PS3 Review – NCAA Football 12

That special time is upon us again, football fans: NCAA Football 12 is here, and it is better than ever. Pick the turf out of your cleats, wash that jockstrap, it’s time for some football!

While this installment of the game may not feature new modes or anything to that nature, it does feature additions and improvements to existing modes. This includes the Road to Glory mode being completely revamped and overhauled from the ground up, to the Dynasty system getting changes in how the management area works. Point blank, this year’s version of NCAA offers some of the best features that we have seen implemented in the series.

As usual, you can compete with friends locally or through online multiplayer in a one-on-one scenario. The exhibition mode is for the local matches with friends, and for the large part has remained unchanged — but this isn’t a bad thing. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The same could be said for the multiplayer mode. Taking your chances against some of the best NCAA Football players around the world is as easy as ever, offering both ranked and unranked matches, Teambuilder matches, and also custom setup matches. Those looking for more of a community aspect can simply login to the lobby area of the online, allowing you to chat, challenge, and view profiles of other players.

To get a look at the comedic side of things in college football, give the mascot mash-up mode a chance. It lets you play as a team full of mascots and offers an over the top gameplay experience for everyone. The 1-button mode also makes a return for rookies to the game, bringing a simplified control scheme to those new to the series. These are nice extras, but serve as a side-course to the game’s real meat and potatoes.

One of the new additions to the game is the coach mode. Hang up your cleats and put on your coaches hat as you try to “outsmart your opponent”, bringing the strategic aspect to the game. This is much more fun than I initially thought it would be, and reminds me a lot of the NFL Coach game that came out not too long ago. But it’s not without caveat — this mode may not be for everyone.

The two major changes within this year’s NCAA Football title comes with both the Offline/Online Dynasty mode, as well as the Road to Glory mode. The latter which has been completely overhauled for the first time in years.

Once again the Teambuilder mode makes a return, but this time in both RTG and Dynasty modes, rather than just in Dynasty. In this mode essentially you can essentially build any school from the ground up with logos, stadiums, uniforms all how you want it.

In Road to Glory you will take on the role of a created player or current player on a football team. It is up to you to pick the position that you would like when creating your player, as well as appearance and equipment choices. Once your player is created, you will choose your top three schools that you would be interested in receiving a scholarship from, then the real fun in this mode begins. In years past typically you were led through the mode by Erin Andrews and Kirk Herbstreit, but this is no longer the case. You now start the game in high school at the beginning of your senior season. It brought me back to the good ol’ days.

As you progress through the season, scouts will be watching you from all over the country. After every game you are able to choose from a list of scouts that were in attendance and are interested in you, adding them to your list of possible schools. To make yourself more marketable to scouts that are visiting, you can choose to be an “Ironman” by playing both offense and defense. By doing this it will allow you to choose which path you want to stick with in college, whether it be on offense or defense. Upon completing your season whether you have a successful one or not, you must choose the school that you want to attend, and what position you want to take. Cool stuff.

The mode will become even more detailed once you begin playing through your college career. First and foremost is the “Coach’s Trust” part of the game, which is one of the biggest additions in NCAA Football 11. Every aspect of your performance is being constantly evaluated, even after you become a starter. For example, when I took the scholarship from TCU with the runningback I created, I was 4th string on the depth chart. But through hard work at practice, I quickly moved up the depth chart, becoming a starter mid-season.

You always know your stance with the coach by watching the small gauge that is at the bottom of the screen. Once it fills up, if you are not the starter yet at your position, then you will be able to enter a position battle at the next practice (there is one practice a week consisting of 25 plays). Should you win the position battle, you win the next spot. After becoming the starter you can even further the trust the coach has in you by continuing your great performance, earning a total of six more levels after starting for the team. The higher levels allow you to even choose from plays while in the game, but you have to earn a lot of trust to get to these levels. Going for that extra trust is definitely worth it, especially if your athlete is a quarterback.

The other huge addition to this mode are the skill upgrades. Earning your “Coach’s Trust” nets you more playing time which helps you earn more XP points. These points can be spent on both career and weekly skill upgrades that boost your overall attributes. The career ones of course being the more expensive of the two considering they are permanent. These two additions resulted in some of the most fun I’ve had with Road to Glory/Campus Legend since it debuted in the NCAA Football franchise.

This leads us to one of the biggest modes in the game besides online, and that is the Dynasty mode. The greatest thing about Dynasty is that both single-player and multiplayer players can enjoy the game in the way that they want. This is because every aspect of Dynasty is available both online and offline; it is up to you how you want to play it.

This year’s entry focuses more on you as a coach and how you want to manage your team. While all the favorites that made the mode is what it is today make a return, the addition of the coaching aspect is a huge plus. Once starting up the Dynasty you will be required to create a coach, or use a current coach. I for one created a coach with my online Dynasty and restricted it to where we had to start out at one star prestige schools. This is much more realistic in the fact that you have to work your way up the ladder to get that head coach position, because I started out as an offensive coordinator; I had no control over what happened on defense.

When signing your coaching contract you will be presented with several goals, by meeting these you will have a better job security as well as other teams taking notice of your success. Eventually you as a coach will be able to take on a head coaching position and have full access to everything. This level of realism makes this the best Dynasty mode to date.

The gameplay itself could be described by one word, smooth. Everything in the game has been streamlined, from the menus to the running of your ball carrier — it just works great. EA obviously spent a lot of time on super realistic movements from ball carriers, and it shows. When playing my first game with the title my jaw literally hit the floor by how great my runningback moved in between attempting tacklers. Any tackle can be broken, and it will be if you have a good enough runningback in the right scenario. The coverage system has also been fixed as well; in past years there were definitely some exploits that allowed for some easy passing under certain situations.

The game–both graphically and audio wise–does a phenomenal job of capturing what college football is all about. The stadiums, the roar of the crowd, the team-specific entrances, the grass (yes, that is important in a football game)… you will actually feel as though you are watching a college game. The ESPN presentation layer is the icing on the cake.

NCAA Football 12 is better in every way than its predecessor, and that is a lot considering NCAA Football 11 was already a hell of a game. By revamping two of the most popular modes in the series, EA Sports has huffed and puffed new life into the series. Fantastic gameplay plus great football mechanics and unmatched realism that completely captures the college atmosphere, make this a must-own title for all football fans alike. In other words, go buy it now.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Fully revamped modes make the series one of the best football games out there.

+ The game fully captures the college atmosphere with accurate stadiums and entrances.

+ One of the smoothest football titles to date, gameplay is close to perfect.

8 out of 10