So many video game fans play Madden, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what about college football?
|NCAA FOOTBALL 12
EA Sports for PS3, Xbox 360
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.7
Pros: Road to Glory feels very real; Mascot Mash is hilarious; High School Mode!
Cons: Occasional graphics glitches; far too much advertising; needs to feel even more exciting.
Arguably, college ball is a more exciting sport. When fans go wild in mutual appreciation of a touchdown play, it’s a roar of human power like nothing else.
So does NCAA Football 12 live up to the real-life experience? It comes pretty close, even though there are some issues.
The first thing I did when I booted up the game was play Mascot Mash. Here, all of your players look like the enthusiastic mascot of your favorite college team, whether it’s LSU’s Mike the Tiger or USC’s Tommy Trojan. When you play four quarters of Mascot Mash, you get the feeling of an arcade game, maybe something like Big Head Mode in NBA Jam.
But mascot mode, fun as it is, is just window dressing to a varied game that can be extraordinarily deep. There’s strategic coaching and crucial player trading – if you want it. Or keep it simple by choosing from the limited number of plays you’re given, then passing, running, kicking and defending.
It all depends on how you want to play.
Another fun part of the game is the really cool Road to Glory. You’ll begin as a high school player. (They probably have your high school to choose from.) Type your name when you create a player, and that goes on the back of your jersey.
The announcer will even call out your actual name from time to time. Plus, as you progress and get better, you’ll get interest from colleges and even offers for scholarships. The background graphics aren’t all that and the players look older than teens, but it’s very exciting.
LEARN BY DOING
When you play the high school circuit, you have one play to choose from (unless you call an audible). It seems like the early portion of Road to Glory is kind of a subtle tutorial that doesn’t exactly tell you how to do things. It lets you learn by doing. It’s more fun than the tutorial that explains everything.
Once you’re done with your high school career, choose from a few scholarships offered from big colleges that want you as a second-string player. Or you’ll be first string at a smaller school.
I picked a scholarship to USC, where I had to practice, practice, practice passing against an amazing Trojan defense to please the coach. Despite my five-star high school career, practice before a game was the only way to get to play — eventually — on Game Day.
For some reason, NCAA Football 12 made me really want to get on the good side of the coach. So I practiced carefully to get experience points. It wasn’t easy! Every time the USC defense intercepted one of my passes, points were deducted.
For this review, I’ve concentrated on the Road to Glory mode. But there’s a lot more here.
In Dynasty Mode, you can work your way up as coach. Or you can just play the season. You can set one of 200 sounds for the pregame show. As you choose from nearly 400 plays, your goal toward making the bowls becomes more real. When you tackle defense, the strength of your hit has an impact on whether the runner or receiver goes down. If you’re not close enough to reach out and grab, you can lunge and leap to get your man. The list goes on.
This doesn’t mean NCAA 12 is perfect. You will see frames drop, which results in the occasional jerky-looking movements. You will see words misspelled when you’re given hints that too often repeat themselves during long load times. And sometimes on 4th down in Road to Glory, the plays you’re given don’t include a field goal option – even if you’re close enough to kick it through the uprights.
When I first played, the EA server for playing online was not working. But then it worked fine.
And then there’s the rampant advertising. It seems to be everywhere, not only in banners around the field. Ads are part of score recaps and half-time, too. It’s really annoying, especially since the price of the game is $60. For those dollars, you’d think they’d limit advertisements. I just hope that there won’t be video commercials in games any time soon.
Despite these issues, NCAA Football 12 has moments that are far more electrifying than Madden. It doesn’t have the big football superstars with million-dollar contracts. But it has something that’s just as important: It has heart.