- Publisher: EA Sports
- Developer: Tiburon
- ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
- Genre: Sports
- Pros: Great presentation; fun gameplay; custom conferences; coaching carousel; 'dat grass
- Cons: Hang ups during gameplay; injuries; penalties
All About Tradition
The first thing you'll notice about NCAA Football 12 is that is has a lot more little details that make for a more realistic representation of college football. Tunnel entrances and touch traditions (where players touch a sign or statue or something else important to their school) as well as animal mascots on the field during intros pair with some nifty new camera angles, shots of crazy fans, and all of the school fight songs to really up the presentation level. These things don't seem like a big deal, but when you are a student or alumni at these schools, and know all of the traditions, it is cool to actually see them in the game. The ESPN integration in the presentation also makes each game look and sound just like real games on the network. Even the start menu has that College Gameday flair to it.
Modes include all of the expected stuff, but with some new tweaks. Dynasty Mode now has a ton of customization features, such as being able to create custom conferences and even change automatic qualifying conferences for BCS Bowls. Dynasty also changes things up where you can choose to start out as a coordinator instead of a head coach (and can only actually play the side of the ball you're the coach of - offense or defense) and really work your way up through the coaching ranks to better positions at better schools. It is a bit annoying that you are still fully in charge of recruiting even if you are just a coordinator, but that is something to work on next year I guess.
Road to Glory has also seen some improvements. Now you play a full high school season instead of just the state playoffs with your player before you head off to college. You also can play on both sides of the ball, which is very cool. The XP system has also changed to be rather RPG-like as everything you do raises or lowers your point total. As you earn points to "level up", your role on the team changes from a player who can only do as they are told on the field to a player with a lot more control.
Other modes are just as you expect. Practice, exhibition, custom player and team builder, online play, and all the rest. Online Dynasty also makes its return and is just as good as ever. Screwing over your friends by sniping their prized recruits never gets old.
I did notice a couple of negatives, though. The problem of having way too many penalties called, which was mostly eliminated in NCAA Football 11, seems to be back. Expect momentum-destroying holding penalties a half-dozen times per game. I know that is realistic, and there is holding on pretty much every play anyway, but it just isn't fun. Injuries also seem to come at a pretty unreasonable pace. My star halfback missed at least one quarter of every game due to injury before breaking his leg in the 10th game and being out for the season (and he was a lock to win the Heisman before that, too). His backup got knocked out of games pretty regularly after that as well. Maybe I'm just hard on my players, I don't know. Also, similar to last year, the game has a habit of slowing to a crawl (seems like it locks up for a few seconds) before slowly chugging back to life during gameplay. These hang ups don't have a negative impact on what happens on the field, really, they are just annoying.
Graphically, NCAA Football 12 is a great looking games. The stadiums are detailed and look good, the fans are acceptable, and the interface and overlays are pretty much perfect. The action on the field is also pretty spectacular looking with detailed, properly proportioned players and great animation. The field itself is also noteworthy this year thanks to the return of 3D grass. Remember when the Xbox 360 launched and the sports games all had fluffy, cool looking grass? Well, it is back now and actually looks good this time around.
The sound is fairly good, but the commentary is somewhat weak. Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit do a good enough job, but repeat the same stuff a lot and often seem sort of bored. Once again, the absence of Lee Corso leaves a big hole in how exciting the games could be.
All in all, NCAA Football 12 is a great entry in the series and well worth picking up for college football fans. The gameplay is as solid as ever, but the addition of customizable conferences and BCS rules means that the game is both a solid simulation of real college football as well as a sort of sandbox that lets you set things up and play them out however you want, corporate moneyhatting to keep the little guys down be damned. The changes to dynasty and Road to Glory also make for a fresh and interesting experience compared to years past. NCAA Football 12 is a great game all around, and highly recommended for a purchase.