NCAA ’12: Assessing the Demo

By Adam Kramer   Jun. 29, 2011

College football is sorta, kinda here in the form of a video game demo. EA’s latest installment of NCAA Football can now be downloaded on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and players have the chance to play two different games in 2-minute quarters.

Oregon vs. Texas and Florida State vs. Alabama are your two options, and while I now found myself wanting more (the actual game in my hands would be lovely) this will have to suffice for the next few weeks. As for the demo itself, I was very impressed overall.

Here are a few observations.

The tackling is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a football game. While EA has made it a point to promote “gang tackling” in both NCAA and Madden in the past few installments, the movements were choppy and somewhat forced if another player happened to be in the vicinity of the original tackler. In NCAA ’12, the movements are smooth, and all bodies involved seem to be going in the directions they should be. Not only that, but the smaller items like hand and head placement are very accurate. In just under six games, I felt like I witnessed more unique tackling animations than I did in a full year of NCAA.

And it’s not just the wrap-ups that have improved. The movements in general felt much more fluid and it’s obvious that they worked on the frame rate issues that have bothered the game for quite sometime. Receivers caught the ball without massive hiccups in the animation, and graphically the game just feels a lot better. Don’t expect a huge jump in the overall look from previous installments, but the game itself has a nice overall polish to it.

The highly anticipated intros live up to the hype. I’m not a Texas or FSU fan (the home schools in the demo) but I watched each team come out of the tunnel multiple times and was impressed with what EA was able to capture. Bevo looks very steer-like as Texas charges the field, and Chief Osceola and his horse Renegade steal the scene as the burning spear makes its way to the middle of the field. These won’t drastically increase the enjoyment of the game, but this does create a buzz that fans will enjoy for the school o’ choice.

I love watching the corners work. The DBs pressed much more than I can remember in NCAA ’12, and I found trouble when I targeted on just one receiver who was locked in a hand battle at the line with his opponent. A great corner will be very valuable in this game, as they should. While many target tipped balls, interceptions, and other “big play” aspects on the defensive side, seeing finer items like this, as well as some more elaborate pre-snap movement was refreshing.

The running game is better than it’s ever been. The improved animations have made for a much better experience when you’re running behind the line. You can more accurately read blocks and see which defender might just beat your man before you can get through the holes. You can’t just run around everyone, and when you do you pay for it. Overall, it felt very authentic and I could feel myself improving quarter by quarter.

Moving on to player observations, LaMichael James is Absurd. Yes, he’s very, very good on the actual playing surface, but in the virtual world, Mr. James is a polygon, ankle-breaking machine. You’ll notice a difference in speed, but the true sign for me is when I juked abruptly and a Texas linebacker missed me by a few feet. Trent Richardson is also a beast in this game, but James will likely be the top back in the game and it shows.

Alabama’s defense is fast. Like really fast. We know they’re talented, and many believe there are around eight players on the D that will eventually be playing on Sunday. That certainly showed in the demo. The d-line was destructive, more so than any of the other teams I played with, and the corners and linebackers closed on the ball well. It was a long couple of short games for E.J. Manuel, and Alabama’s defense will clearly be a force in the game.

Really, really looking forward to this one and it’s obvious that EA has confronted some of the issues that have hampered this franchise since it made the jump to the next-gen systems. The Game hits shelves on July 12, and it’s absolutely worth a purchase. I probably would’ve said that even if the game was horrendous, it’s college football, y’all, but luckily that doesn’t seem to be the case.

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