2011-07-22

NCAA Football 12 – Finding Ways To Improve

by Yo Snyder

So maybe we’ll have some football this year after all. Well,
regardless of whether or not the lockout situation in the NFL gets
resolved, we knew at the very least we’d have college football, and even
if something were to happen to that, there’s always the virtual
gridiron. Although never truly a replacement for the real thing, the
games are pretty good these days; good enough to satisfy that football
craving that starts up about this time each year. NCAA Football 11
was an all-around solid football game; what was there left to improve.
Well, as it turns out, not a whole lot, at least on the field. However,
some of the surrounding elements needed a few tweaks, and they got them
this year. While not a radical improvement, NCAA Football 12 found a way to get even better.

As we’ve mentioned, most of the tweaks have to do with presentation.
The ESPN license is put to better use than it ever has before. Each game
really feels like it’s being broadcast. While the commentary could use a
little refreshing, it’s still lively and engaging. The on-field intros
are fun, especially for those teams that have specific traditions.
Watching CU herd their buffalo mascot out onto the field or seeing the
Sooners race across the field in a covered wagon is fun and adds to the
college atmosphere of each game. However, seeing these traditional
opening play out for ever game gets a little tedious rather quickly; it
wasn’t long before I found myself skipping right through them. Still,
this is the most broadcast-like presentation I’ve seen for the NCAA
games, and it makes it all that much more fun.

Other tweaks include an overhaul to the Road to Glory mode and some
improvements to Dynasty mode. Road to Glory languished as pretty much
the exact same thing that past couple seasons, but it’s pretty much
all-new this year. Now instead of Erin Andrews following your created
player with mostly generic reports all season, Road to Glory has finally
found a way to make practice matter. After playing through your high
school career (which was expanded a bit this year to help you better
earn your way to the college of your choice), you pick a college to play
for. Once there, you need to start earning your coach’s trust, and if
you’re lower on the depth chart, start earning your way to the top. You
do this by playing well in practice, and when you get the chance, in
actual games. The more your coach trusts you, the more you’ll be able to
do. You won’t be able to do much more than just run the play as called
when you start, but as you progress, you’ll unlock the ability to call
hot routes, do audibles and so forth. You can also earn experience
points to improve your player. Those come a little too easily, but the
points your earn to earn your coach’s trust feels pretty well paced.
All-in-all, it’s a great improvement to Road to Glory, and I hope some
of this find it’s way to the career mode in Madden.

Dynasty mode adds some more options for customizing your experience.
You can switch everything up from conferences to bowl bids. There’s also
some new elements for how you go about your coaching job. When you sign
a contract with a school, there will be certain expectations. For
instance, when I signed with the New Mexico Lobos, I had to make sure I
beat our Mountain West rivals. Meet these expectations and you’ll keep
your job, if you don’t, you may be in the hot seat. You can also try and
earn the attention of other schools. At the end of the season, maybe
you leave your head coaching position at a smaller school to be a
offensive coordinator at a bigger one. If you do take a job as an OC or
DC, you’ll only be able to control that part of the game (but you can
still recruit, which is odd). This whole coaching carousel is a fun
addition to the already excellent Dynasty mode. There’s more fun to be
had with online dynasty, but as I rented the game, I didn’t have access
to these portions (unless I want to pay for an online pass, which I
didn’t).

As I said, on-field the game is pretty much the same as last year,
which isn’t so bad as last year’s game was some solid football. However,
there are a few minor improvements. For one, animation have been
streamlined so when you tackle someone, the players aren’t “sucked”
towards each other. Tackle animation won’t start until you actually
collide with someone, which adds a noticeable fluidity to the game.
Defensive A.I. has been tweaked as well. Especially on the higher
difficulty settings, you’ll notice defenders do a better job of
following and then passing off a receiver to the next defender when
they’re in zone coverage. It’s not a huge change, but one that makes it a
bit more challenging when trying to take advantage of the zone.

All of these tweaks and adjustments add up to a better all football
game, but one that’s not all that radically different from last year’s
excellent effort. Other things, like fully rendered 3D grass feels more
like something in order to have a bullet point on the box then something
that really effects the game. Still, if you’re looking for a football
fix and just can’t wait for the NFL to get their act together or for the
late August release of Madden 12, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy with NCAA Football 12. If you’re a college football super-fan; well then, you must buy this game as it is a fan’s game.