NCAA Football 12


Cascading concrete block menus take players through an amazing PlayStation 3 football experience based on 120 featured colleges teams. Players can play customized coaches or players through their careers or have total control with dynasty building game modes.

EA Sports definitely pulls players toward deeper involvement, higher replay options, and unique role-playing options. This year immense options offer several scenarios for fans while 1-button play, mascot mash-up, and other modes offer nice all-age options for novices working their way up to the big time.

In NCAA Football 12 players can always skip the detailed play by “supersiming” games versus the CPU to enjoy the bigger picture. The returning teambuilder mode has great customization where players can build several game elements for their school including uniforms and rosters.

The injury settings default is not as high this year. The “ice the kicker” timeout option returns while new functions like defensive assist (hold x button) help novices get back in their original position to avoid embarrassment. The familiar season menu morphs into the other modes well including Season Showdown where player performances translate into bragging rights for a chosen school.

Wanna-be coaches can now take the reins, but, like the players, not enough options exist to mirror someone exactly. A camera snapshot mode would be nice for coach face profiles, but players always have helmets on, so not enough evidence to warrant that option. Coaches and players always have associated statistics (e.g. trust level or performance score). Points and achievements often get more attention than results.

Online play requires players to activate the online pass included in new games or purchase a pass. Passes also provide additional benefits like recruiting reports in the Dynasty Mode. Players can begin playing up to 11 other teams and keep their dynasty for 60 years. As last year, players can manage online dynasty activities using an iPhone, PC or even an iPad. Online games can be found in quick match mode (ranked or unranked), lobby searches, or hosting. Lag only becomes a major issue on kicks where there is a noticeable delay, so hit the X button a little early for best results.

Voice chat and headset options are great for friendly play and smack talk among friends…or strangers. Developers should take out the controller icons during online play because players might think they can jump in. It would be great to have a four co-op online play option. Throwing a challenge flag (start button) works in other modes, but not while playing online. This option should be available any time and in any mode to reflect real scenarios and reduce player frustration.

Dynasty features have high content ideal for multi-taskers and experienced players. Players can communicate with friends through messaging, invites, and voice chat options while uploading then sharing gameplay highlight videos and pictures (automatically archived). Players can share highlights and view them within the game. This saved cache has a memory limit, but players can purchase expanded options.

The coaching modes offer a nice break from movements and can be used in the online dynasties. The customization process works well except for some redo when you skip to options further down the column. Players can press the R3 button during games for a nice preplay menu set in a row right above the bottom scoreboard. One of the preplay menu options includes pumping up the crowd with the R stick, but that can produce an offsides penalty without careful movement. Coaches do not use the kicking gauge, but still must perform hikes (x button).

The Road to Glory mode includes an Iron Man mode where players can try both positions. The beginning high school gameplay allows only one play at a time (now co-op play here either). Players can watch the play, skip the play, skip ahead (choose how far), or wait until their time on field. Skipping too much hurts opportunities for more college choices, recruiting points, and other performance benefits. Signing day offers the accrued college choices while adding a combine rating.

Players can then enjoy several college activities including earning coach trust, playing, practicing, buying skills, or advancing through weeks. Practice sessions are usually harder than the games as players lose trust for negative yardage and turnovers. The pressure can build quickly, but seeing gameplay as a string of opportunities helps. As a quarterback, points for shaking off sack attempts and blocking for runners would be a nice addition next year though game developers do give points for juke moves.

The brilliant graphics shine with a new high dynamic range (HDR) lighting system and only dims on minor help graphics where moving, squiggly lined pass routes appear on the field and the usual clipping issues like the field goal net going right through a photographer. It would be great to see mud on the uniforms and torn-up turf more.The menus lag a bit while load times work well in most situations.

Improved player movements include realistic leans, big hits, and pushbacks where players feel they are fighting for every yard. Weather effects like rain provide sharp enhancements and they do not hurt performance levels. Pre-game traditions and special fan signs add detailed amusement amid gameplay.

The gameplay mechanics and improved AI combine with the smooth dual stick controls. The main challenge is passing to receivers. Without changing the settings, receivers needs lots of space because the default defender settings have them closing in fast. It is possible to squeeze in the occasional long pass, but make sure have angle and lots of space. Screen plays and roll outs work great, especially for QB completion statistics.

Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit handle the announcing duties well. Their dialogue includes not-so-subtle hints to players regarding strategies and play calling (e.g. “to even the score, they need to get an onside kick”). No in-between reactions to dialogues phrases like “he got tattooed on that one”. They either prompt a quick snicker or a confusing head shake. Erin Andrews still has sideline duty. Last year’s edition let players add up 50 of their own sound files to 20 different game scenarios. This year’s edition lets players choose sounds in custom stadium SFX options.

USC and Ohio State fans have no restrictions here thanks to highly customizable divisions. Players can make the high hopes of each promising season a reality. Each division has a four-team minimum and a 16 team maximum. Players can change bowl set-ups but not the ultimate national championship format. The no huddle offense lets players choose plays quickly without skipping a beat, which saves time compared to alternative methods like calling audibles. Playbook customization takes the most time, but can boost the experience, especially for expert players.

This highly recommended game (***1/2 out of four stars) has a gold mine of unlockables, extra skills, add-on content, scholarship points, and endless gameplay adjustment options. Pre-game preparation makes a big difference, especially when battling players who love hurry up offenses and select their plays very quickly. Also available on Xbox 360. Sorry, no PlayStation 2 or mobile phone versions in this edition.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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