Two decades worth of college football has made EA an old hand at this sport, so much so that they’ve long since separated the series from Madden’s shadow. Yet as the only game of its kind with no competition, how does a studio like EA Tiburon avoid complacency? If there’s an answer to be found in NCAA Football 12, we might want to look at what the studio might very well pull off with the game’s presentation.
One benefit to the prolonged life of this console generation is that an experienced studio gets to be all the more familiar with the consoles’ toolset, so it’s rather unsurprising that NCAA 12 looks as good as it does. Season-long followers will appreciate the various designs from different helmet manufacturers as well as the nuances of the Nike uniform fabrics. The field’s three-dimensionally rendered grass has never looked more convincing, presented so visibly, you don't have to pause the action and zoom down to notice it (although there are close-up details to admire).
Many of us have gotten familiar with the term "HDR" as a feature on the iPhone camera, and this form of image processing has been a huge priority with EA Tiburon. It's part of a larger scheme to make the game the most well-lit NCAA Football game to date, for both bright daytime light and night games.
The visual improvements aren’t limited to models and lighting. You would think that the physics that goes into a knocked-over pylon would have been mastered by now, but it seems that EA Tiburon still managed to find new ways to make those markers move more realistically, especially when a running back tries to make that heroic leap in breaking the plane for a touchdown.
Beyond HUDs and menus, sports games in recent years have truly stepped up to the challenge of crafting a convincing television-style presentation with familiar graphics and transitions you would see on an actual broadcast. So expect a deeper integration of ESPN to give NCAA 12 a more realistic feel.
While on the subject of feel, NCAA Football 12 won't be short of ways in providing that intrinsic college experience that has long since set itself apart from EA's Madden franchise. Expect convincing cutaways to each school's band not to mention team-specific chants, celebrations, and mascots.
I'm sure there exists a Sun Tzu quote that applies here about the continued need to develop new strategies even when the battle format has stayed the same for countless years. Even in 2011, college teams are finding new ways to outsmart the opposition and many of those new plays have made it to NCAA Football 12. Nebraska for example, has a play-action pass that complements the Cornhuskers' penchant for an impressive running game. Known as the PA Husker Y Post, this play adds a viable touchdown opportunity for the tight end who ends up going deep.
Evolution comes at both sides though, which is why there are also new defensive plays that keep up with real life trends in college football playmaking. The Double Loop 3, for example, is a counter to the emergence of spread style offenses, and comprises of seven defensive backs, a linebacker, and three down linemen. Long story short, you're going to want to look over your favorite school's playbook before you log on July 12 when NCAA Football 12 rolls onto the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.