Another summer means another edition of EA Sports Football games. Like many others, I picked up this game on its release date. I finally gave in and got NCAA 11 in January and joined an Online Dynasty and was hooked. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to start that up again and get a full year in. Needless to say I was anticipating this game quite a bit. I do have to give EA some credit for this. One thing they are top notch as it advertising. From live press conferences over the web to showcase new features and gameplay, to a highly followed Facebook / Twitter accounts to keep everyone panting until the release date. I will attempt to break down the game and give my amateur opinion of the game.
First, let’s take a look at the new features. Honestly, these games that are released every year don’t always warrant buying a new game, so I believe this is the most important thing to look at when reviewing:
Road To Glory Mode – For those who are not familiar to the game, this mode entails playing as a single player, starting out in your high school year, going through the playoffs and hopefully winning your state championship. During which time you are getting recruited based on how well you do, select your college, and then play your 4 year college career and try to get the best stats possible.
Key updates were:
- Addition of “Iron Man” style player in high school. This allows you to pick one of the offense and defense positions while getting recruited separately based on your ability at each position. (If you like being frustrated, try being a cornerback. The extremely awkard camera angle that constantly rotates is frustrating.)
- Store style upgrades where you spend experience points gained in practice / games. I personally have not gotten that far in RTG, so I may update this later, but for those into this mode, I see this as a huge upgrade from ’11.
- Updated player battles. Again an area I haven’t gotten to, but making it so that you have to earn your spot in the lineup. There was a form of this in ’11, but practice was frustratingly slow to load and you would be better off to just sim through. Should be interesting and frustrating because you have to earn your way on, but frustrating if you are stuck down on the depth chart and just sim the games.
GRADE – 7.0 /10. Cool updates, but for me personally I’m not into this mode. It takes way too long to progress and I’m too impatient. I may update this later, but I’m not all that intrigued and rather spend the time I get focused on Dynasty Mode
Dynasty – Be the coach of a team and build up the program. Bring in recruits, play the games, and take your program to the promise land. Online Dynasties are amazing. It’s like playing Fantasy Football, but better because when you win a user matchup, you are the one actually playing.
- Coaching Carousel. Really intriguing for single player dynasties or specialized dynasties, but the real appeal to dynasty is picking teams within a conference or make a conference with those teams, and play everyone in the league, create rivalries, competition for recruits, etc. The coaching carousel is where you sign a contract with a school and can get fired / re-signed based on performance against goals. Also, you can choose to be just the offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, so you only control the team on your side of the ball, and the other side of the ball is simmed and controlled by the computer. This has been really cool in my offline dynasty as I try to go from an offensive coordinator at WSU, fail to win 6 games because they are terrible, get fired, and work my way back and take them to a rose bowl win (still working on becoming the head coach, but I’ll get there – I will get them to the National Championship some day).
- Fully Custom Conferences. ’11 had a pretty bad interface for updating conferences and was pretty limited. This year you can make conferences from 4 to 16 teams, make independent, change division names within a conference, and even change automatic bowl bids if you want Conference USA to get an automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl. You can even control the protected rival matchups so that when the computer automatically creates the schedule, it will lock in those protected rivalries once they’ve been changed. You can also change conferences every off-season, whereas in last years game you could only set it up at the beginning and then you were stuck. So if a couple computer teams start lacking, you can swap in some other schools to keep your level of competion in conference up and keep the prestige up.
- Auto Advance and Sim Games over the web. Auto advance is pretty cool because in ’11 the commisioner had to be at their xbox to advance, but now if everyone is ready to advance, the commish can now advance from anywhere they have access to the web.
GRADE: 9.5/10. Was great in ’11, even better with the customizability.
Authentic Gameday Traditions – Really? In a video game. This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard of. Well that’s a reach, but seriously. How many times would you actually watch those pre-games? Honestly I can’t press the “A” button fast enough to get to the coin toss and get the game going. This is a waste of time and resources that could go towards things that actually affect game play.
GRADE: 0/10 – Waste of money paying developers to build this into a game. I really don’t want a sad looking bull on the field for pregame when I’m playing against Texas in their house.
Enhanced Tackling Engine – This is actually a great addition to the game. Too many times in ’11 a guy would just tackle the ball carrier who was actually being blocked or something stupid like that. This allows for momentum to better control tackle success. In addition there are cleaner tackles when more than 1 tackler is involved.
GRADE: 9/10 – Still not perfect. 100% better than last year, but still needs some work to produce a smooth experience.
Things I would put into the game
- Athletic Director. Currently you can’t really control where money goes. It would be cool to be able to spend money on new uniforms, stadium additions, gym upgrades, etc. This would help build up your grade at certain aspects when recruiting.
- Ability to specify “Aggressive”, “Balanced”, and “Conservative” setting for Game Tempo. This setting automatically runs the play clock down to a set time when you break the huddle and address the line. Aggressive gets you to the ball ASAP, usually with 30+ seconds on the play clock if you pick your play quickly enough, with balanced leaving 26 seconds, and conservative leaving 11 or 12 seconds. The conservative setting forces you to basically run to the line of scrimmage and leaves pretty much no time audible, and Balanced makes you sit in formation for too long. Just seems like an easy thing to get into the game, so I don’t see why it’s not in there already.
Things I would take out of the game
- In-game replays. Or at least the ability to never show replays. Replays just get in the way of the game, they slow down game play and are unnecessary. As a player, you don’t watch highlights DURING the game. You may watch them afterwards, but not during. Stop interferring with my gameplay and let me choose the next play. At least this year they fixed it so the game clock wouldn’t run some times when running replays, but still, I DON’T CARE. If I want to watch a replay, I will take the time to pause the game, and play the replay myself.
- Washington Huskies (GO COUGS!)
OVERALL GRADE: 9.5 – NCAA ’11 was amazing, and this years version is even better. It is frustrating because I’m not the best and get frustrated when I lose, but that’s a good thing. At least the online dynasty shows how many times you restart to keep players honesty. My offline dynast doesn’t have such protections in place. If you like football at all, this is a must buy.