It’s hard to believe it’s been so long, but the last NCAA Football game released all the way back on July 3, 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360. New consoles would arrive a few months later, and now we’re a little over a month away from new consoles arriving again.
For the past six college seasons, every time I wanted to play some college football (which is vastly superior to professional football) I had to spend 10 fiddling with my PS3 to get it to read a disc. But not this year.
This year, I’m playing a college dynasty on a PS4 thanks to Maximum Football 2020 and I’ve been having a lot of fun.
Doug Flutie’s Maximum Football 2020 (PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Canuck Play
Publisher: Spear Interactive
Released: September 25, 2020
ESRB Rating: E – Everyone
The biggest strength and best-selling point for Maximum Football 2020 is its extensive customization offerings. You have the option to choose between six leagues: 9 teams, 10 teams, 16 teams, 27 teams, 32 teams, and 130 teams. You can change the rules between US College, Canadian, and American Pro. You can even create a play and a playbook. And of course, the main thing is that you can edit the teams.
This means you can have a 130-team college dynasty going, and a 32-team pro season mode going. Spend some time in the customization menu editing the teams in each league, and you can have a fairly accurate NCAA dynasty going and an NFL season going… all in one game. That’s pretty nice. The option is there anyway; it’s not perfect and there’s no overlap. You can’t export college players into the pro league.
Imagine a future though where you could have a NCAA dynasty going on and also have a full NFL franchise going where you could draft players from the dynasty mode right into the franchise mode in one continuous football universe. Not this game this year, but what we have is a solid foundation that in time could potentially build to that.
The customization isn’t perfect though, and some of it is understandable especially for an independent game. There is no online sharing. Whereas in the old NCAA Football games people would collaborate on creating real rosters, here if you want a real roster, you’re going to have to manually edit them. Not really worth it. You also can’t upload logos to game or use images stored on your system in the game. This means you can’t have real team logos.
There is a Logo Editor, and it is somewhat extensive but still more limited than what you might see in some games. The flaw here is that even if you are good enough to create passable real logos, you’re limited to only 50 slots. For college, some of the letter generic logos in the game could be more useful if you could edit the color of them. For example, you could use T for Tennessee, but you can’t make it orange. A white T on a white helmet doesn’t look good or realistic.
You also can’t just make player numbers appear on helmets, your only choice is either put the logo on the helmet or have it blank. My team is Alabama, and I couldn’t bring myself to put an elephant on their helmet nor could I just make it plain crimson… so I used one of the 50 slots to create a generic 17 logo to slap on the helmet. It looks like a more authentic Alabama helmet, but of course the drawback is every player is running around with 17 on their helmet.
Here you can see the 50 logos I did. Now I didn’t realize until I did the final one, Miami, that you were limited to 50. I assumed you would be able to go to a new page, and that’s why logos were created for smaller teams that I don’t care about and probably won’t see and also why there are some duplicates (like Oregon and Oklahoma which was done because of the helmet colors).
You’ll notice that those are almost all text-based logos. Those I could do close enough for me, others got stuck with generic logos that are in the game for the made-up teams. Alabama got a generic elephant because there was no way for me to make a decent looking Alabama logo. My other team, the Florida Gators, got a generic gator because there was definitely no way I could create their logo in the game. I’m sure there’s someone out there who is decent enough at manipulating shapes and working within the limited system to do it, but that’s not me.
Accept that you’re not going to get it 100% authentic and make what you easily can and use generic where it fits (and event occasionally where it doesn’t, like the Akron Zips I have a generic giraffe because there was no generic kangaroo and I for sure couldn’t create their logo.
Some of these logo’s I will redo or remove, but as you can see if I wanted to do NFL teams it would have to be all generic because there’s simply no slots left. Ultimately though, I think most college football fans could look at those 50 logos and know exactly who they are so it’s good enough for me. And yes, I know that’s not Auburn’s logo… but there was no easy way to do blue on blue lettering with an orange outline and make it look semi decent; so they got a blue A on an orange U and it looks better on a white helmet than a generic tiger.
