NCAA Football 2012ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
HDD Space Required: 7.2 MB
Online multiplayer: 2 Players
Every year it appears as though EA Sports NCAA Football game is gaining more and more in the popularity department. It has come to the point where many, including myself, view the game to be on par with EA Sports’ Madden Football game. Last year, NCAA Football 11 managed to accurately capture the American college football experience in all its glory. Life like players, booming marching band sounds, and a highly enjoyable virtual football experience made for a game which was truly a must own, not only for NCAA fans, but for all football in general. Long since considered a game meant to wet your appetite before the yearly Madden installment arrives, EA Sports NCAA Football is back and looking to grow on last year’s success. After some time spent with EA Sports' latest installment in the College Football franchise (the Xbox 360 version), there is no question it delivers and the game has been improved on many levels. But is this enough? Read on to find out.
Overall, the visuals in NCAA Football 12 are stellar and are once again a strong point for the franchise. NCAA Football 12 simply does a wonderful job re-creating that magical college football atmosphere. The game manages to immerse you into the feeling it is Saturday gameday and you are there in the stands to cheer on your favorite team. Even fringe NCAA football fans will be able to really appreciate the detail that went into the game. Everything from the stadiums, the grass, the players, the fans, and the presentation, NCAA Football 12 is a visual treat for football and college fans alike.
In addition to the sharp looking stadiums, their surroundings, and the game’s presentation, the most noticeable graphical addition this year is the new player animations and their appearance. The player animations have taken another step forward giving you a football game that not only feels authentic, but one that is also incredibly more realistic this time around. The way Running Backs break tackles or simply crumble to the ground as they get hit really hits home how the player animations have been improved. Players seem to run with more fluidity and the tackling seems much more realistic. Every play on every down has its own look and feel. No two plays seem to look alike. In years past we used to see the same canned repetitive tackling animations over and over. Those days are long gone. Every play and every down seems to have its own unique flavor. The results are impressive to say the least.
Some other new additions in the visuals department include 3D grass, which even comes through the snow; lighting effects change based on the positioning of the sun; some players now sport dreadlocks; uniforms have received some modern day enhancements; crowds are a little more life-like, and some of the sideline interactions between players and coaches are new.
NCAA Football 12 also features a new enhanced tackling engine that allows you to control a player to the moment of impact. Subsequently, animations do not begin until contact is made. This subtle new addition to the franchise is not all that noticeable; however, I did observe that every tackle seemed original and the animations as realistic as they can get.
In terms of the negatives, I did notice some occasional clipping issues and the games menus could be a tad busy. These issues are slight but noticeable nonetheless. The gameplay itself is not hampered by any slowdown and runs smooth as silk. Overall, NCAA Football 12 is a slight visual upgrade over last year’s game, and all the enhancements add up to a great looking game.
As far as the sound is concerned, NCAA Football 12 is rock solid. The game's sound is an excellent complement to the games superb graphics. Once again, the developers managed to duplicate that college football feeling to perfection. Everything from the authentic commentary by Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and sideline reporter Erin Andrews, to each school’s marching band, truly shines. The college football game never sounded this good as it adds a level of intensity never felt before. The absence of the crazy Lee Corso is a bit of disappointment but the commentary team in place is as professional sounding as ever and offers an even richer experience. From time to time, I did notice the commentary did not match the play that just took place. Also, there is some repetitiveness with some of the calls. That being said, the commentary is still top-notch. The rest of the in-game sound effects, musical soundtrack, marching bands and commentary are bang-on. Overall, I found no significant flaws with the game’s audio package.
For those unfamiliar with the NCAA Football video game franchise, it is a college football video game series that plays very much like EA Sports Madden Football. In fact, many consider NCAA Football as an appetizer; something to satisfy one’s virtual pigskin craving before the yearly release of Madden later in the summer. Yet NCAA Football 12 is no appetizer as it is the full meal deal, rich in content and offers up an authentic college experience unlike we have seen to date. There is no doubt NCAA Football 12 is a simulation football game aimed at the more seasoned football gaming fan. So younger football gaming fans may find the game a tad overwhelming; however, if you love Madden football there is no question you will love this game.
