With the first review of this here blog, I figured why not feature my famous love-child, the only reason I own an Xbox 360, and a game by EA Sports that has started to disappoint me only SLIGHTLY less than the developer’s Madden franchise has: NCAA Football 2012. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize the cover in this post though folks, its a custom cover, akin to those of the early 2000s. And yes, it is pretty dope.
Given pro-football’s popularity nationwide, the NCAA franchise has long been considered Madden’s red-headed stepchild. It routinely adopted Madden features a year after they were unveiled and for those of us just getting into the game it was plagued with a nameless roster. The first few installments I bought never had edited rosters and I played with QB #1 passing to WR #2 getting tackled by MLB #45. Gross.
In recent years, however, it appeared Madden had taken a tract towards appeasing the masses and NCAA became a safe-haven for “sim” football gamers. (In any sports title being “sim” simply means it tries to replicate the actual sport rather than a arcade-ish cluster cake of quick buttoned fan boys winning games 70-65) This year Madden has seemed to return to its ways of sim, but NCAA still has the edge, and likely always will. After a disappointing release for NCAA 11 (termed NCAA 10.5 by most of the gaming community), it was time for the series to knock our socks off in 2012. While I love the game and it is extremely polished compared to any other installment on the Xbox 360, it still seems like its a little bit behind the times. Maybe it is what NCAA 11 should have been.
The gameplay is fantastic, as they added a New Tackling Engine that allows players to fluidly break tackles and it makes for a lot of really neat animations. A great thing about that is its responsive to the user’s controls and not a string of animations. The “120 Ways to Win” is also back which is really what makes NCAA special to me. It really feels different when you are playing with different teams, and the addition of Custom Playbooks really makes it so that there are an infinite number of ways to win. Dynasty had a few enhancements also, such as Coaching Carousel and Editable Conferences, which really make the dynamic landscape of college football feel just as it should. Little things like bowl patches also add a lot in my opinion.
Now to the downside. Don’t market dreads if they are going to look like shit. Plain and simple. That’s a small feature that was done horribly wrong. Not only is hair not an editable option, but its tied to the face your player has; every player with those long, ugly dreads has the same face. There is “3D Grass” but in instant replay mode it ruins half of the photos I try to take because it is set up on an ill-constructed grid. The Coaching Carousel is awesome, but let us hire our own staff, guys! The game was plagued with bugs the first few months after release where it made it virtually impossible to run an effective no-huddle, and custom playbooks was a great feature, but it was simply re-introduced from last-gen titles. We shouldn’t still be waiting for features to return that were on NCAA 2006.
Also, I hate to be debbie downer, but I don’t care about all these Authentic Traditions and animations that most fans NEVER see. Go the Madden route and try to replicate a TV broadcast! Sure, what you have now is neat, but couldn’t you be spending your time on something like giving us a Spring Game back in dynasty mode rather than creating team-specific cut scenes that we all skip after the first week anyway?
I am probably more critical of this game than any game I play because I know its potential. I’m scared of my college football bias, and slant towards these kind of games, but when you consider the bugs, the old features still missing, and the useless, stale features like authentic traditions and road to glory mode, and I’m giving this game a 7.5 out of 10. Decent.