Enough about the logos though, let’s get into one of my disappointments with customization and the dynasty experience.
In Maximum Football 2020, you can have a college Dynasty that spans 50 years. That’s great.
You can do recruiting, and I mean the good kind of in depth recruiting where you have 10 hours in a week to spend on recruiting and you can either call, text, or have your assistant call the player. When you call them, you have a large list of pitches that you can use to gauge the prospects interest, You can offer a scholarship or schedule a visit as well. It’s very similar to the system in say NCAA Football 12, and nothing like the point allocation system that was in the final game NCAA Football 14. Recruiting here is great.
There are no coaches, no coordinators and so there’s no coaching carousel to make things interesting at the end of a season and allow you to jump to a different school. That’s fine for now, hopefully in a future installment we can get that feature.
The big problem I have with Dynasty is two-fold: You can’t edit conferences and you can’t edit schedules. I could tolerate not be able to have custom conferences if they were set up right. It doesn’t matter to me if SEC is called Super South and I can’t change that. However, there needs to be divisions and right now there’s not. That’s particularly a problem when you can’t edit the schedule.
I spent a lot of time editing all 130 teams and creating 50 logos, to get my dynasty set up. And this is the schedule that my Crimson Tide was given:
- @ Navy
- vs. Appalachian State
- @ UTEP
- vs. Akron
- @ Florida
- vs. South Carolina
- vs. Georgia
- vs. Kentucky
- vs. LSU
- @ Arkansas
- @ Miss State
- @ Ole Miss
No Tennessee, and more importantly no Iron Bowl. If there were divisions, at least I would be guaranteed to play Auburn (and Texas A&M who I also didn’t get scheduled) and Tennessee would be a toss-up without a way to mark a cross-divisional rival.
Either custom conferences with divisions, or editable schedules, absolutely needs to happen next year. It’s disappointing, but I can let that slide this year.
There’s also a Dynasty News wire that lets you know when players from all the schools are injured, suspended, entering the transfer portal, etc. Those kinds of things are always fun to help you keep track of all the going-ons around the league.
Now let’s get to the gameplay itself.
I didn’t play last year’s game, but I have seen videos and pictures. One could simply look at a screenshot or watch a video and immediately see that there’s a vast improvement here. This game looks pretty good.
The models can look a little stiff and some of the animations are rough, but for the most part it looks pretty darn good. The sound is also really good while keeping in mind that there is no commentary here.
Offense plays pretty well. There’s some improvements that could be had; like adjusting the line and being able to put a specific receiver on a different route. The passing game is decent. There’s parts of it I like, and parts that I’m overly fond of. There’s no leading the receiver and bullet passes even beyond the 15-20 yard distance just isn’t consistent. There’s also no Option plays in the game, and while there is a create-a-play you can’t create an Option play because there’s no base for it.
However, something this game does well is that the corners and safeties aren’t magic. They don’t immediately break the second you hit the button to get to where ever the ball is going. If you have an open receiver, there’s not going to be a defender or three suddenly there to break up the pass because he had eyes in the back of his head. Yes, this makes passing pretty easy and does give up more really long touchdowns than it probably should but it still feels better.
As there is no difficulty option (like say Varsity, All American, Heisman), the game is all around easy on offense even if you set the sliders all the way to 1. It’s also pretty easy to return a kickoff for a touchdown. The first game I ever played, I won 38-23 and four of my touchdowns came from kickoff returns. This was the first game where I didn’t understand the offense and from many hours of playing NCAA Football 14 even up until this year was still trying to do muscle memory stuff that wasn’t in this game (and to a degree, this looks an awful lot like the old NCAA Football games so it’s not hard to do when you’ve played that last one for so long).
Despite being a more defense-oriented fan in real life, I’ve never been a huge fan of playing defense in the video games. It’s especially rough in this game though.
There doesn’t seem to be any timing or reasonable way to intercept, it appears to be completely random. On the line, it seems like the majority of the time you’re just glued to the offensive lineman and are unable to get off the block regardless of which way you move either thumbstick.
