scouts to make your way to a big school. In college, you'll go to class, make decisions about whether or not to indulge in hundreds of different social activities (which will positively or negatively affect your attributes), and play in the games, all to improve your skills and campus popularity. It is an excellent game mode, and you'll find yourself addicted in no time.
Dynasty returns as well, and thankfully EA has improved and deepened the mode a bit. Recruiting is different and better, as now, each time you call a recruit, you'll have to decide what to talk about each minute of the conversation, resulting in an increasingly happy or frustrated high-schooler. Between Dynasty and Campus Legend, you won't be short of things to do in this game.
This year, EA has included something called "My Shrine." This is basically a huge trophy room where you can store all of your trophies, accomplishments, and even photos and video highlights from your gameplay. You can then take it all online and show it off to your buddies. It's a very nice touch, and you'll find yourself becoming an intense collector to improve your "shrine."
Overall, NCAA 08 is a very good football game. It's not without it minor flaws, such as some clipping in animations, weird AI issues from time to time, and some awkward looking hits and collisions. None of these tend to affect the gameplay at all, however, and for any fan of the series, or of football at all, I can definitely recommend this game for the 360.