Review: NCAA Football 12 (PS3)

Title: NCAA Football 12
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Tiburon
Price: $59.99

I love College Football, but really only when it pertains to the Wisconsin Badgers. I’m not one of those people that likes to create a player and build him up over 4 years etc. I just like to play the game, and kick some butt in hopes to making it to a Bowl Game. You’ll see other reviews out there written by people that recognize if a uniform isn’t accurate, or if there aren’t the correct number of sections in the stadium. My focus in this review is about the meat of the game; how it looks, how it plays, and if it satisfies my Badger Football cravings. For the meticulous technical stuff, this review is NOT for you.

Gameplay:
I’m not going to bore you with what every button does where, but I will say, this is the best an EA Football game has ever felt. The running game especially is so well done this year, and those hitches when the ball is hiked, gone. This is the classic interface that we’ve seen over the past few years, and with some refinemtents this year, they’ve done a great job at streamlining the entire experience.

The passing game is pretty-much what you’d expect, and Play Action doesn’t result in a sack every time now, which is welcome change. The biggest gameplay change though, is definitely the running game. It’s hard to actually describe, but it “feels” so natural now. Your runner will bounce off of defenders the way that you’d expect, he’ll roll away from a gang-tackle if you’re quick enough on the right stick, and the motion just feels so much better this time around. Even draw plays work this year, where in years past it would almost certainly result in a tackle behind the line.

Running still isn’t perfect, but neither is it in real-life. Your Fullback will miss a block occasionally, and sometimes your Tight End will cut too early when blocking, but again, that happens in real-life as well. Screen passes actually work too, instead of being spied every time. Your Tight End will actually make an effort to keep his feet inbounds when there’s a close throw, something that happens out of Play Action quite a bit when I’m playing because well, I’m old.

Passing overall is pretty tight, but it does still feel like defenders have this ability to just jump a route from ten yards away. It’s not as frequent as in past years, but there have been occasions still, and it was frustrating. Better though, is that it seems like there’s a better opportunity to connect downfield with a covered receiver, where in years past it would be swatted-away nine times out of ten. All of this is tied-in to a pretty refined play calling system that works extremely well. I never felt rushed or confused about play to call. I’m pretty simople though, as I can play an entire game using on I-Formation, but that’s only in certain games.

Defense has also been refined, including the ability to click the left stick to bring the camera behind the player you’re using instead of the camera always behind the offense. It’s pretty sweet to be able to click that quick for a different read on the Offense. Getting past the O-Line feels a lot better this year, and it’s much easier to identify mis-matches at the line. Pass defense though, still needs a bit of work. Your defenders will do what they’re supposed to do more than in past games, but even when I had a ball thrown directly into my Safety’s hands, with no one around him for at least 5 yards, he still couldn’t catch the ball for an interception. For some reason, Interception’s still feel like there’s a dice roll controlling whether your defender will catch the ball or not, since the ones I actually did catch seemed FAR tougher (maybe this is just sour grapes though.)

Kicking is petty standard, and hasn’t seemed to have changed much, which is fine. It’s still using the “pull the right stick back, then push forward” method, but it works, so I’m fine with it. Can I say again though, that the running game is SO good this year? Really, it’s awesome!

One piece that I really do want to complain about though, is the fact that there’s not simply a “Season” mode. Instead, you can either build a character and work him through his College Career, or start a “Dynasty” in which you have to run all of the aspects of a team, including recruting players and running the day-to-day stuff. Well, I don’t want to do any of that crap. I just want to start a season and play through it. Honestly, I hate that they’ve taken a simple season mode away, and am thankful that at least in Dynastly mode, you can have the CPU handle most of that stuff.

Visuals:
EA Sports did something wonderful with the games visuals this year. It looks so natural in terms of the turf, the lighting, the stadiums, and the players themselves. The turf looks great this year, as do the stadiums. With the addition of a new HDR lighting system this year, everythign just looks more natural than any other Football game that I’ve played. Also, the framerate has definitely gotten a boost this year, with a lot less hitching and much better animations and transitions.

Some things are still not perfect, like when a highlight is shown at halftime or at the end of the game. Implemented this year is an actual day-to-night transition in the lighting and in the sky itself. But if a replay from earlier in the game is run, the lighting etc kinda freak-out for a second or two, but nothing here that detracts from the actual game. At a few other times you may see a quick glitch, or framerate change, but again, it never really affects gameplay, which is key. Also, you have the ability to save highlight photographs and videos that can be accessed in-game and on the EA Webpage, which is a great way to share with your friends. The photos, two of which you see below, really look great too. You only get so many slots though, unless you want to buy more…

All-in-all though, this is a great looking Football game, probably one of the best visually. The new engine is quite impressive, and even with some of the weird glitches, it’s beautiful to look at in any situation. It’s also cool to actually see activity around the stadium during gameplay, epsecially with the mascots that roam around the perimeter of the field. You catch a glimpse of the mascot trying to rile the crowd up, or even doing some cool gymnastics moves. It feels a lot less “pre-canned” this year for sure.

Audio:
As usual, the sound is superb. The announcers keep-up with the action, and everything on the field has that grittiness and impact that you’d expect. Well done also is how the crowd audio is handled, well, mostly,.What’s there is great, but a couple aspects in terms of specific atmosphere are still missing. First, when I attempt to fire the crowd up, at home, before a pivotal play, the crowd sometimes is essentially silent. It only seemed to really ratchet things up when I scored or when it was 3rd/4th down. Also, not an audio thing really, but they still don’t have Bucky doing pushup’s when the Badgers score a touchdown, which is really disappointing,

Online/Multiplayer:
As with most of the EA games this past year, included in the package is the code for your online pass. When you get online, you can either choose to do a quick match in ranked or unranked, or you can scroll more to the right to find the lobbies. The system is very straightforward and works well.

Online play is as solid as you’d expect from EA Sports. It still has that little twinge of lag that I think we’ll always have, but the game is incredibly playable online. Lobbies are available, as well as the opportunities to hook-up a Quick-Match in Ranked or Unranked varieties, and of course, you can always setup your own game for someone else to join. Voice Chat sounds good, and the responsiveness is exactly what I expected. Just don’t think that it’s going to play like the Single Player. If you do, prepare for frustration.

Conclusion:
It’s been a long time since a Football game has felt as refreshing and new as NCAA 12. It’s still sitting on the foundation that’s been established over the last few years, but the leap that the visuals have taken is noticeable, and the refinements to the running game are welcome and bring a huge new element to the game as a whole. I only wish that they would have included a simple “season” mode for those of us that don’t want to deal with managing other aspects of the team. The bottom line though, is that I am thoroughly enjoying NCAA 12, and it’s definitely one the best Football games that I’ve ever played. Go Badgers!

Score:
8.5

Video – 1 full quarter of online play:

Gallery:

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Bucky!? I didnt know Captain America had an NCAA team…odd though, i don’t remember anything about a badger in the comics.
    HAHA

  • I would have to disagree with you about the gameplay. I really don’t like the running in this game. The size of the players makes no difference. A 6’4″, 240 pound running back will NEVER be trucked by a 5’10” 190 pound cornerback in real life, but it is still happens in the game. Realistically, the running back will fall forward for a couple extra yards. Also, cutbacks are non-existent. There is no change in momentum when my player completely changes direction. In the passing games, DBs that aren’t even looking at the ball, put there hand up and bat it down to prevent a huge gain for my offense. And the reason for all of the dropped INT’s is that the AI passing decisions are terrible, so to balance it out, (so computer qb’s dont throw 10 picks) there are ALOT of dropped interceptions.