I should begin with the disclaimer that I only bought my Xbox 360 a couple of months ago, so this is my first experience playing NCAA Football (with the exception of a couple of quick games) on the current generation of consoles. All I can compare NCAA Football 12 to is NCAA Football 2009 (or previous versions) on Playstation 2. That being said, let's dive in.
From the beginning, I was, of course, blown away by the graphics. As I said before, I had played a game or two, but this was the first time I knew I was going to be truly immersed in this new experience, and that just made the visuals seems that much prettier. Included in that are the menus and all of the things that make it seems like a true ESPN watching experience. That was all very new to me and very cool.
After playing a couple of quick games to get used to the controls and such, I got started in Dynasty Mode. To me, half (if not more) of the fun of these games is everything in between the actual games. I love the recruiting, Heisman watching, ESPN headlines, etc. Now, while that stuff is cool, it also leaves a lot to be desired because once you've played through two weeks, the ESPN headlines start to repeat themselves. Where there is a huge improvement is in the recruiting. On PS2, I never really paid much attention to it, but in this game, I think I enjoyed it more than the games themselves. It's a lot of fun to create prospects and target them, and it's great to be able to actually recruit against others schools by pitching things like program tradition or campus lifestyle against the other schools at the top of the prospect's list. The recruiting is Dynasty's best feature and is what gives it longevity when you start to play season after season.
The biggest thing I miss about Dynasty is off-season training. I always loved all the mini-games like Rushing Attack and Chase and Tackle, but these have been completely done away with. Instead you just get the results of all your returning players' training and see how much they improved. That was a huge letdown for me.
As far as some of the other Dynasty features are concerned, I really like being able to choose between being a coordinator or a head coach when you start out. I've never loved playing defense, so it was cool to be able to just simulate through that. It also helps playing through games/seasons faster so you can go deeper into the dynasty. The coaching carousel is kind of cool but after watching a few rounds, I just ended up skipping to the end, because I knew I wasn't going to leave my current program.
After playing several seasons in a dynasty, I finally gave Road to Glory a try. I went in excited and came out disappointed. The fact that you can play your entire senior season of high school football is a very cool concept, especially because you can play on both sides of the ball and get recruited at both positions you decide to play. My only wish for that part of the mode is for the recruitment to be a little more in-depth. You start out by choosing your top three schools, and then as you earn points based on your performance, other schools start to show interest in you and eventually offer you scholarships. All schools have point thresholds (based on their prestige) you need to get to in order to be offered a scholarship. That's all there is to it though. After getting into recruiting in Dynasty so much, I was hoping I'd get to have the experience of being on the other side, with all of these school pitching to me and trying to get me to go there. But all they did was show interest, offer a scholarship, and then on signing day you just select what school you want to go to. It tells you where you would start on the depth chart at each school, and you can either accept an offer and start with a certain number of skill points (based on playoff performance), or you can walk on to any school but start with zero points.
Once you get on campus, the mode becomes extremely lackluster. I loved how deep the Campus Legend mode was in NCAA Football 09 for PS2. You could choose your major, study, and take quizzes and finals, and your results could give your ratings a boost. You could also choose your evening activities, which could be social, football-related, or academic. All of this affected your overall legend status over the course of your time at the school. This version of the game has none of that, and I was very disappointed. All there is to the mode at this point (unless I'm missing something big) is 25 reps at practice each week and your game. In practice and in a game you earn coach trust points based on performance, and that is how you move up in the depth chart and earn the right to flip plays or choose a different play than the coach gives.
I am currently playing through RTG as a HB (on Heisman), and I have several issues, particularly with the play calling. I went to Florida where they run a pro-style offense, and yet we rarely run the ball. The most frustrating thing, though, is that we will pass on 1 & 10, get sacked, and then run on 2 & 17. Things like that happen all the time and it's very annoying. It's also very difficult to catch the ball when you're running a route. Because the camera follows you, there is no way of knowing if/when the ball is coming to you. Most of the time I'm trying to run my route, and the ball will fly by my head before I have the chance to try and turn around and catch it. The only way to know is on a play where you are the primary target, like on a screen pass. I also think fullbacks are stupid, and they always have in these games. They will run right by a defender who's coming straight at you and try to block somebody else upfield while you get tackled for a loss. This happens all the time and has been that way for years. The QB isn't very smart either. There have been several times when I've been wide open but he starts to run and immediately gets sacked. I like the concept of being locked on one player and playing through their entire career that way, but this mode makes it really difficult to enjoy that because the rest of the team does a lot of stupid things and there aren't enough things to make developing your own player fun. Another addition I'd like to see is more incentive to be involved in the passing game, like being awarded coach trust points for picking up a blitz when you stay in the backfield as a HB or throwing a good block on the edge if you're a WR.
That's about all I have to say about this game. I've not tried anything else like online play or team builder to be able to comment on them. I do look forward to trying team builder, though, because creating a team was always one of my favorite things to do.
This seems like an incredibly long review but hopefully somebody will read it and either find it helpful or have some advice or corrections to give me to help me enjoy the game more. Dynasty mode alone though is enough to get it 4 out of 5 stars.