Another year is upon us and another year EA brings us the excitement of college football with NCAA Football 2012 featuring Mark Ingram from the Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Network. This year EA promises an ever deeper experience with an enhanced tackling engine, create your own coach and take a high school senior into his path to glory with Road to Glory. Are the new rosters and new features worth shelling over $60 for NCAA Football 12 or is EA only sacking players for their money?
If you’ve played NCAA Football titles before then you are no stranger to the series. When you first boot up the game you will be introduced with a new GUI that will feature Mark Ingram in just about every other wall. Here you will make your selections on gameplay type whether you want to play an Exhibition match or you want to take the path to glory in Dynasty mode or Road to Glory. Dynasty mode takes a different step this year around though as you will be asked to create your own coach or play with the one the AI gives you. For quick gameplay you can always opt out to play the current coach and you can edit him later on in the options menu. The creating process isn’t as great though as you are only given some predetermined options to choose from and don’t go into much detail.
Road to glory gives you more options when it comes to customizing your character. You can choose where his from and what are his school colors as well as what his primary position and secondary position are. You can also tone his body to your liking. When you proceed into gameplay you start out as a high school senior. You will get to choose 3 different teams who you wish to play with, once you graduate but first you have to prove yourself that you belong on the field by challenging other High Schools. In Road to Glory you do lose a lot of the control you have since you are only using your created player to play. When not in game you can Sim through parts of the game until you get a chance to play but when you do play, you will find yourself unable to do nothing for most of the game depending on the position. It’s a nice feature that does well on its own but for people who rather have control of the whole game, Dynasty mode is the mode you want to play.
When you dive into a game you will also notice that new celebratory entrances have been added for several teams. These entrances are all the same so if you’ve seen them once, you’ve seen them enough as they don’t change throughout the game. At times they can get annoying though as you would have to skip it instead of just starting the game with a small introduction. Some college players and a few fans might be excited to see the mascot every time but I just don’t know how the regular user would benefit from it. There are also new ESPN announcers which is a huge update from last years. In the main menu, ESPN radio will play from time to time giving you up to date sports news. An internet connection is required though for those who complain they can’t get it to work on their system.
The in-game announcers also got a major update as they call every shot in the game with as much detail as possible. On top of that there is also a new crowd sound effect which according to EA was recorded with a crowd of over 100000 people instead of just 50000 and made to sound like 100000. Cudos to EA for doing that but besides the announcers I don’t think many people cared about the crowd sound effects.
All those are added nice features but let’s get down to what the game is really about and talk about gameplay. As you begin I recommend taking a look at the controls menu and learn the way the controller is set up for offensive and defensive plays if you don’t already know them. Trust me making one mistake such as spinning when you’re supposed to dive can be the difference between glory and defeat.
Players do feel a lot lighter than before which takes some getting used to. This could have to do with EA’s new tackling engine which can malfunction at times. At times I noticed that when you tackle an opposing player, it will be as if you were tackling a brick wall. I am not saying that to give props to the other player I mean it will literally seem like if you were tackling a brick wall. You player will continue to run in place when you execute a tackle while your opponent just stands there unaffected. This doesn’t happen quite often but when it happens expect to get angry. At times AI players won’t make the right decisions which is also another frustrating aspect of the game.
Other modes from last year’s release also made it into this year such as mascot mash up where the mascot takes the field, 1-button mode where the game is played by using only 1 button, Online Dynasty which allows you to join other players and compete against their team in tournaments. Of course you also have other online modes such as ranked and unranked matches, team builder which allows you to create your own team and share it with others and of course everything comes bundled with ESPN in which you can view the latest sports news and keep up to date with your teams.
Graphically the game is on par with last year’s release. The game does look great at times but sometimes you will notice graphical corruptions or frame rate drops which can take away from the experience. NCAA football plays in 1080P but for some reason it keeps defaulting to 720P so if you wish to play in 1080P, just disable the 720P option from your consoles system menu. According to EA the grass is now in 3D but that minor detail is often over looked. Players can get choppy at times and don’t look as well as they should. It’s not bad but I wish EA would spend more time in this area of the game rather than focusing on 3D grass.
Verdict: Stick to last year’s release, Rent
NCAA football is a great game but there are issues that need to be worked on before it becomes a great game. EA needs to figure out how to increase the performance on the game and make it look better instead of focusing on the entrances of the schools and on small things such as 3D grass. Unless you are a true hardcore fan of NCAA football I recommend sticking to last year’s release or renting NCAA football 2012.
GamePlay: Players feel lighter, controllers are responsive but AI can be dumb and make all the wrong decisions. 7/10
Graphics: Retains last year’s look which can look great at times but constant frame drops will keep you from really focusing on the game. 7/10
Sound: Better sound effects and announcers than last year’s release and ESPN radio will keep you up to date on sports news. 9/10
Performance: Players can get choppy at times; loading screens are still a pain, and the in game menu can remain frozen for several seconds. 6/10
LifeSpan: Truly this is where NCAA shines, Dynasty and Online Dynasty allow you to play as your favorite team throughout the season, Road to Glory feels like a game on its own and online allow you to challenge anyone from around the US. 10/10
Total Score: 78/100