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Going digital: Army in NCAA 11 for PS3

July 26, 2010

Michie Stadium, as seen in EA Sports' NCAA 11 College Football.

Game review: Army football in EA Sports’ NCAA 11 College Football for PlayStation 3

Something a little different today: NCAA 11 College Football just came out and I picked it up this weekend for PS3 — If you’re like me, you might have been scanning the web for some clue as to what Michie Stadium and Army looks like in this great game. Here’s a peek.

First, the above image is, believe it or not, a screengrab (courtesy of my BlackBerry and HDTV) of Michie Stadium (here’s the real one). I flipped on the game just now to take some screenshots, and, because it’s around 9pm ET, the game is indeed set for the evening — using the Weather Channel feature in the game, it sets the game conditions and time to current weather and time of day in West Point. Pretty cool, but anyway for the purposes of these images, they’re from a night game.

This is the first time I’ve played the NCAA College Football franchise as well as my first experience with PS3, believe it or not, so this was all completely new to me. My first impression was – wow! They replicated the West Point gameday experience down to every detail. I played a little more and began noticing… yeah, it’s lacking some details. But, all things considered, I think they did a phenomenal job on the stadium.

The Corps of Cadets would be in major trouble if they showed up on Saturday dressed like this.

My first complaint, though, is pretty basic — the announcer introduces you to Michie Stadium, and he pronounces it “Mitch-chee.” That’s pretty bad (it’s Mike-ee, for those unaware). If you can look past that, the stadium is done up pretty nicely.

One main concern: would the Corps of Cadets be visible? Yes… sort of. EA placed the Corps in its exact [2009] corner location, but they are just basically a darker-shaded area of black-and-gold fans. Judging by the various colors of student sections at other stadiums in the game, I have to believe it’s simply an oversight that they didn’t make the Corps a sea of grey (or white). They’ve only been wearing grey for, like, 200 years…

The Cadet Chapel (center) can be seen beyond Lusk Reservoir and the northeast corner of Michie.

Cool details

Some of the best details, in my opinion: the Army mule mascot looks incredibly life-like and includes his “tattoos” and such… the signage in the stadium is flawless, from the Heisman and Outland Trophy signs to the Hoffman press box font to the numerical section signs in the crowd, it’s like a photograph of the stadium… the southeast corner entrance is exactly as it appears in reality, from the trash cans, ticket booths and tables to even the Army Athletics Gift Shop tent! Wow – the gift shop impressed me.

Holleder Center looms over the southwest corner in all it’s concrete glory, what a great touch (H0lleder Center is the home of Tate Rink, Army’s ice hockey and basketball teams), it looks perfect… the Cadet Chapel can be seen beyond Lusk Reservoir (seriously! Compare to the real thing), even the reservoir itself looks legit…

Holleder Center sits in the background behind Michie Stadium.

The Blaik Field wordmark on the field looks great… Army’s fight song is dead-on, sounds exactly as it does on the field after a touchdown… the uniforms are just about perfect, lacking only the unique Army division patches. Considering you can customize unis with about 400 different bands and such, it’s too bad there was no option for the patches.

Otherwise, the uniforms are perfect, from the Nike logos to on the chest to “The Corps” on the back of the helmets!.. the road uniforms are just as nice, and the 2008 ill-fated camo unis from the 34-0 loss to Navy are also an option.

Critiques

"The Corps" appears on the back of helmets exactly as it should.

If you want to be overly critical, there are plenty of things missing. Most notable, and I suspect this will be the No. 1 complaint from people, is the generic introduction sequence. Army, like many in the game, just jogs out with the EA’s generic animation.

Of course, Army has one of the most unique pre-game sequences in sports, from the parachute team jumping in with the game ball to the regimental march-on from the Corps to the team touching the Marshall “secret and dangerous mission” plaque while taking the field — none of that is “in the game,” as they say.

The Kimsey Athletic Center’s terrace isn’t there… the scoreboard above Kimsey lacks the iconic “BEAT NAVY” and “BEAT AIR FORCE” signs, instead they just say “Blaik Field.” … booo. If there’s one thing we like, it’s signs about beating Navy. That’s a must.

On the opposite side of the field, the large Daktronics LED video screen isn’t there, showing the pre-2008 version of the scoreboard. Kinda lame… the opposing team’s student section is shown in the east stands, which is a) the current location for the Corps of Cadets in 2010 and b) the wrong section anyway… the Black Knight mascot is not in the game… the 12th Man is absent… the spirit band (or any bands) aren’t there…

Army HB Pat Mealy as seen in NCAA 11.

Sophomore QB Trent Steelman in NCAA 11.

One thing I thought was cool — they have photographers on the sidelines, and not only that, they are using Canon lenses and, if you watch closely, they snap a few frames and then lean back to look at their images. Pretty funny. I’m thereby saying I am in the game.

However, I may be in the game, but there are no coaches on the sidelines! What the heck. I’m not that important.

Other awesome option: custom game songs. You can add audio for up to 20 unique game moments. I’m working on getting “The Rocket” into the game somehow, and I managed to get the third-down helicopter clip…

Kimsey Center and Holleder Center seen behind the south endzone.

Alejandro Villanueva brought back via create-a-player feature.

Another thing missing? The cannon behind the north endzone that erupts on touchdowns, field goals, PAT’s and kickoffs. We have a dancing mule mascot, but no cannon… speaking of mules, neither of the real, actual mules are on the field… the gold signage with images of former Army football players that runs the perimeter of the field is not seen.

There’s also no one in uniform, which is kinda weak. Maybe that’s asking for a lot, but this is West Point! The fans are the generic fans wearing black and gold apparel… they’re OK. Having some soldiers or officers would be a tremendous addition. Same goes for the Army-Navy game in Philly, the cadets and mids aren’t really visible here either. The trailer for the game shows a clip of a B3 flyover, but, at least in exhibition mode, there’s no flyovers for Army-Navy.

Here’s a good view of the Corps of Cadets:

Michie Stadium looking north from Kimsey Athletic Center in NCAA 11. The Corps of Cadets are clearly visible here in the corner, but not in their familiar grey/white uniforms. The visiting team's student section can be seen on the right edge in the east stands (the 2010 location of the Corps).

Overall, this is an excellent game. It’s fun and easy to play, loads of customizable options, the play-by-play is solid, the sound is incredible and the excitement is really present. Having experienced these games personally on the field, side by side with these players, I think EA did a fantastic job with the sound alone in replicating the gameday atmosphere of West Point. I have to keep reminding myself this isn’t an Army playstation game, they’re one of 120 teams — it’s that good, it makes you feel like they created this game just for your team.

The tricky part, now, is getting a grasp of running the triple option.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything? What would you like to see added for the next edition of this game?

The Cadet Chapel (center) can be seen beyond Lusk Reservoir and the northeast corner of Michie.
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