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Black College Football: The Xperience REVIEW

Black College Football: The Xperience Review (Xbox 360)

It has been two full years since a non-EA football sim was released on a Xbox or Playstation console –- five if we disregard 2K Sports’ one-and-done All-Pro Football experiment. No doubt, then, that football fans have been waiting with open arms to embrace any sort of competitor to EA’s continued stranglehold on the genre.

But does Nerjyzed Entertainment, an upstart company with a single neglected PC game in its portfolio, have what it takes to tackle the EA football giant that, for 20 years, has dominated the industry with its massive advertising campaigns and multi-million dollar development budgets?

The answer, at least for this year, is no. While developer Nerjyzed nails the "Xperience" of spending a Saturday afternoon at a HBCU football game, it still has much work to do before it gets the "Football" part of its title up to par with the giants of the genre.

Gameplay

Popping in Black College Football: The Xperience (BCFX) and running through a basic "Play Now" game feels a lot like hopping into Doc Brown’s DeLorean and flashing back to the early era of football games -- a time before hot routes, hit sticks or formation-specific audibles, where acceleration and momentum were unheard of and "twitch skills" were more important than "stick skills."

BCFX players can forget about memorizing a multitude of button combinations on either side of the ball because, while the genre’s usual assortment of spins, stiff arms, trucks and jukes are present, none of the special moves really matter since it’s much easier to zig-zag past defenders with the analog stick -- much like with Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl.

When combining the game’s instant acceleration with its unlimited turbo and turn-on-a-dime physics, users will quickly discover that, once they get the ball in their hands, they're able to jitter around the field at top speed for the duration of any play, leaving the computer players and their poor pursuit angles in a cloud of dust. Essentially, once users adjust to the game's old-school running style, they will routinely be sprinting around the entire CPU team for a score Tecmo Bo style, to the point that a good player should be able to put up 10 or more touchdowns against the CPU -- by the end of the first half.

In short, the field of play seems so wide open in BCFX that you can't help but feel like you've failed anytime a play does not go for a touchdown.



Poor defensive pursuit make long touchdown runs the norm, not the exception
Source: newsone.com


Unfortunately, BCFX's AI is just as inept on the offensive side of the ball as it is when attempting to play defense. Unlike recent EA football games, CPU quarterbacks in BCFX have a lot of difficulty reading the blitz and getting the ball out while under pressure, allowing users to pile up the sack totals. If users are feeling extra greedy, they will quickly discover that it’s possible to take control of a talented nose tackle and sack the CPU quarterback on virtually every play by swimming past the center and crushing the QB before the AI even contemplates passing the ball.

The one counterbalance to the game’s ramped-up pass rush is that the line play is equally bad on both sides of the ball, meaning neither the CPU nor human players will have much time to sit back and pass. Basically, the interior linemen do a decent job picking up defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers, but the offensive tackles literally just stand and jog in place for the duration of most pass plays -- they seem to lack the programming necessary to drop back and form a pocket around the quarterback.

User catching, however, gives players yet another major advantage over the CPU. This is because the catch button in BCFX triggers a sort of "magnetic" effect that is powerful enough to alter the path of the ball mid-flight, to the point that a pass sailing 20 yards over a receiver’s head can drop like an anvil out of the sky as it gets caught inside a user-catch’s magnetic pull.

While CPU players do have a decent set of "magnet mitts" of their own, they are nowhere near as powerful as the Imperial Star Destroyer-type pull that users can force on the ball by simply pressing the catch button.

But as boring and lopsided as the CPU games can be, playing BCFX against human opponents tends to result in back and forth games with big plays and lots of high-scoring.

The constant threat of sacks, coupled with the battling magnetic forces as two players fight over thrown balls, makes the game's intense and unpredictable gameplay a positive. Usually the player who outjumps and outruns the other is crowned the victor with a basketball score of 56-63.


