In any sports video game series, the key to having gamers come back and buy the same franchise year after year is innovation. Whether the developers add new modes, players or controls, they have to keep ahead of the curve and not mail the whole process and repackage last year’s edition as a new game. EA Sports has done such a thing and checks in with an enjoyable installment of their college football franchise, NCAA Football ’12.

Playing a football video game is fairly basic and the plays are pretty much the same as last year. NCAA, and Madden as well, have been adding little control tweaks over the years, such as directional blocking and refined running. NCAA ’12 offers no such control additions, but a big on field addition is customizable playbooks with dozens of formations that no QB in reality could have on their wristband. Veteran players of the franchise will appreciate the level of detail involved in such customization.

Admittedly, in sports games I like to play the role of the coach/GM more then actually playing the game. In NCAA ’12, these modes have been added to in order to have a more realistic experience. When starting a dynasty, you can now be a offensive or defensive coordinator and work your way up the ranks. This includes the ‘Coaching Carousel’ at the end of each season, which allows you to receive and view offers from other schools. You could take that opening at UNLV or wait for your dream job at your alma mater. However, there are no opportunities for you to go on a rabid tangent at a press conference. When you play a game as a coordinator, you only control that side of the game, while the other is simmed on an overhead view much like the ESPN Gamecasts of NFL games.

Road To Glory has been updated as well, with an expanded high school segment where you lead your player through their senior year. When your star gets to college, they have to contend with Coach Trust, a barometer of how confident the coach is in your abilities. At the start, your player won’t be able to do everything like call certain plays or do aubibles until you’ve gained the coach’s trust. This is a great addition as it more accuarately captures the realism of rising to be a star player.

The conference alignments are up-to-date for this season, including the new Pac 12 and Big ’10’. However, you have the ability to alter conferences and BCS bowl tie ins. You could give the Rose Bowl bid to the Sun Belt Conference or move Middle Tennessee State up to the SEC. This freedom to change the landscape is a nice addition and I’m sure many fans of certain schools will have some fun with it.

One of the better traits of the NCAA games are their realism. Stadiums are accurately built and great attention is paid to depicting school traditions. Marching bands will do their school’s signature formations and actual animal mascots are seen on the field. It’s very immersive and one of those little things that add to the overall experience.

Overall, NCAA Football ’12 is an immensely enjoyable game that any college football will have fun playing. Taking their team to the national title will be exhilarating, that is until the actual season starts and their team fails to live up to expectations. Though they can still admire their back-to-back-to-back titles in the game.