NCAA Football 12 review

  • Sublime tackling
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Amazing depth all around
  • Stale, uninspired commentary
  • Crowds are hit-or-miss
  • No historic teams or players

There’s nothing in sports more traditional than college football, which is why it feels so subversively sweet to destroy much of it with a few clicks of a button. We no longer need to moan about BCS inequities or conference imbalances; NCAA Football 12 lets us alter the landscape of the game to our hearts’ content. So we put ourselves in the position of Czar, built ourselves a one-of-a-kind 16-team “Super Conference” featuring the best programs in the land, and let the dogs loose.

Our expectation was that our impossibly powerful group of first-rate schools like Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, and others would produce an endless parade of memorable Saturdays – and did it ever. Every weekend pitted storied universities against each other, with classic games unfolding regularly. Our hope, of course, was that the winners of the two divisions (named Bryant and Rockne, naturally) would square off in the Conference Championship game as undefeated contestants with a straight path to the BCS Title match. Unfortunately, the 16 teams beat each other up so badly during the regular season that the best any team could muster was two losses apiece – and a couple of upstarts from the strip-mined Pac 12 and ACC wound up as title game contestants. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a valuable one – and we’re already back at the drawing board to come up with an even more compelling scenario for next season.

Re-drawing the NCAA football map is only one small improvement in a sea of tweaks that make up EA Sports’ latest take on the collegiate game. But it’s indicative of what NCAA Football 12 provides - a broad series of improvements to pretty much everything without introducing any significant new modes or features. In a title this deep, that was probably the wisest possible choice.

Thanks to the best tackling system we’ve yet seen in a football game, the on-field action is incredibly compelling. We found ourselves being constantly impressed with the realistic angles that bodies would bend based on where they were hit or the velocity thrown into the ballcarrier. Whether getting flattened by a flying linebacker along the sidelines or pancaked by a 350 pound defensive tackle at the line of scrimmage, NCAA Football 12 convinced us that it may be wise to seek a career doing something other than playing big-time football.

The visuals haven’t changed much – they were already superb – but the one noticeable improvement is welcome. The field itself is the feature this season, as the grass comes alive like never before thanks to a 3D effect that we didn’t know we wanted until we saw it. It’s especially great in the replays, adding a layer of realism that’s always been missing.

Of course, if there’s anything that the current generation of hyper-realistic sports games has taught us, it’s impossible to remove the uncanny valley. The better the games get, the more the unnatural moments stand out. Players still glide through referees and even each other on occasion, the crowd appears non-responsive to big plays, and players don’t always react appropriately to what’s happening in front of them. In addition, the commentary remains mostly unchanged and can get repetitive. None of these are game breakers, but they do take you out of the moment.

We could spend hours talking about the finer details of so many aspects of NCAA Football. For the first time since its introduction a few seasons ago, the Road To Glory mode has gotten some meaningful updates, including an expanded amount of time for your player in High School (a full season plus the ability to play both sides of the ball), and a slew of improvements to your experience once you’ve chosen a university. The online dynasty options continue to be the best offerings of their kind with any sports game – between the incredible website for you to monitor your school and interact with your competitors to the custom Team Builder interface, the depth you can reach is unprecedented.

With an extra few weeks to savor NCAA Football 12 before Madden hits, you’ve never had a better chance to sink your teeth into a sublime sports experience. It ain’t perfect – and we’re more convinced than ever that perfection in an HD sports game is an impossibility – but it is another soaring triumph that has something for just about everyone.

Jul 11, 2011

More Info

Release date: Jul 12 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Jul 12 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Sports
Franchise: NCAA Football
ESRB Rating:


  • markgardner42 - August 15, 2011 10:52 p.m.

    On road to glory the coaches playcalling absolutely sucks. And when you first get to college there's nothing you can do about it until you get the coach's trust built up. The coach's playcalling isn't even logical. I was down by 6 with 50 seconds left in the game on my own 38 yard line and the coach continuously called run plays. I like the old way better for the coach's play calling anyway. The rest of the game is great.
  • IBReady - July 17, 2011 2:46 a.m.

    did anyone else have weird graphical hiccups? like the ball acting erratically on replays, or weird things like when the coaches talk to each other after the game, it seems like one of them is putting their hand on the others cheek? I've checked out some reviews and no one seems to mention this, but it's as clear as day on my brother's copy.
  • hester2 - July 13, 2011 2:34 a.m.

    @mike6068 They didn't drop it, but it doesn't really get in the way of anything. It's just there if you want to go for it. And let me tell you, when this little pipsqueak was getting on my case for a three and out, I didn't go for it. I hail-mary'd his ass and scored a touchdown, Sportsmanship points be damned. Off-topic, apparently "pipsqueak" is considered a word by spellchecker. GO DAWGS!
  • mike6068 - July 12, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    I think that updating and expanding upon the game modes that already existed was the best thing to do. I thought one of the major dissapointments in the last years edition was the lack of upgrades to RTG and dynasty mode. What else could they have done better to improve the game? Add another basic game mode that you would get sick of after a day of playing? They had the game modes everyone wanted, they just had to develop them deeper and judging by what I have read. That is what they've done. P.S. Don't really like the season showdown. Hoping they dropped that meaningless online extra. GO IRISH
  • ConservativeGamer - July 12, 2011 7:41 p.m.

    I'll do the same thing with this I do every year with NCAA. Wait for a used copy in a couple of weeks, download the rosters, sim through 5 years to get drafts for Madden, and take back before the end of the week.
  • LTS - July 12, 2011 3:55 p.m.

    "best tackling system we’ve yet seen in a football game" You must have never played Backbreaker
  • sirnigel - July 12, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    i wasn't too excited until i played the demo. the gameplay feels a lot smoother and the tackling is a little better. IGN's review was pretty solid also. i wish i had the money to go pick it up today but i don't.
  • chiuaha5734 - July 12, 2011 6:39 a.m.

    This game sounds really good but might not get it until December. I more of a "madden" guy
  • Jedipimp0712 - July 12, 2011 3:02 a.m.

    ^^ spam. and at least ONE of the few games that is coming out on my birthday is not complete shit. too bad i dont play sports games :/
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 12, 2011 1:03 a.m.

    I played the demo and had tons of fun, so this'll probaly be the first NCAA game I get since '07. @Ampatent What the hell do you want? If EA has gotten football right, why would they change it? If it's "the same" every year, just don't buy it.
  • avantguardian - July 12, 2011 12:35 a.m.

    the middle tuesday in july has become a holiday of sorts for me. the one game i look forward to the most every year. better get crackin' on those rosters. O_O
  • Ampatent - July 12, 2011 12:26 a.m.

    "...a broad series of improvements to pretty much everything without introducing any significant new modes or features. In a title this deep, that was probably the wisest possible choice." I couldn't disagree more. For a game that supposedly deserves a 9, I don't want minor tweaks from the same game I played every year before. This is exactly why I hate the way EA has decided to handle their football franchises. It's disgusting and boring to me and I hate the fact that people still eat it up.
  • hester2 - July 12, 2011 12:08 a.m.

    Oh yeah, it's officially time to start getting excited about football!
  • juicenpancakes - July 11, 2011 11:54 p.m.

    Even with the new conference alignments (as a Nebraska fan, the Big Ten would be fun to play in and experience), this was likely going to be the first (yes, first) NCAA Football game I never bought. It just didn't seem to excite me. But I always look forward to your reviews Richard, and you have absolutely convinced me. Thanks, and keep up the good work, man.
  • MouseKlok - July 11, 2011 11:05 p.m.

    I am ready for some football! MONDAY NIGHT PARTAY!!!!

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