NCAA Football 12 – Very First Impressions

After skipping NCAA Football for the last couple of years, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was semi-excited. Not “I’m about to get laid” excited; let’s call it curiously enthusiastic.

This is going to sound awful, but my first thoughts while beating down the dreaded bumblebees from Tech 35-14: “The game has not progressed; at its roots, this is still the same NCAA Football that I stopped playing due to discontent in the game’s direction.” I gave up on the franchise a couple of years ago because I thought it had been on a downward spiral since the glory days of NCAA 2000-2001, never really captivating me during the PS2 days and of course somewhat lackluster PS3 offerings.

Maybe I just expected too much. Maybe as a former reviewer I stopped appreciating fun, always concentrating on little flaws and gameplay defects. Maybe NCAA Football gave up on me, its core audience from the original PlayStation days.

So here I was last night listening to the same stale and forgettable (dare I say terrible?) commentary that seems to be impossible for the development team to improve. The in-game presentation does not at all seem fresh; far from an ESPN Game Day experience. Did I just see frame-rate stuttering as the players ran to the line of scrimmage? I know I did not just see one of those crazy-ass superhuman, no way that could happen in real life, CPU ball carriers speeding up, skipping multiple frame rates, just to make a first down. Say it’s not true …

I know I am only a few games in, but what’s the point of sportsmanship points when the game’s AI doesn’t seem to understand the concept? As an example, my beloved Dawgs were trashing the fighting chickens of South Carolina (hey, I can dream of future days), 38-0 deep in the 4th QTR; I did a quick out play … mainly because I was still learning the playbook and wanted to practice the play to get the timing down. I got docked -75 sportsmanship points. A few plays later, as time was running out, I kicked a FG, just because I could and I am all for knocking the Gamecocks’ in the teeth. Guess what? +12 sportsmanship points. That makes sense.

I am sure (probably) that as I play more, I am going to uncover actual gameplay elements that make me looked bemused – wow, the gameplay is really improved. Look at those attack angles, look at the closing distance; those DBs are really playing zone defense correctly. Or maybe not; such is the life of a jaded, former reviewer.

Hopefully under the covers, I will actually discover some fun. The greatest compliment to this game will be me falling in love enough to start a Chronicles series, and maybe, just maybe pass up Madden 12.

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