Remember those days in the science fair? If you repeated the same project the year before, you had to improve on it in some way. NCAA would not have received a ribbon this year.
Before you gird your loins from a ranting review, let me say I am strangely indifferent to NCAA 12. If you jump right in and play an exhibition game, your first thought may be, “ I think they sent me NCAA 11.” Barely anything has changed other than menu layouts. We can expect the juke stick to roll down the hill, but what’s original this year? I distinctly remember previews revolving around the newly done grass. That may have been the only “new” thing worthwhile.
Lets start at what returns, specifically team significance. Second year in a row and NCAA is trying to incorporate unique styles for every team. They may say this, but it just feels lazy. Mascots are the only real alteration. Georgia for example now has the Bulldog run alongside the players, and that’s it. Ohio State’s traditional swinging in the back end zone is poorly done, as in not at all. The rest of the pregame footage is recycled from last year making it repetitive and dreary.
TANGENT STARTS NOW: Those same cut scenes from last year just make me bristle. Really, we’re recycling game footage now like some type of 60’s vegan save the world hippie? It showed up in Madden and NCAA! You know the scene, where one player jumps awkwardly in the middle of a circle, while his surrounding teammates berate him with laughter due to his obvious lack of rhythmic sensibility. Yeah, it’s back. END
The better changes in the game become apparent after hours of play. This is refreshing, finally a nod for the late night gamers (and yes people who play sports games are GAMERS!). The new collision system Madden has been prancing around so wildly seems to be on NCAA as well. Blocking, tackling and catching all benefit highly from this simple change (simple not in programming, but in commonsensical). Although, if Madden and NCAA are both implementing this new element to the game, something must distinguish them from one another other than overpaid athletes (wait they both have that in common).
Creativity and originality are the ideas that should help differentiate these two games. Quite a challenge, especially with two equal sports game that are so unidirectional. So ok, focus on the gameplay and fix a number of things constantly ignored such as stadium fan quality, touchdown celebrations, improved gang tackling, blocking system, no huddle offense, onside kicks etc. Best move would be to take a note from Forza, Gran Turismo and even NHL; create a realistic experience, forget the gimmicks.
Case and point: “Coach Mode”. To sum it up: it’s bad. It projects a vibe of Madden Head Coach and is miles from delivering. Coach Mode is basically demo mode, but you choose the plays. You watch as if you were playing, and sob uncontrollably. You don’t even have the cool assortment of camera angles offered in Madden Head Coach. Just leave it out then. To have Coach Mode in the game in such an early developmental stage for the only reason of having a “NEW” above it is disheartening. Possibly a promising feature, but execution only differentiates your number of sales.
Other amenities the game offers are not as glum. Receivers finally make ample efforts to catch balls within bounds and the back of the end zone consistently. Become a Legend is revamped and better than ever, with an entire high school football season and skill upgrades. The Online Dynasty has received the tune-ups it deserves. So maybe it’s not all bad.
My only conclusion is this game is a stepping-stone. Maybe we are reaching a point where biyearly development is the only reasonable solution. The big challenges have already been completed; as the game progresses so does the amount of hours required to maintain it. NCAA 12 is too similar to past year’s title to justify a full purchase. On the other hand, it offers good additions to the gameplay lacking from the year before—its obvious dominant strength. We will see where the future takes NCAA, but it best have something spectacular in the works otherwise…you know.