It’s the classic Godfather 3 quote. It’s the only classic Godfather 3 quote. “Just when I think I’m out…”
I really can’t help myself. I initially asked Todd to cover NCAA this year and then changed my mind mainly because Todd’s a busy guy and I have learned to feed him games at a pace appropriate for a man of his vital, busy schedule. So I’m back doing NCAA again, much to the delight of Brandon I might add.
I got the game Friday evening but my weekend was jammed with friends coming over and my daughter’s dog show that it wasn’t until Sunday that I could sit down to play NCAA 12. The review embargo lifts today but I’m not close to being ready to write that so I can simply offer some thoughts…
The gameplay is NCAA. It feels a bit tighter; I like the new tackling and I don’t see nearly as much suction and player phasing. But I’ve played a total of 3 games so it’s merely early impressions at this point. I surprisingly love the new tackle button which at E3 I thought sounded incredibly silly. “It allows you to set your feet and make a sure tackle.” Umm…ok. What this really does is effectively removes the DIVE button which is the worst thing to ever hit videogame football. This results in no more 5 yard flying tackles and that animation where the RB looks like he’s been shot in the back, Willem DaFoe Platoon style. Now when you press X on defense your player sort of lunges forward and while I technically think you can call it a dive it’s more of a controlled fall. It’s much, much better.
Penalties are still nonexistent unless you adjust slider settings. Player ratings, IMO, are severely suspect on certain teams (Sorry, Michigan’s defense being rated a B+ is about as accurate as calling LeBron James “great in the clutch.”) It’s not just Michigan though. NCAA needs a complete retooling of how it rates its players.
I still hate the field goal kicking meter as I think it’s far too easy to kick it where you want it, and you’ll need to adjust sub in/out settings to get teams to rotate players at all. The one game I played against Michigan the AI did a poor job of using Denard Robinson, I think because they no longer run the spread, and have turned him into a non scrambling pocket passer (In the game, anyway.)
I did see a lot of good things, though: dropped passes with contact, a decent CPU run game on default All American, and several deep pass attempts by the CPU and one caught for a 72 yard TD when I played against Stanford and watched as Luck throw for 336 yards. Egad.
But I want to talk Dynasty Mode. I’m a real stickler (read: Pain in the ass) when it comes to Franchise modes or Dynasty modes that are underdeveloped. It was a big issue with NCAA 11 because thanks to serious recruiting logic errors that game was unplayable after a couple of seasons. So, two seasons down and let’s look at how NCAA 12 stacks up.
Stats for the two year sim look….ok. The red flags are in the run game, and I still think we see too many QBs throwing 40 TDs and 2 or 3 picks but it’s better than it was a couple of years ago.
NCAA leaders in rushing for both years were a bit low, quantity wise. There doesn’t seem to be enough 1,000 yard rushers, possibly due to a lack of long gains. Somehow I doubt it remotely possible for the 2011 NCAA rushing leader – well first of all the fact that it was Stephfon Green, HB at Penn State, is a mind blower, but for Green to rush for 1700 yards and his LONGEST run be 17 yards…that’s tough to swallow. In year two I saw several top rushers with long gains of 13, 17, and 19. Yes there are some with nice, 45+ yard gains as their long but there aren’t too many home runs being hit by the tailbacks thus far.
Two other issues I need to keep an eye on are, again, kickers and also top 25 polling. First off, polling has been weird in this game since the very first NCAA over 10 years ago. Seriously – If Michigan is 9-3 and Ohio State is 9-3 and Ohio State beats Michigan and Michigan’s losses are to Notre Dame and San Diego State – there is no way – none – that Michigan would be ranked #9 and OSU #13. 100%, certifiably impossible. Additionally, if North Carolina, a team from a major conference, rolls to an 11-1 record, there’s no way that team would sit ranked at #15. Impossible. I have always wanted the ability to edit the top 25 rankings manually in solo dynasties. I’d still like such a feature.
The kicker issue, which EA said they fixed, has been, well, it’s obvious they gave that some attention but I’m scared to call it truly “fixed”. After that first year a lot of teams are forced to recruit a kicker because they only keep one on a team, so you’re looking at a lot of incoming freshmen being forced to be THE kicker for a lot of teams. And the pool is still weak – not AS weak (I think this is the “we fixed this” part) but weak enough that when I looked at a lot of the rosters after the recruiting season I saw a good number of kickers rated in the 60s and three in the 50s.
That’s bad. It’s not as bad as last year but you are going to see those freshman kickers hit at best 50% of their kicks. There are more top shelf freshman kickers than before who come in rated in the 70s, which is good, but bad teams are still getting stuck with bad kickers.
My fear, as I have yet to go any further than year two, is that these freshman kickers (mostly 1 star) won’t improve all that much so we’ll be left after a few years of nothing but shitty kickers. Not ridiculously shitty kickers like we had in NCAA 2011 but still…pretty shitty.
One bit about recruiting. I still think the system needs redone. I want the recruiting in this game to reflect the real world. I don’t want to see only one 5 star rated kid from Ohio, and only a total of four kids rated 4+ stars. A simple look at any recruiting service will show you that’s not really how it works. I don’t want to see three 5 star kids from Connecticut verbal to Oregon. Stuff like that is so incredibly rare but you see that a lot in NCAA, and always have. I also think that the way recruiting works needs retooled. It’s almost like busywork and offering a kid a scholarship is simply a matter of looking at his stars. I don’t want more busywork, so I don’t need High School All Star games or anything, but I would like to be able to confer with my staff. If I have two 4 star DEs I’m looking at, what do my assistants think of these players? You see this all the time in college football – fans freak out when your team doesn’t offer a kid that Scout.com says is a 4 star player. There’s a reason why your team didn’t offer…they may not agree with Scout.com for one. Grades could be another.
Anyway I am getting off track. Let’s close this out with this:
After the second year of simming my Dynasty I saw Iowa win a National Title followed by Auburn.
So far, I think NCAA 12 shows promise. There’s things I like, and things I don’t, but I want to dig deeper.
Much more to come.