Go Back to High School with NCAA Football ’12

For the past few editions NCAA Football has included a mode known as Road to Glory, in which you create your own player and take him through a college football career. I’ve always wanted to like the idea behind this mode, but have never been able to get into it. I haven’t touched it in a couple years, but I remember it as being too easy to get the starting nod at a school, with far too few decisions to make once you get there and those you did make being rather silly and superfluous. This year EA Tiburon has evidently overhauled the mode and have just released this teaser video, narrated by one Kirk Herbstreit (boo!). Here’s the highlights…

– The High School Experience. Play out your final year of high school using either a 7 or 12-game schedule. You can do custom uniforms and difficulty for your opponents, import created teams to serve as high school cannon fodder, etc. You can play both sides of the ball and, in doing so, find yourself being recruited differently based on your multiple positions. You might, for example, be viewed as a 5-star safety, but a 2-star quarterback. Schools will recruit you accordingly and you’ll have to accept going to a lesser school if you want to have ultimate control over your position. As gimmicky as it sounds, I actually like this a lot. I’m not sold that they’ll really implement it well -check the stats for the 5-star safety recruit in the video; they’re woefully incomplete- but it peaks my interest.

– Signing Day. The video glosses over your actual recruitment process, but you can see a Signing Day screen in the video where you choose the school you’re committing to and your number. This gives me the wiggins because, if you’re going to make going through your senior year of high school a big deal, there’s potentially a lot you could do with the recruiting process in terms of interested schools making promises to you, taking campus visits, academic factors, soft and hard commits, etc. Would be a shame if they completely glossed over this as there’s interesting off-field gameplay to be found there.

– On Campus. Once you’re on campus you can see options to practice (with a set number of available reps), see what kind of trust your coach has in you, and upgrade skills. There are tabs in there for My Career and ESPN, but no mention in the video of what they contain. The Herbstreit narration says you do have to “win” a starting job and that even once you do, you’ll have to endure “position challenges” in practice. Good! Coach Trust will come into play here as it determines what you can do on the field in terms of things like calling hot routes, audibles, plays, etc. (The video shows you earning different levels of captaincy as well.) This is excellent if it’s done in a sensible way, but here we lead into the part that makes me throw up in my mouth: Experience and one-game Ratings Boost Packs.

– Player Progression. Yes, you want your player to evolve as you play. You want how you perform to have an effect on it. Absolutely. But, again, it needs to done sensibly. This looks nonsensical and arcadey, like something you’d get from NFL Bliltz. Hey look I just scored enough points to get the “No Fumble For You” boost pack. Does that come with a stick of gum in every pack too? Sigh. At one point you can see a Skill Upgrade called Crow Hop with the following description, “Use that Crow Hop from left field with this Throw Power, Acceleration & Jumping Boost.” I don’t even know that means or what those three skills have to do with each other that they’re being bundled together. It also shows each of those ratings getting a +2 bonus which also boosts the Overall rating by +2. You can only worry so much about numbers in a 2-minute preview reel, but that’s absolutely terrifying because this is the game that, at E3, shows Michigan’s defense being rated as a B+. I’ve been a fan of the Maize and Blue since I was five and last year’s was the worst Big 10 defense I’ve ever seen. There is no way they should be rated that high going into this year. (Better, maybe, but a B+ isn’t even in the ballpark.)

To sum up, I want to like what this mode brings. I really do. A lot of people don’t care a wit for this mode (or Madden’s Superstar Mode), and I understand why, but it’s the kind of thing I can get into and have fun with. And for the first minute or so of that video I think, “Yeah, alright, this could be cool.” But the system looks like it completely derails once you start dealing with player progression, which is arguably the most important part of the mode. Two words: Not sold.

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Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor, with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and is a 20-year publishing veteran as an editor of books on consumer tech and professional development for educators. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd was a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets from 1997-2015. Follow him on Twitter @toddsfoolery.

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