For many years, EA”s college football games have always taken a backseat to their NFL super-franchise, “Madden NFL Football.” Fortunately, the college series” leap to the Playstation 2 ,”NCAA Football 2002,” matches the gameplay of experience of “Madden” while creating the best college football game ever.

Paul Wong
It”s all about action in “NCAA Football 2002,” the latest from Playstation 2.<br><br>Courtesy of EA

The most exciting element of “NCAA 2002” is the ridiculous amount of replay value in its dynasty mode. This mode allows you and up to 11 friends to take your favorite university through 30 seasons. So while the flawless gameplay is amazing, the action off the field is just as exciting.

Through updating the BCS, top 25, players of the week, the Heisman Trophy and more, gamers experience the same dilemmas Bob Stoops or Lloyd Carr go through.

In addition to a plethora of season stats and rankings, “NCAA Football 2002” features an outstanding recruiting system. As the coach of your favorite team, during the off-season you must replace your seniors and players who leap to the NFL early (tip: if you have a quarterback controversy, such as Simms and Applewhite of Texas, go with the older guy so the other will not leave early). The recruiting is especially interesting as you are given a certain amount of points, based on prestige and previous seasons, to go out and recruit the best players in the nation.

While the gameplay and depth of “NCAA Football 2002″ are top-notch, the game”s breathtaking visuals and sounds make the game the next best thing to being at the stadium. There is something spectacular about seeing the Wolverines” winged helmets glisten in the sun and hearing Notre Dame”s fight song through the power of the Playstation 2.

While not exciting for Wolverine fans, the game also features authentic mascots like Michigan State”s Sparty (booo!), Ohio State”s Brutus (hiss) and Iowa”s Herkey the Hawkeye (What the hell is a hawkeye). Also adding to the fun, though sometimes repetitive and annoying, are the clever and insightful commentary by Kurt Herbstreit, Brad Nessler and Lee Corso.

Aside from outstanding atmospheres and sounds, the game also makes great strides in realism on the field. No longer is the game saturated with ridiculous one hand grabs and unrealistic tackles. In “NCAA 2002,” the game features more spectacular tackles, two hand catches and special animations for keeping your feet in bounds.

Even though “NCAA 2002” has many great aspects, there are few annoying things that keep the game from perfection. First, in default settings, the game does not call enough penalties, and when it does, they are often bullshit calls. The game often calls roughing the kicker when a player is simply blocking the punter from tackling the return man.

Speaking of punt coverage, the game completely lacks it. Unless you select punt block (which doubles the chance of being flagged), return men like Ron Bellamy and Keenan Howry will get jacked on almost every return.

The only other troubling aspect of the game is the face animations of the players. Similar to “Madden 2001” on PS2, the faces of the players have freaky eyes that more closely resemble the raptors from “Jurassic Park.” Hopefully next year”s game will improve on these odd animations as “Madden 2002 already has.

Finally, with the help of a computer and Interact”s Dexport, gamers can finally put all of the players” names into “NCAA Football 2002.” Rather than seeing that No. 4 for Michigan is the No. 1 receiver in the country, the game will actually show Marquise Walker.

Additionally, the in game commentary will often actually say the name. This available addition shows that EA Sports means business in making the most authentic sports” games, and they do not get any better than this one. See you at the Rose Bowl.

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