No pass is ever out of reach thanks to receivers' physics-defying "magnet mitts"
Source: Gamespot.com


For as wild as the head-to-head experiences can become, it’s a shame that BCFX includes zero online options. While the game does offer solo players a bare-boned season mode with minimal stat tracking and depth charts that don’t even include special teams, it’s hard to believe that gamers would want to clash helmets with the boneheaded CPU for a single game, much less an entire season.

Presentation

While the actual football in BCFX still needs a summer or two in the weight room before it’s ready to compete with powerhouse franchises like Madden and NCAA Football, Nerjyzed's rookie effort does an excellent job capturing the history and traditions that make HBCU football a unique experience –- better, even, than EA does with its own roster of colleges and universities.

To that point, the effort put into BCFX's halftime shows really outshines the rest of the product. Whether users decide to tear up their carpet floor as an unofficial member of the dance team or plug in a Rock Band or Guitar Hero drum set to fill a spot in the band’s drum corps, it's hard not be entertained by some aspect of BCFX's lively halftime shows.

As the average HBCU marching band is worlds away from the kind of music featured in games like Guitar Hero, drummers are in for a completely fresh experience if they choose to pick up the sticks in BCFX, which features songs that range from funky R&B beats to traditional military tempos.

BCFX's bands aren’t just there for the halftime festivities, either. While the game disappoints in its exclusion of many of the HBCU’s heralded "fifth quarter" band battles, BCFX at least keeps the brass sections blaring all throughout regulation, which helps maintain the game's party atmosphere from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.


BCFX's marching bands bring excitement to what's otherwise an average football game
Source: blogs.bet.com


Off the field, BCFX scores another victory with its excellent Museum mode, which offers images and videos from over a 100 years of HBCU football, including detailed histories for each of the game’s 36 schools. Biographies for a number of HBCU legends, like Jackson State’s Walter Payton, Mississippi Valley State’s Jerry Rice and cover athlete Doug Williams of Grambling State University, further solidifies the Museum as a fine display of HBCU pride and pageantry.

But for all the positives that occur while the football’s not in play, BCFX's on-field presentation simply contains too many faults to call the game a well-rounded football experience.

The grass, fans and stadiums, for instance, all look sharp, but the detail put into them seems to be a major reason why slowdown and frame-rate drops plague key moments of the game.

While not yet up to the quality of Madden or NCAA Football, BCFX's player models look respectable, despite being disproportionately large from the waist up.

And while there is tons of clipping going on during pad-to-pad contact, the player animations are very solid, with some nasty looking hits and a nice variety to the linemen scrums.

Even the play-by-play from ex-WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman feels natural, aside from the few times where Doug Williams decides to chime in with one of his "Maddenisms" and ends up talking over Coachman's commentary track.

The bottom line is that if the developers could just solve the clipping issues and figure out how to maintain a steady frame rate, BCFX could definitely look and sound like a true contender in the future.

Final Thoughts

Being Nerjyzed's first try at football on the Xbox 360 (and only the studio's second videogame overall), Black College Football: The Xperience, in spite of its problems, has to be considered a success.

While the game has a number of flaws, Nerjyzed now has a foundation in place that -- assuming it can be built upon next year -- could have the franchise ready to compete with Madden and NCAA Football next season.

With improvements to the AI, some attention to a few graphical issues and the addition of key modes like online play and multi-season dynasties, BCFX could easily become a yearly franchise that captures the attention of HBCU alums and football fanatics alike.



Old-school gameplay mechanics like the straight-line, "blocking wall" need to be brought up to date if BCFX is going to compete with the big boys in 2010
Source: Gamespot.com


But for now, Nerjyzed's console debut is limited to being a niche title that's best-enjoyed in the company of friends, especially those who have a tolerance for imperfect games.

On the Field: BCFX mixes the X's and O's of 21st-century football games (think NFL 2K1 to NFL 2K3) with an arcade flavor that feels like it's straight out of the 1990s (Tecmo Super Bowl, Genesis-version Madden).

