The NCAA Football franchise has come a long way over the past couple of years. Year in and year out it makes great strides towards becoming the best football sim game around. Last year was easily the most contested year as more hardcore football gamers pledged their loyalty to NCAA than ever before.
This year, NCAA Football 12 brings with it improved presentation, visual upgrades, custom playbooks, revamped Road to Glory mode, coaching carousel, and a much needed collision based tackling system. But are these along with other new additions to NCAA Football 12 enough to regain the loyalty of its followers? Simple answer: absolutely.
One of the more noticeable improvements is in the area of presentation. This year, the focus is on the smaller things. While this may seem insignificant to some, I promise you it truly does make a difference.
Whether it be 3D grass, HDR lighting, 3D crowds, or field and uniform degradation, the fact of the matter is that NCAA Football 12 has the most realistic graphical representation of the gridiron to date. And while the addition of ESPN was a huge step in the right direction last year, this year’s improvements are the refinement that gamers desire in yearly installments of sports games. And if the little things aren’t enough for you, the improvements to tradition will be.
While entrances were something introduced last year, NCAA Football 12 brings with it many improvements to some of the oldest traditions around. From the Georgia bulldog, to the Sooner’s horse and carriage, to the many traditional touchstones, the new entrances are enough to draw any alumni into the game. And thankfully, for those colleges that didn’t see improvements to entrances, custom sounds for pre-game were added as well. Finally, my Hokies will be entering the field as ‘Enter Sandman’ is blasting throughout the stadium.
Unfortunately, last year, NCAA Football 11 made absolutely no significant improvements to the Road to Glory mode. Thankfully though, Tiburon was made well aware by fans that this is a mode that is extremely important to them – me included. And you will be happy to hear Road to Glory has been completely revamped and is extremely addicting – although not without its faults.
In years past you were only able to play in the high school playoffs which in turn brought you into college scholarship opportunities based on the limited time you play in high school. This year, you play the entirety of your high school senior year. While this is a more accurate assessment of your skills, the ten or more high school games that you have to play feels like a bit too much. Being able to play both sides of the ball this year was a welcome change though. But let’s face it, we all want to get right into the action of NCAA football.
Once in the NCAA it is time to gain the coach’s trust – a new RPG mechanic that will keep you coming back for more. Each practice and each game will reward experience points based on performance. However, this performance is based entirely on raw statistics.
Honestly, raw statistics are an extremely lazy way to assess a player’s performance. The biggest issue that results from this is if you aren’t playing one of the big impact positions like WR, QB, or HB, it will be extremely difficult to progress. Being a shutdown corner isn’t just about the interceptions or tackles, it is about playing your responsibility and taking the man across from you out of the game. EA Sports’ NHL franchise has done a great job of assessing player performance without basing it entirely around statistics. Hopefully in the future Tiburon will adopt this.
Nonetheless, for gamers like myself who love to play the star positions, Road to Glory mode is fantastic. Being able to spend experience points on career or one-game statistic improvements is what keeps me coming back for more. For once I feel like I have full control over my player’s destiny. Personally, it is my favorite mode in this year’s title. Which is impressive being as dynasty mode saw some fantastic improvements as well.
Dynasty has always been a cornerstone of the NCAA Football franchise. Now, create a coach and make dynasties happen wherever success brings you. The addition of the coaching carousel has the potential to completely change the way the mode is played – it is up to you though whether or not to embrace it.
The freedom of choice in the addition as well as being able to customize conferences provides you with many options. Whether you want to bring a hopeless team up in the ranks and gain the attention of other teams for offers or start at the top and see what the future brings is completely up to you. While I was a bit hesitant of the addition of coaching carousel I can tell you that it has been implemented perfectly and brings a refreshing experience with it. If this isn’t of interest to you though, ignoring the coach aspect of the mode won’t provide anything new.
While the improvements to the two biggest offline modes are welcome, online has remained unchanged outside of some premium features for online dynasty. This is an extreme disappointment as strong online play remains at the top of many gamers’ list. So if this resonates with you, you may want to evaluate the changes made to gameplay before deciding on a purchase.
Both NCAA Football and Madden have been plagued by one of the most frustrating elements of any sports game: sunctioning. Be it tackling, catching, or blocking, players on the field were sunctioned into animations. As a result, unrealistic actions occured on the field.
This year, collision based tackling and sunction-free gameplay have been introduced. And while it isn’t the realtime physics system we are all pining for, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Tackles, catches, and blocks are finally made when the player is in position to make the play. It truly makes for much more enjoyable gameplay.
Keep in mind however that the gameplay is not without its issues. Despite the fact that blocking has seen some improvements, there are still many issues with reads made by the lineman when at the line of scrimmage. Second level and third level blocking continue to be of issue and there will be many blown plays because of it.
NCAA Football 12 has seen some great improvements and provides a deep, fleshed out experience. Its issues with blocking, lack of online improvements, and few glitches are disappointing, but when it comes down to it, the gameplay is solid, the game modes are enjoyable, and nothing beats experiencing the traditions that bring us, the fans, enormous amounts of pride. Simply put, this game warrants a purchase whether you have NCAA Football 11 or not.