At the heart of any football game is the actual gameplay itself. NCAA Football 12 plays very much the same as last year’s version with a few more bells and whistles. For Madden fans that have not made the leap to NCAA Football, you will be relieved to know NCAA Football 12 plays out very much the same way as Madden 11. If you are new to football gaming, NCAA Football 12 may be a little too complex, but for fans of EA Sports football games in general, NCAA Football 12 will most likely not even take you a quarter or two to pick up. The controls are easy to learn and it doesn’t take much to fire up a game or start a dynasty season. The dynasty season is where I spent the bulk of my time and is very similar to the dynasty modes from years’ past. There is no sense examining the features that have been around for years, so at this point I will examine some of the new features in this game.
For starters, NCAA Football 11’s big new feature is the “Road to Glory” mode. Here you can play as a high school football player looking to get recruited by a big school. You start at the beginning of your senior season and you can play through an 8-12 regular high school season including playoffs. You can also play iron man; meaning, you can play on both sides of the ball – offence and defense. After you are finally recruited by a college you then have to decide whether you are going to play offence or defense. This mode very much reminds me of EA Sports NHL “Be a Pro” mode where you are looking to get called up to the Pro’s while playing for a minor league hockey team. In much the same way, NCAA Football 12’s Road to Glory is on par with NHL’s mode. It is an engaging mode and makes every play and every down critical as the next big play can dictate your future. My only concern with this mode was the inability to select your plays before the snap. You are forced to play the one play you are provided with. Sure you can simulate the play, heck you can even simulate to the next quarter if you want, but too much simulating can take away from the game. I would have preferred to be able to play from an entire playbook and be able to control every player on the team.
Another new feature to EA Sports NCAA Football game this year is Dynasty mode’s Coaching Carousel. Coaching Carousel allows you to take over the role of the coach. Everything from securing a job, signing contracts, to meeting the owner’s lofty goals is included, and you can even experience getting fired. You can start out as an offensive coordinator and eventually move into the head-coaching role. My experience with the Coaching Carousel are somewhat mixed. While the Carousel offers up a unique experience, I was more concerned with playing the game, winning and racking up some decent stats for my players. Nevertheless, striving for certain coaching objectives does add an element of realism to the game. Football fans all know how coaches come and go all the time. The expectations are high and the reality is most coaches get fired. So I give kudos to the development team for including Coaching Carousel as part of the dynasty mode. For those who have no interest, you can always play Dynasty with the Coaching Carousel turned off.
EA Sports NCAA Football game has always featured authentic teams, stadiums, band music and even playbooks. This year, NCAA Football 12 now includes authentic gameday traditions. Whether it be the Sooner Schooner or the Georgia Tech Wramblin’ Wreck, NCAA Football 12 features new entrances and other touch traditions. These added elements just add to the authentic experience and do manage to get you pumped a little for the game.
So with all these new additions, how does the game play? Well, very much like last year. If you have a good running back, the running game is simply not a challenge unless you are up against a team in the top 25 poll. Finding holes and avoiding tacklers seems easier. The passing game can be a little bit more of a challenge, but if you are using a balanced attack then everything evens out. In other words, using the running plays to set up the passing plays, then moving the chains is not a problem. The adaptability of the AI to adjust to your tendencies was something that impressed me. For instance, last year I was able to shut down teams running game. This year, this is not the case as offences adjust and attack your weaknesses. It can be frustrating at times; however, the improved AI makes for a more intense experience and one that is very authentic.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent the majority of my time in Dynasty mode playing with my Washington Huskies. The core of the mode is back with all the stats, news, recruiting and everything else one could expect in a typical college football season. The menus are sharp and easy to navigate too. Getting ESPN updates and reading the top stories from each week is an enjoyment.
The online aspect of the NCAA Football franchise is back as well and just as good as ever. You can play one on one against another player or set up an online Dynasty league. Again, much like Madden, NCAA Football 12 pretty much has all the online features we have come to love and expect with EA Sports football games.
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