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Peter Crouch: no longer all-time LB in NCAA 2009.

We have had NCAA 2009 for two days now, and are overjoyed to say that for once, the recently updated update of a game monkeyed with mercilessly does....does not suck. It doesn't suck at all in fact, and despite the embarrassing number of hours we played the good-not-great NCAA 08, it will easily surpass its predecessor in hours logged. Our XBox360, just like yours, keeps track of all of that for us. Our XBox360 is an asshole.

Cardinal points follow:

Die, nine-foot-tall linebacker, die. One of NCAA 2008's most grating tweaks was the hyperbolic pass coverage of opposing defenses, both yours and the defense's. A 5'10" middle linebacker with a 74 rating would, with bowel-twisting frequency, go on his toes when your qb dropped back, accelerate into the air like an anime character, and pick off your perfectly lofted crossing pattern. If this wasn't galling enough, the character would sometimes do this from impossible angles, or after "recovering" from a play-fake bite, or even soaring from the bench trailing little Nintendo stars on his way to ruining the clean slate you thought your were finally going to post in a game BUT NO NINE FOOT LINEBACKER MUST GET HIS.

The nine foot linebacker has been euthanized in NCAA 2009.

Amen and hallelujah; one of our first tests was to take a PA pass and then, almost without looking, dart it into the middle where Tacopants' brother Flautabritches the assface magical linebacker would be. No Derrick Brooks imitation here: having eaten the playfake after five straight runs, the space was exactly as it would be on the field. That is, terribly, terribly open for business. Flautabritches, eat hot death.

Balance, re-established. The eternal sway in any offense/defense oriented game in video game sports is between oversized, stingy defense and bombs-away offense, something video game designers seem to struggle mightily in establishing. (For a precious span of a few years the Madden franchise had a handle on the proper dynamics of the NFL, but given the anemic offenses/python defenses of the pros, this is perhaps an easier task.)

If NCAA 2009 bends toward any particular point of the compass, it's to the offense and to the pass. Picking up Missouri or Texas Tech, it's easy to rangefind at all three levels of the passing game, especially the short routes, which wideouts gobble up like so much exam week Adderall.

On day two we ran Mizzou and went intentionally short for a half to see if we could execute the ultimate test of passing facility: running a possession offense with mostly passing. We held the ball for over three minutes plus throwing little four and five yard patterns before scoring on Texas, meaning either the passing might be a bit too easy for our liking, or EA knows something we don't and Will Muschamp's defense will be baffled by the three yard curl route this year. The former is more likely.

The tradeoff comes with the fact that plays unfold even more realistically now: sure, you can actually hit the open notch between the corner and the safety in a Cover 2 spot now, but unlike in NCAA 2008, taking control of the safety means you can actually knock the hair off a wide receiver who attempts to do that, either knocking the ball loose or more. Rushing the passer with four down stiil seems like an impossibility, but we'll wait until we've logged some time with LSU's nine-deep collection of earthmovers before going so far as to say it is still an improbability here.

Online dynasty. The evil this could bring into this house is too much for us to contemplate. Already confronted with the ultimate distraction machine that is the internet, tempted on two sides of the video game coin by NCAA's solo mode and GTA IV, the possibilities of time spent on an online dynasty are...well, rude awakening doesn't do them justice.

We're avoiding it. For our own good.

Initial impressions, summarized: Yay, actual spatial depth on the field, ability to beat one on one coverage, and occasional unblocked blitzer not mysteriously caught up in universally perfect blocking, actual named rosters available for import, mascot celebrations, ability to return kickoffs more than once in a purple horned moon, TEBOW MY GOD TEBOW, and smoothed-out graphics that in HD give you an uncontrollable erection that even belt-tuckage may not help.

Boo: Life-destroying dynasty mode, defensive line immobility, and not much else. ONE HUNDRED INITIAL COCKTAILS TO YOU, EA!!!!