Last year EA Sports really raised the bar for their NCAA Football series with the dazzling array of gameplay, presentation and dynasty improvements they packed into NCAA Football 11. While NCAA Football 12 does succeed in taking those additions to another level, there isn’t as nearly as much new stuff packed in. This fact doesn’t hinder the game in any way as NCAA Football 12 is still a great game of college pigskin.
Fans of the series are going to love this year’s edition as EA took the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach,” by building upon and enhancing the blueprint they established last year. While that certainily isn’t terrible, the only downside is NCAA 12 feels very similiar to NCAA 11. Luckily NCAA Football 11 was so damn good (I played the breaks off that game), the game doesn’t suffer.
The thing that pops out the most about 12 is the improved presentation. The ESPN presence is at the forefront more than any other year. The cable’s Saturday line-up has been pulled and put into the game for the team introductions and it looks really good. Also added are specific tunnel entrances and touch traditions that you see in real life every Saturday.
Gameplay wise, again, it feels a lot like last year with some tweaks. They’ve put in a new collision system that makes tackling look more realistic and I saw some new running animations that weren’t in the game before. One particular play comes to mind when I was playing a game with the Syracuse Orange vs the Boston College Eagles. The BC running back slipped outside only to be met by one of my Syracuse defenders who attempted to bring him down around his ankles. The Eagle back was able to pull his legs out from my player’s arms, stumbled for a few yards, and regained his balance by placing his hand on the ground, and scampered the rest of the way for a score. It was sick play to see unfold and I replayed it a few times.
Other other noticeable improvements is the way the defense plays, especially in relation to the zones. Last year it was way too easy to pass on the defense, as the defenders were too rigid in their zone assignments. This year, they seemed to be more alert and played the ball rather than just stay in whatever their zone assignment was. Certain post plays that were money last year, aren’t as effective in NCAA Football 12 as the safeties break on the ball quicker. Of course ratings do come into play, so the results will vary but I was happy to see you couldn’t abuse certain plays as much as you could last year. The defense also reacts to the flats better so you won’t be able to make a living soley off that play.
Man defense has also been ratcheted up. Sometimes it’s almost too good as I noticed the defensive backs play the routes better than the receivers almost as if they were physic. That’s not to say passing against man defense is going to be impossible because it’s not, you’re just going to have to be much more careful this year and not just sling the ball up.
Graphically the game still looks good and has received a few upgrades. The 3D grass looks very good, as does the dreadlocks flowing out from the helmets.
Now let’s talk about my favorite part, the Online Dynasty mode. New this year is the ability to play as either a defensive or offensive coordinator, giving games a bit of a twist. Whichever job you decide to take, you’ll only control that side of the ball. So if you decide to dive in as a d-coordinator, you’ll only call the plays when the defense is on the field, the offense will be in the cpu hands. There will be a set of goals you’ll have to reach by the end of the season and how many you fulfill will determine whether you get the axe or get to stay on. At the end of the season you’ll get to view the new coaching carousel that lets you keep tabs on all the comings and goings of the all the coaches in your league. As you go through your career you’ll field certain job offers depending on how well you do. Having this option is going to open up a ton of scenarios as you navigate your career.
Recruiting remains unchanged from last year and that’s a good thing because I thought it worked well. One neat thing they added was a menu that helped you keep tab on your pipeline states and how many players you had on your roster from a particular state. It even showed you the pipelines you were in danger of losing the following season. A great feature that eliminates any guess work.
Custom playbooks are something else we can look forward to this year. Having the ability to tweak a playbook to your liking is going to be a powerful tool. You can remove entire formations in a playbook and start from the ground up, or you can tweak a few plays. Whatever route you decide to go, the choice is yours.
In closing NCAA Football 12 is a great game that does just enough to make you forget about it’s predecessor. Improved presentation, graphics and just enough enhancements to the gameplay and dynasty mode should keep fans happy for another season.
Block Muzik Radio Rating: 9.0