The dog days of summer often leave a lot to be desired on the video game front, but every year, EA Sports unleashes the latest editions of its two venerable football franchises. This year is no different as both NCAA Football 2004 and Madden Football 2004 have both successfully updated their respective franchises and included numerous upgrades. Each game captures the essence of the sport and has millions of fans for a reason.

Kate Green
Courtesy of EA Sports
Get used to it, Joey. Miles of mayhem.

NCAA Football is the best college football game on the market. The graphics are beautiful and the gameplay features plenty of refinements from the previous version to warrant a new purchase. Featuring well over 100 schools as well as numerous classic, all-time and even mascot teams, NCAA provides all sorts of different gameplay opportunities. New to this year’s edition is the College Classics mode that allows players to relive 20 classic moments, and depending on the individual game, either recreate it or rewrite some famous endings.

Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the only college classic game featuring the Wolverines is the highly disappointing Colorado game from ’94 with its heartbreaking Stuart-to-Westbrook hail mar known as the “Miracle at Michigan.”

As far as gameplay goes, the play action plays have been revamped and are now significantly more effective. Meanwhile, the Dynasty Mode, where the player acts as the coach and takes a team through all the rigors of running a college football program, has a new Sports Illustrated license that adds to the game’s already high level of realism. Michigan fans should not fret as the Wolverines are pretty accurately represented, but unfortunately, have only a B rating, when the talent on the team deserves higher.

In spite of all of the excellence shown in NCAA Football, Madden is still king of the gridiron. Containing all of the gameplay improvements of its college sibling and all of the modes introduced last year, Madden still finds ways to improve.

The brand new Owner’s Mode addition to the already incredibly deep Franchise Mode lets the player set the prices of merchandise, tickets, concessions and numerous other abilities for his team. Like the NFL, parity is apparent as almost all of the teams feature similar ranks; however, Michael Vick, the Falcon’s QB and this year’s coverboy, is nearly unstoppable.

The largest addition and tweak to the tried and true formula is the Playmaker control. With Playmaker, the player can change his offense or defense before the snap, or change receiver’s routes and move blockers during a play. These enhancements provide even more control over the game and truly make Madden the best football game out there.

The decision as to which game to buy truly depends on whether the college or pro game is preferred. If that does not factor into the decision, then Madden’s Playmaker addition makes it the superior choice. Only the Playstation 2 versions of the games feature online capability, which enables ready competition at all times. These football games are the best on the market and EA Sports continues to show why it is the leader in sports video games.

Rating: 5 stars

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