Graphics: Everything looks fine until the ball is snapped -- then comes the clipping, the slowdown and the over-the-top catching animations.

Presentation: The bands sound just as good as they look, with a great library of marching tunes brought to life by intricate halftime choreography. The excellent HBCU Museum helps put the game’s "Xperience" into the proper perspective.

Entertainment Value: Solo gamers need not apply, but those with regular access to human opponents -- either in-house or via speed dial -- should find a fun alternative to EA's football juggernaut.

Learning Curve: BCFX copies Madden's control scheme button-for-button (minus the hit stick and hot routes), so football fans should be able to pick up the game right away. That said, the game engine in BCFX is so simplified that you really only need to know how to run, jump and tackle.

Score: 5.5 (Slightly Above Average)


Black College Football: The Xperience Score
Successfully captures HBCU atmosphere.
Halftime shows entertain.
Fun head-to-head experience.
AI provides zero challenge.
Limited game modes.
Clipping, slowdown.
5.5
out of 10
Member Comments
# 1 Tico Da Great @ 10/12/09 12:34 PM
Its a fun game despite of its control and graphics its a new foot ball franchise i like it
 
# 2 Pokes @ 10/12/09 12:44 PM
I haven't seen this game anywhere.
 
# 3 Dollar Theater @ 10/12/09 01:04 PM
The review sums up what most of us have been saying - the football is badly lacking while the other stuff (particularly halftime) is a lot of fun. If they can polish the actual football aspect during the offseason, they could really have a decent game on their hands come next fall. I look forward to seeing what they do.
 
# 4 sicksteen @ 10/12/09 02:08 PM
Lol @ straight line blocking wall, what do you think Madden 2009 had? LMAO
 
# 5 stlstudios189 @ 10/12/09 04:02 PM
I think that the idea is good but, is it more about the "experiance" instead of the football.
 
# 6 GlennN @ 10/12/09 05:12 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by stlstudios189
I think that the idea is good but, is it more about the "experiance" instead of the football.
Yeah, I agree. I am certainly ready for a new football game, but I have no interest in the entire HBCU experience. I guess I am not the target audience, so I would be skipping through all of that. I hope there are future editions, which add a franchise mode and improve the gameplay. Bring me that, and I don't care if the players are Martians.
 
# 7 Jackdog @ 10/12/09 06:07 PM
Anyone that turns this into a racial discussion will go directly to the cell for two weeks. Stay on topic and discuss the game.
 
# 8 gfunkadelphia @ 10/12/09 07:25 PM
mutant league football?? with the bombs and everything...?
That was bad
 
# 9 Zhariken @ 10/13/09 01:23 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by gfunkadelphia
mutant league football?? with the bombs and everything...?
That was bad
Don't be such a speciesist!!!

How can you not love Mutant League Football? Bones Jackson? Scary Ice? Dokken & Shokken?

R.I.P. Reggie Fright.
 
# 10 dickey1331 @ 10/13/09 08:11 AM
yeah it would be cool to have 3rd parties trying to beat out EA and 2K
 
# 11 sportskid84 @ 10/13/09 11:45 AM
As being a black male i like the idea of the BCFX but it needs alot of work to even be able to be called a real competior in the football video game world.
 
# 12 Dollar Theater @ 10/13/09 03:26 PM
It's sad that this thread has as many deleted comments about race as there are actual game comments.

Back on topic, for this game to have any sort of chance to succeed in the future, they HAVE to incorporate online play into it. In this generation, being able to play sports games online is absolutely a given. Even if the gameplay isn't up to par, sometimes playing against other humans makes it enjoyable. It can also help combat some of the dumb AI (although not all of it).
 
# 13 jyoung @ 10/13/09 03:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dollar Theater
Even if the gameplay isn't up to par, sometimes playing against other humans makes it enjoyable. It can also help combat some of the dumb AI (although not all of it).
This is very true with regards to BCFX.

The game is literally unplayable against the CPU, but competing against a friend, it's a lot of fun.
 
