After a week of time with the game, the one thing I have realized is what I have already described; under the covers the game may have moved forward with subtle AI improvements, but to the casual eye NCAA Football 12 is light years behind other franchises such as FIFA (overall experience; career development), MLB: The Show (presentation; gameplay), and even EA’s own Madden (presentation).
Let’s face it, looks are everything; from a casual gaming standpoint the graphics just don’t hold up. I am not sure how best to describe the graphics engine, it just looks dated. I think so much more could be done on the field, with the animations, and with the overall “experience” – stadiums, crowds, sidelines, etc. The developers looked like they put a lot of time into all the pregame activities – in my opinion that time could have been better spent adding more individual player animations.
I understand that the 360 version looks better than the flat and stale PS3 version; apparently that has been the case for years. Look at MLB: The Show and it is obvious more can be done in this regard on the PS3.
The presentation sucks; plain and simple. Everything about it – commentary, sideline reporting, replays, atmosphere, and so on are lackluster at best. If EA spent the time to overhaul the presentation, I think the game would really hold gamers (casual and simulation fans) attention for the long haul.
Of course graphics are not everything (contrary to what I just wrote); gameplay actually matters if a game is going to hold up and have any lasting power. The only thing I wonder right now is if NCAA Football 12 will hold up past the release of Madden 12. Too soon to tell, but over the years I have a tendency to concentrate on one game over the other; with Madden winning out over the last 3-4 releases, which coincides with the purchase of my Falcons season tickets.
I have not touched online gaming yet; doubt I will as none of my friends have bothered to pick up NCAA Football 12, and I hate playing random games with strangers. Same for online Dynasty; soon enough on that one in order to unlock one of the Trophies. I have also not had time to jump into a Road for Glory session, which is probably just the old Race for the Heisman or Campus Legend mode renamed and tagged as a new feature.
I have spent several hours with the Dynasty mode. I started my career as an offensive coordinator at Mississippi St. In our first year we went 11-1, winning 10 in a row after losing in the closing seconds to Auburn in Week 2. Next up is the SEC Championship game against 11-1 (9-0) Texas A&M. What? Yes, I realigned into a SEC Super Conference (Texas & Memphis to the West; Clemson and Texas A&M to the East) since I am a Trophy whore, and a Trophy or two was on offer just for doing the needful.
Did I mention that we beat Alabama, however a 1 loss Alabama team still managed to end up 4th, while the SEC West best Mississippi St. Bulldogs could only manage 5th?
Obviously the polls (after years and years and years) are still broken, which is really unacceptable at this point. If nothing else players should have an option to override anything that is just ridiculous. In real life everyone knows a strong team can (usually, with some luck) overcome a Week 2 loss. Alabama should not have been able to hold position over Mississippi St. after taking it on the chin in Week 11.
I am enjoying Dynasty mode from a coaching perspective; i.e. just calling offensive plays. It is kind of interesting watching play action, draws, and screens because they are very much indicative of my in-game play experience. Play actions look to be really hit or miss; hopefully a patch will offer some improvements. Draws work great, when called at the right time; i.e. if the defense expects a pass or is presenting a heavy outside rushing attack. Screen plays seem completely broken; when I am controlling the QB, I could understand wrecking the play by releasing the ball too early or too late, but watching the AI controlled simulation unfold shows me just how busted screens are in this game.
I am not sure about the Super Sim feature; certainly progresses the games really quickly, but time of possession seems way out of balance, and the actual statistics deserve a second look. Then again, how different is that compared to games where I control the action on the field? Like years passed, most CPU possessions are really short, ending in a bomb that I cannot stop, or a long TD rush because I cannot close down gaps, or worse yet, ending in some sort of miracle completion, as a pass bounces off the back of my CB, and somehow into the arms of the AI receiver surrounded by three DBs. Yep, that animation is still (unfortunately) in the game.
Unlike past years, as I play with the sliders, I am seeing a few decent 10+ play AI controlled drives, but these are the exceptions. The sliders for some penalty settings just do not work (offensive or defensive pass interference), while some work too well (off sides, holding). Patch please.
EA has also given Dynasty fans the ability to pay real duckets to improve recruiting. $24.99 for the full pack? No thanks.
I love the option offense; works like a charm, especially with a team like Mississippi St. I like the control over the RBs, although I swear (usually in a loud outburst) that the AI cheats and comes out of nowhere to close down a once wide open gap.
I have read that there is a custom playbook glitz, although I have not come across it. Not that UGA would ever do it in real life (not SEC’ish, not enough quality HBs, offense not run by a scrambling QB), but I added the Wishbone to the Dawgs playbook, mainly to run the triple option. It didn’t hurt that the game offers Trophies for a custom playbook and for have a FB score a TD out of a triple option. Besides, I just like to run option plays.
This article seems mostly negative, and to a certain degree that is the case, but NCAA Football 12 also offers up a certain fun factor. Maybe it is because I have been on the sidelines for a while, or maybe college football just holds a certain appeal. If the developers can patch in some gameplay improvements I can see me playing this one deep into the fall, but otherwise I expect that the wind will eventually blow in Madden’s direction.