Review: NCAA Football 2012
By: Jeff Rivera
Each year NCAA Football releases and serves as a kickoff to the hype for the return of America's greatest team sport. When you pop in NCAA Football and hear your team's fight song, see images of their home stadium, and start whipping your rivals, you can't help but to get excited. With every passing year, EA Sports works to refine the NCAA Football franchise to make it deliver the most authentic college sports experience possible rather than merely putting out an appetizer to Madden. Over the years the franchise has struggled to reach greatness, but minor steps have been made forward. This year, it seems as if EA Sports is finally beginning to reap the benefits of years of refinement as NCAA Footbally 2012 provides a great package for fans of college football.
The first thing you'll notice is the excellent ESPN-infused presentation. Even better than in year's past, NCAA Football 2012 makes it feel as if you're watching an ESPN program leading up to kickoff. Once the games start, not much is different in regards to the presentation from past years. The same sorts of commentary are offered as well as the familiar celebrations and stadium ambience.
Along with the better presentation, the gameplay is notably improved in several areas. Tiburon incorporated a revamped tackling system into the game that makes hits much more realistic and the running game is definitely benefited greatly by it. Runs up the middle used to be doomed to a vacuum effect where linemen or linebackers would magically disengage from blocks to snipe the ball carrier. Now the tackling is a lot more fair as they've also made it harder to slip out of tackles and to juke around defenders. All in all, it makes for something that more accurately mirrors what you see every Saturday on TV.
The passing game feels very similar to what we had last year, but I feel that there are less cheese plays. It does seem as if passes to the RBs are still a little too easy to execute, but they're not game breakers. Passes deep down the middle are almost never completed unless the defense is out of position, just as it should be.
One thing I found to be annoying was how frequent players are injured. You can turn injuries off in the options, but if you're aiming for realism you'd rather let them be a part of the game. The problem is that I've yet to make it through an entire game without taking in multiple injuries, both serious and minor. You're constantly seeing players with back spasms, the wind knocked out of them, bruised arms, or something dumb that keeps them out for a quarter or two. Hopefully a patch comes down from EA Sports to address the frequency of injuries, because it makes Dynasty Modes a little stressful when you feel like your key players are made of glass.
At times you'll also get some weird commentary where the game doesn't quite read the situation correctly, but that's bound to happen in just about any football game. The crowd is also just as ugly as always. It may not be worth taking a performance hit to have nice looking crowds, but I have to think that they could provide a bit more than what we're getting. Both complaints are minor, however, as neither has any impact on the actual gameplay.
The various game modes provide some nice variety. You can play single games in exhibition mode, build a program, superstars, and coaching legends via the Dynasty Modes, play in online matches or leagues, refine your skills in practice modes, or just have some fun with the Mascot games.
I'm the first to admit that I've been mildly disappointed with the last few years in the NCAA Football franchise as I've always felt that some glaring flaw or two would cripple my long-term enjoyment of the game. And while NCAA Football 2012 isn't perfect, it doesn't seem to have anything that jumps out and ruins the experience. It feels as if NCAA Football 2012 is starting to offer up the experience that EA Sports has been striving for and gamers have been asking to get. If you're in need of a football fix, NCAA Football 2012 is a safe bet.
4 Stars out of 5