With NCAA Football 12 EA Sports made some prominent feature additions that were directed primarily at the more hardcore fans of the series while promising some important improvements to gameplay. Following up on Sunday’s full impressions posting what did NCAA Football 12 deliver on and where did it go wrong? Find out in this ‘Hits and Misses’ review.
Though the perception is they are subtle the improvements made on the field are indeed valuable ones. That starts with the new tackling animation system which largely removes suction opening up the field and delivering more sense of control and realism. The defense has been improved making for better balance. Play action can still be questionable at times – varied play fake animations are really needed – but at least it can be inserted back in the gameplan now.
Overall football strategy seems to be rewarded and though there are issues with the CPU’s ability at times they do put up more of an overall challenge. The fun factor in a competitive game against the CPU or head-to-head is considerable and ultimately that can override issues found in other areas at least for a period of time.
The NCAA Football series has provided one of the best franchise/dynasty modes over the years. That continues as the mode adds features like Custom Conferences and the Coaching Carousel. Online Dynasty is still brilliantly implemented and extremely rewarding. Pay-for web features promise some expanded accessibility though the main one, being able to advance weeks from the website, has been delayed to August.
Acting as a coordinator makes for an interesting and unique challenge but the SuperSim feature not being fixed wrecks much of the enjoyment by skewing time of possession and making statistical goals easier to reach. Having no multi-team offline Dynasty has irritated those who were looking forward to competing against friends in person (Update: There has since been a way discovered to do offline multi-team dynasty). Online Dynasty’s wait queue to advance from week to week is completely unacceptable.
Within replays NCAA Football 12 is arguably the best looking sports game to date. The 3D grass makes a huge impact – probably more than most would have expected. The screen capture feature is perfect for snapping the potentially brilliant images and in many cases the results are startlingly life-like. Replays and highlights look great but it’s a shame that once uploaded to the EA Sports website the videos lose a great deal of quality. The progressive lighting is notable and the stadiums hold a strong presence while uniform and field degradation both look great.
Online Dynasty is the biggest factor when considering the title’s suite of online features but it isn’t alone. Standard ranked and unranked games have been performing admirably (lag is limited to affecting mostly just the kick meter) but options such as playing night games are omitted. Despite not getting any love this year Teambuilder is still a great feature though now begging for some improvements. Teambuilder squads can even be used within Online Dynasty (reportedly that is broken right now however) and for unranked games. The ability to stay in and grab screenshots or highlights following completion of online games is much appreciated. Check out more detailed online impressions here.
This is far and away the area the series needs to most rebuild. There is nothing like stale commentary to give the impression that a game hasn’t made necessary strides from year to year. NCAA Football 12 has very little in the way of new or exciting commentary and even the new ‘Game Tracks’ feature which was meant to spice things up is lackluster at best.
Beyond that it is the post-play scenes where NCAA stumbles the most. The camera tends to focus on individuals and show exactly how detached each is from the true emotion of a team sport. Celebrations (except for some touchdown cut scenes) primarily involve a single player fist pumping or something to that effect. Two particular animations stand out and need to be removed via patch. There is one post-play celebration where a player runs upright in a half circle before settling down. The other is a post-tackle animation that leaves the ball carrier looking like they are seizing up on the ground. Both are ridiculous looking and play far too often.
With Madden NFL 12 making a move to television broadcast camera placement the difference between the two series has become stark. The presentation really shouldn’t feature a bunch of players who can’t seem to walk around without bumping into each other after plays finsh. The lack of emotion in general extends beyond just the field as the crowd noise does not have near the effect that it should.
While additions like Coaches’ Trust have added an RPG element so many other things were overlooked that the mode is largely a disappointment. The senior year at high school was expanded to a full season with the ability to play both ways and the scouting element is at first intriguing but overall the experience is simply dull until reaching college. Coaches’ Trust, which provides incentive for positive performance, is a good step towards what is needed to make the mode enjoyable long-term. Progress is made too quickly however and with ratings too where XP is used to purchase boosts.
The biggest problem is still the mode’s favoritism towards positions that rack up stats. Positions don’t get credit for playing well unless there is something to show for it in the stat line. Making things worse the CPU intentionally limits opportunities by pressing their offense the opposite direction when controlling a defensive player (rarely get thrown at as a corner) and leaning heavily towards a different position in calls and execution when an offensive player. CPU play calling is better but there are times where they make poor choices and they don’t run hurry-up in situations where warranted. SuperSim remains broken in handling the play clock.
With additional RPG elements to provide an emotional investment in a character and users being rewarded for excelling at positions and coming up clutch rather than just putting up stats Road to Glory could be a very compelling mode. It’s made some strides but needs some fundamental changes to make that happen. Check out the expanded impressions of Road to Glory here.
For as stunning as NCAA Football 12 is within replays and screenshots it stands out even more how flat it is during actual gameplay. The field comes across looking undefined and field art (even more so when using Teambuilder) is anything but crisp. There are a number of uniform and stadium inaccuracies. The crowd has taken a hit which is especially evident in Road to Glory. It should also be pointed out that the first patch for the game had a detrimental effect on some of the graphics and the PS3 version is worse off across the board compared to the 360 version.
Loading times are amongst the worst in sports gaming and this has been consistent for the whole generation. Though installing to the 360 hard drive improves them they lag even behind last year which was already bad. Menu navigation is not crisp either but that also improves slightly with an install. The PS3 doesn’t have the opportunity to receive those same install benefits.
Requested by the community for years EA Sports finally delivered Custom Playbooks with NCAA 12 (and upcoming in Madden 12) but many will choose to avoid utilizing the feature. A bug was quickly discovered where the playbooks would display no play art, teams would break the huddle in disarray with a bizarre personnel group, and a time out would have to be spent to prevent a penalty. The problem could recur numerous times in a single game.
The culprit of the problem has yet to be nailed down and some have come across it while others have been lucky enough not to. Still just knowing that issue could present itself during the course of a game will make many decide to avoid the risk altogether. There is also some real slowdown experienced when using a custom playbook in the post-play scenes and replays and it makes the play call screen laggier to scroll through.
The feature in general is a bit intimidating too. A base playbook must be picked first and then formations and individual plays can be removed or added. It may have been better to provide an option to start a book from scratch. EA should also consider adding something like a ‘PlayBuilder’ to their web features. It could be more comfortable and convenient to shape a playbook on the computer rather than from the console.
NCAA Football 12 is a game packed full of features that delivers some notable on-the-field advancements. Sadly most of the features don’t realize their full potential and a big one is actually broken. It’s a fun game – which may be worth it just to marvel at the visuals in replays and images – with a rich Dynasty mode. Despite that it still feels like too much was overlooked or unaddressed and it will benefit from having an extra three weeks before it ends up being exposed by Madden 12.