I love fall; football is in full effect and the weather is just perfect. With the lockout of the NFL still looming, college football may be the only gridiron we see this year. EA Sports has wasted no time in starting it off right with NCAA Football 12. While it doesn’t exactly bring much in the way of features that look good in bullet points on the back of the box; there are so many changes packed away that most of them are likely to go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Still if you are ready to kick-start the football season, there is no better place to start.
First up on the agenda is the presentation. ESPN integration has been there in the past, but this year it is in full force. Previews for the matchups are fantastic, with dynamic camera angles that make you feel like you are watching coverage right from the sports giant. The attention to detail is also immaculate, as each team has signature introductions such as being lead onto the field by the mascot or slapping a sign in the locker room. All of this really adds to the illusion that you are part of this storied franchise, as well as part of the team.
The presentation also spills into the visuals, which have received a slight upgrade from last year’s version. The most noticeable of these changes are the new tackle animations. Much like its NFL brother, NCAA now features more realistic tackle animations that add to the thrill of the hit. The stadiums also feel more alive with details, especially the 3D grass that truly stands out during replays. This is one incredible looking game, and you can spend forever staring at the replays and finding it harder to point out the blemishes in the games.
The modes for NCAA 12 are pretty much the same as last year and are basically tweaked much like the rest of the game. Dynasty is still here, along with Team Builder and Road to Glory. Dynasty has a new customization option that allows you to tweak each and every aspect of the experience. You can create a coach and even choose to only be the offensive or defensive coordinator meaning you only play one side of the ball the entire season. Points are awarded for your skills and your contract is based on your performance. You can even move around divisions and rename them to your heart’s content, creating your own customized experience. The entire Dynasty mode is packed with as little or as much as you want and without knowledge of contracts, recruiting and the like, it can be overwhelming.
Road to Glory mode has also received a handful of much needed improvements, including ample time to develop your player at a high school level. Think of it as a football RPG and you get the idea. You earn experience points based on your performance and position that gives you a chance to move from the bench to the headlines. The more you earn, the more control you have over what you do on the field. You can also earn boosters that are good for career or one-off games, but they tend to be a bit overpowered. Overall, Road to Glory is now a complete experience in and of itself and the improvements are to thank for that.
Online Dynasty also returns allowing you to handle things online via a PC. This remains mostly untouched and still somehow the best Dynasty mode in any sports game, period. Setting up a league with your buddies is still awesome, even without any changes to the core mechanic.
Another area that hasn’t received much attention is the gameplay, and I stand by the old credo, “If it isn’t broke-” This holds true for NCAA 12 in every aspect. The game plays fantastically, just like you remember it from last year. Passing is slick, running is spot-on and even defense is more enjoyable thanks to the improvements over the years. There really isn’t much more you could ask for when it comes to the actual gameplay. Tiburon has, once again, included the one-button mode for casual players making it pretty much open to all skill levels.
NCAA Football 12 is simply loaded with content, as always, and most of what is here will seem familiar on the surface. Those that really dive into the meat of the game, though, will find so many welcome changes that it is hard not to appreciate what Tiburon has done here. What hasn’t changed is really not broken, and what has been fixed, makes the experience that much more enthralling. Every year, it feels like we are on repeat, but NCAA Football is still one of the best franchises coming out of EA Sports year-in and year-out. If you are a fan, you likely already went out and bought a copy, but if you are on the fence, there should be nothing holding you back from taking the plunge. NCAA 12 is still the best in its class, and quite possibly one of the best sports games currently on the market.
Review copy provided by publisher.