# 14 Jackdog @ 10/13/09 06:15 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R. Locke
Jackdog keeping the peace!

I wish there were more games like this being made. As in other games besides EA and 2k monopolies.
Sad isn't it? I wish some subjects could be discussed like adults.

Have you played this game yet?
 
# 15 Playmakers @ 10/14/09 01:38 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by vikingsfan1
I am 46 years old and a graduate of a Historic Black College. For you young guys on the forum claiming racist these colleges still exist and at one time was the only colleges a good Black player could attend in the South. Only 30 years ago, 80% of your black players in the NFL came from these colleges because the SEC and the ACC only palyed fews Blacks. I attend Savannah State game twice a year and the experience of half time is unbelieveable. It's nice that a software company have given props to these great higher learning institutions.
I love the history of the game and although I didn't see much of those players your refering to from 30 years ago i have older generation male relatives that have supplied me with tons of recorded games of these legends in action.

Great post!
 
# 16 Cheetah50 @ 10/14/09 03:03 AM
"Un-playable"....

Too funny. This game can't and shouldn't be compared to Madden or NCAA. Seems to me many are doing just that. It's obvious who's put a little time and effort into it and made honest observations. BCFX is not without it's flaws. Nor or the other games that put in a TON of financial support and man hours and STILL can't get it right. It's the nature of the human psyche. For those that can't seem to get into it or enjoy it, that's your perogative. I'm curious just how much practice time went in prior to playing your first game. All in all it's a good start/platform for bigger and better things. In the meantime it was $40.00 bucks well spent, when I could have wasted $60.00 on something else.....IMO.
 
# 17 burnwood @ 10/14/09 10:09 AM
I'm waiting to try this out from Gamefly. Is the rest of the "Xperience" up to par? That's what I'd like to enjoy. Even though I love football I can appreciate the approach here.
 
# 18 jyoung @ 10/14/09 12:52 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheetah50
"Un-playable"....

Too funny. This game can't and shouldn't be compared to Madden or NCAA. Seems to me many are doing just that. It's obvious who's put a little time and effort into it and made honest observations. BCFX is not without it's flaws. Nor or the other games that put in a TON of financial support and man hours and STILL can't get it right. It's the nature of the human psyche. For those that can't seem to get into it or enjoy it, that's your perogative. I'm curious just how much practice time went in prior to playing your first game. All in all it's a good start/platform for bigger and better things. In the meantime it was $40.00 bucks well spent, when I could have wasted $60.00 on something else.....IMO.
What else would you call a game where you can score on every offensive play and sack the QB on every defensive play?

The CPU just isn't much of an opponent at all, even on the highest difficulty.

To me that makes the single player unplayable.

Unless you like winning all your games by the score of 100 - 7, I don't see how you could enjoy playing the CPU.

The game is certainly fun when a human player is on the other end, but the lopsided CPU games are not something I'd recommend to anyone looking for a football game to play by themselves.
 
# 19 Cheetah50 @ 10/14/09 02:01 PM
Actually Weeman33 my "un-playable" response was not aimed at your reply. You were one of the ones I felt took the time and effort and replied honestly. I've not had 100-7 games, but my skills dictate that I could put up some good numbers. I've had good CPU games, but I've had even better human vs human games. My point was and still is, that the game is being compared to other releases, and this is Nerjyzed first attempt in the console arena. I'm not stating that the games that I've had were not flawess. But I am repeating that there are other game makers that for the life of them cannot get it right, and with a bigger budget. I respect your response, as I hope you respect mine. I have no problems getting human competition, and for me maybe that makes all the difference in the world.

Also, I see some of the same flaws in BCFX that's been in other releases and they've been doing it MUCH longer. The bottom line is we all want an honest and flawed free game......if that's even possible.
 
# 20 stlstudios189 @ 10/15/09 02:31 PM
you know I would like to see more games like this keep coming out, improved though. CFL football, Arena 2 football, anything else you can think of. heck make us a customizable HS football game.
 

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