It’s the time of year you’ve waited months to arrive. The pageantry, devotion and tradition are unmatched. Rivalries, championships and bowls. That’s right NCAA 12 is being released by EA on Tuesday in the middle of July, the same as every other year. And here’s our review coming up after the jump.
NCAA is probably the most consistent game year to year in the EA Sports portfolio. Madden’s been completely rebuilt since its Xbox/PS2 days. The NBA franchise is essentially defunct and NHL has to be rebuilt using the MVP Baseball theory once it fell into disrepair. Others EA hasn’t even bothered to fix as they’ve gotten worse and worse with time. NCAA has never had those kinds of problems.
I’ve been playing NCAA dating back to the days of Ken Dorsey dominating in NCAA 2002 so I know a little about these. Most of those experts you read on forums like OS have only been playing since about 2005 or so and just pwn n00bs online without playing any real game modes that keep you coming back for more. Online can be fun once in a blue moon but will never compare with playing your friend sitting across the room. That’s just a fact of the mode’s existence; it’s not a problem with the game.
The big ticket item in NCAA 12, as it is in every college football game dating back to Gamebreaker, is the dynasty mode. To the uninitiated, you search the country for recruits and try to get them to attend your school. The recruiting engine is basically the same as it was in the last game. You get a certain amount of time and allot it to your players accordingly with interest measured in points. The visits have been toned down thankfully as it’s much easier to get recruits to commit sans visit. There are still some problems like visits during bye weeks pretty much being a C rating but others features have been fixed. No longer does losing a game during a visit screw up that visit entirely. While it won’t get an A rating, you can still get a solid B+. I was utterly shocked when I saw that.
The new feature this year in dynasty mode is Coaching Carousel. While you can start out as the head coach of any team just like in past games, you can also for the first time start your career as a team’s offensive or defensive coordinator. I chose to bring the spread offense to Rutgers and while it took a few years, I upgraded to an SEC offensive coordinator job and was offered some head coaching gigs. The only problem is that you can’t move when you have a contract which obviously isn’t the case in real life college football. Just look at Rich Rod. There also are only a few firings as it takes a lot for that to happen.
Road to Glory has also been changed as you can import Teambuilder teams to be your high school team while you can also play a whole HS season to up your stats. The games and actual gameplay are almost unchanged but at least it adds a little more depth. Once you get to college, coach’s trust becomes essential. It’s just too easy to have a couple of good practices and, after only having played a few games, be named a veteran team captain. Yeah it makes no sense. Some options should probably just be locked and not available until later in your career.
There are also all the standard party modes you see in NCAA like one button mode, bowling and all that stuff that hasn’t been changed. And of course also the mascot games. Funz.
Now onto gameplay. This is what you’ve been waiting for. While gang tackling was inexplicably removed from Madden last year, it’s been amped up in NCAA 12. New tackling animations have been added and they look as authentic as they ever have. It’s the first thing you notice once you play the game.
3D grass, not seen since Madden 07, has been implemented into the game. Too bad you can only see it in replays. It looks fantastic there but unfortunately it’s just not there enough to make enough of a visual difference. The helmets have also been shined up and look fantastic. While the jerseys become dull after falling in mud, the helmet shine still shows through. Unfortunately, the dirt doesn’t show up enough either. You’ll get a little on the jerseys but not nearly enough even when it’s pouring. Current gen football games are still lagging behind Xbox/PS2 games in this regard.
Dreadlocks have finally shown up but they’re just bad. They’re 16 bit, Super Nintendo quality.
Receivers can finally get good separation in one on one coverage. While we saw this a couple of years ago, it’s here just as it should be. When receivers are one on one with an inferior corner, they should get away. You can see the difference in separation when you play Alabama as opposed to Louisiana Tech.
Most of the changes in this game are subtle though and really improve the gameplay. The tackles, field degradation, 3D grass and all those little things add up to my favorite version of NCAA in years. It’s probably my favorite on the current gen. With improvements to its central modes as well as gameplay, this is a must buy for any college football fan out there.
Review written by Matthew Torino