NCAA Football 2011 is considered one of the top sports games of last year along with NBA 2K11 and MLB 11: The Show. It actually might have ousted both 2K and MLB, at least in the eyes of sports-video game fans.
There have been a number of problems when it comes to sports games, such as magnet catches and hands going through people, so how does NCAA Football 2012 address these problems? Do they even address them at all? Do they do anything new for the series?
EA Tiburon has a resounding answer for all three questions: Yes.
The thing about sports games is that there’s no real pre-made story mode. Essentially, story mode will be some sort of Dynasty or Association mode where one manages a team and brings them together for the common goal of winning a championship. The closest thing to an actual story mode I’ve seen is NBA 2K11′s Michael Jordan mode or any of the “relive a moment” modes. NCAA doesn’t have any of these particular modes, but it has a very strong Dynasty mode for people to create their own moments or stories.
The biggest addition to NCAA’s Dynasty mode is the coaching carousel. It’s a very immersive addition that allows you to get job offers year by year. Let’s say one is the head coach of FIU. You have a breakout season and FSU sees potential. They might offer a job as an offensive coordinator for their program. This position, even though it’s not head coach, is more prestigious than anything FIU can offer.
Of course, it’s college football. Prestige plays a big role; especially in recruiting high schoolers. One of my favorite aspects of the game, although it may sound silly, is not actually playing out football. I feel like 75% of the time I’m preparing my team and making phone calls to high school prospects. This makes each game feel more significant and allows me to understand just how much control I have in pushing my team to the school’s expectations.
There’s also the Road to Glory mode, which allows one to take control of a high school senior and get him recruited by a college going for a Heisman and a championship. It’s not as immersive as Dynasty mode due to the lack of change in camera positioning.
Art and Sound
When it comes to art and sound in a sports game there are some obvious restrictions. If the game is going for realism it’s not going to have some sort of mind-blowing art direction. It can, however, have realistic looking players, fans, etc. This game, very much so, succeeds when it comes to the football players and the college tradition pieces.
If I’m playing as FSU they would come out hyped and prepped to play with my star half-back’s long dreads flowing. Shortly after would be the school’s Seminole mascot ready to send the fans into a frenzy. It’s then that I really feel immersed.
Too bad I can’t say I feel the same shortly after, because the fan animations could use some work. The fans still feel like robots, and when I’m actually playing the game, I would like the fan background to not feel so flat and un-animated.
As far as sound goes, it’s solid as usual. The commentary keeps up with the action, but the sound truly stands out with the fans. Fans in certain stadiums can get viciously loud, shaking up the away team.
The gameplay to NCAA Football 2012 is very, very good. It has to be if I’m so immersed in actually preparing for a game. The new tackling animations don’t feel unrealistically sudden, hands don’t go through other players, and playbook customization is as deep as ever. This allows players to tailor their approach to any in-game situation. It makes it so that one can pick their favorite running and passing plays while taking into account the abilities of their players.
They also fixed something that I absolutely disliked in past football games, and that’s magnet hands. Sometimes a throw would be made and a safety would jump into the air going for a catch. No regular football player would make that catch, yet this safety makes it, because his hands somehow make him zoom all the way to the ball in his mid-air animation. It didn’t look realistic and it made a lot of people upset, especially in late game situations. They fixed it, and now the players look as if they actually made the catch with their own skill set.
NCAA Football 2012 isn’t just a game for college football fans. I believe fans of football in general should pick this up. I feel that this series is significantly stronger than the Madden series, and I wish EA would learn from what they did with NCAA and apply it to Madden.
Maybe they have and it will be in Madden 12?
If not, NCAA Football 2012 will satisfy all my football cravings, and also keep me pre-occupied in terms of sports games before NBA 2K12.