I’ve found that the CPU also likes to quarterback scrambles way too often to the point where they might as well be designed QB runs up the middle. In fact, QB running feels rather cheesy like it did in those old NCAA games on PS1 or original Xbox.
My big issue though with defense is the tackling just feels poor. Slow and sluggish, I’m still use to trying to target with the right tumbstick and doing power tackles and whatnot, and that’s completely on me because that’s from a different game. But tackling just feels off, and diving to make a tackle feels inaccurate and very slow almost like you have to charge up the dive that I’ve yet to see work whether I’m doing it or the CPU is doing it.
There are rules issues and bugs that I’ve seen. The big one for me is a punt that goes into the endzone, but not out of it, is put on the one yard line instead of treated like a touchback. I’ve had the CPU intercept one of my passes at the five yard line, and they just stood there while the camera rotated around. They ended up getting pushed into the endzone, having never made an attempt to run, and the game called this a safety.
I’ve also had a receiver drop a ball after possibly having it in his hands for a split second and not long enough to move in any direction with it, and the game called this incompletion a fumble.
Now I want to be clear that the safety and the fumble there is something I’ve only seen once, it’s not a bug that’s repeatedly manifesting itself. The vast majority of my games have played smoothly and without glaring rule oversights or bugs like that.
I do want to make it clear here that I’m not reviewing this game as harshly as I would say an NCAA Football 2020 from EA Sports. Some might argue that that isn’t fair or whatever, but I think it’s more than fair when it comes to aligning expectations with reality.
This game has flaws that’s noticeable when you’re playing and when you’re watching a video. I understand that there’s a lot of people who would have high expectations of something and see the game in action and find something to pick apart or say “that looks bad.”
And if a random consumer browses the PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace and they see a football game that has college play and buy it on a whim they might find a lot of stuff to pick apart. Because they don’t know anything about the developer.
This game isn’t developed by a large studio like EA (though not like they’re producing stellar entries in Madden these days). It’s developed by a handful of guys, a very small team and a small budget. A lot of it has been the work of one guy over the years. So I can, and recommend others to, compartmentalize their desires and align expectation with reality. The reality being this is as independent, non-AAA as it gets and you’re not going to get a game remotely close to perfect.
There are going to be shortcomings and flaws, these guys have neither the manpower nor budget to give everyone everything they could want from a college football game and do so without issues. The game would benefit some by having commentary for example, and yet it’s completely understandable why there is none.
I desperately wanted to play college football on my PS4 because I was tired of fighting my PS3 to get it read my NCAA Football 14 disc. But I held off and didn’t buy last year’s game, despite being interested. This year, I requested a review copy and ultimately decided not to even bother waiting for one and instead bought it day one when it released last Friday because I could see the progress that was made and wanted to support the developers.
When it finally became available for purchase on the PS Store, I immediately bought it. And when I booted it up, the teams were duplicated in Dynasty mode. So I had to hold off on setting up my dynasty and spent my time in Play Now with the generic teams. Only there was no way to select a running play, you could only do passing plays. The only way you could run the ball was to make the QB do it (which again is kind of cheesy) or call an audible and pick the one that pops up. And there were some other issues.
But the small dev team got to work right away. And they worked through the night on Friday and into early Saturday morning to get out a patch that fixed these issues. All the while, they stayed in constant contact with the fans, the community, via social media like Twitter, Discord and forums. It was impressive, and the team deserves a tremendous amount of respect for work they put in to get the issue fixed day one and the transparency that came with it. Stuff like that goes a long ways with me.
What we have here is a solid foundation for which Canuck Play can build upon and refine. Sports games like this don’t offer much in the way of needing to innovate, so an annual outing needs only to improve upon the previous year. Maximum Football 2020 appears to be a significant improvement over the previous two years, and with this foundation combined with the passion and dedication of the developers should continue to evolve into a better game each year going forward.
If you can look past some of the issues and clunkiness, and some of the limitations, I think you’ll find a lot of fun here. I’ve certainly been enjoying it, and finally I can stop going back to my PS3 every year around this time to get my college football fix.
Maximum Football 2020 gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.