Strike the Pose, Andrew Luck
The new tackling mechanics are a marked improvement. I know I keep harping on the fact that I have been out of the loop but I remember playing NCAA and watching the computer’s players dive, touch my player with their helmet, and my guy just falling down like he had been shot. Even though the physics have been overhauled there are still major issues with the zebras. I can’t begin to count how many times I watched a replay of an amazing play only to have it ruined by someone passing through a referee. It’s a small problem but seeing it time after time started to wear thin. I would happily take a ref getting in the way of a play every once and a while over trying to find a camera angle that doesn’t feature my running back running through a black and white apparition.
The crowds, on the other hand, are the one thing that made the biggest leap from when I previously played. The crowd noises vary (thanks to the developers taking sounds from various levels and stadiums) and it really makes a huge difference. The anticipation of a crowd awaiting a potentially game winning completion at The Big House is totally different from what you would find at Spartan Stadium at San Jose State (no offense, Spartan fans). The noise actually impacts your created players as well, because even though your freshman QB may be a 94 overall, he still hasn’t fully gotten use to the noise he would find at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This makes passing plays a bit of a chore because the lines squiggle and run in different directions but it adds to the game’s overall realism. Of course, once you get to a high enough level of coach’s trust this won’t be an issue anymore (which is a bit of a shame, because the major stadiums should have more of an affect).
One thing that one of my fellow editors, Aram Lecis, said that he enjoyed was how much work EA Sports put into each school’s team introductions. From Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck to Colorado running on the field with Ralphie, it’s almost all in there. As a whole the game’s presentation has become top notch and the addition of ESPN is a great thing. Just about the only thing that I can dock them for is in the commentary, which really lacks a lot of life and repeats (not as much as previous years but you’ll have heard nearly the full script after three or so games). While on the menus you get a live ticker of real scores (or, if you’re in dynasty mode you can have those running through) and even updates from ESPN radio. This is extremely useful (I found out about the Chad Ochocinco trade through this very feature) but it does become a bit tedious when it hasn’t been updated for an hour or so and you keep having to hear the same scores and updates (for example, I kept hearing about Rich Harden versus the Yankees in the second inning though the ticker was telling me the game was already in the sixth). Also, and I don’t know if this is directly attributed to the ESPN additions, the game takes forever to load at first. The College Gameday-style introduction is nice, but if it is a cause for the game taking a good 20-30 seconds just to boot up then it isn’t necessary. It also doesn’t help that after a game is over you can’t skip the game showing highlights and images because it literally has to go through every single one, every single time.
The NCAA series has come out once a year, every year, without fail since 1994 (it started out as Bill Walsh College Football on the Super NES, Sega Genesis and Sega CD). They’ve had plenty of time to perfect the college football formula (and they have) but really what we’re left with is wondering how they can improve. I only brought up a few cons because there are just a few things really wrong with the game. The only true negatives with the game are the subtractions over the years (no historic teams or players, though you can download fan-made rosters online and I do miss the buildup of rivalry games, where these feel a bit tacked on and just give you a virtual trophy for your virtual case). I use to play only as a linebacker on defense but NCAA Football 12 inspired me to play as, and enjoy, using defensive backs (even in obvious rushing situations like 3rd and inches). Overall, it’s not perfect and I can see how those who shell out $60 year-after-year can become jaded, but this is still a great game. It would take a Herculean effort from the Madden team to knock this game from being the best football title of the year.