College Lacrosse 2012: Indie dev covers ignored sport

July 12, 2012

In the industry’s history, there has been exactly one commercially-released lacrosse game. In 2001, Blast Lacrosse, a NFL Blitz-style game, was released by Acclaim for the original PlayStation. This dearth of lacrosse interest among video game developers is what makes the work done at Cross Studio and Complex Games all the more impressive.

Fueled by a passion for the sport and video games, owner Carlos Sunseri’s initiative has yielded five lacrosse titles on the Xbox Live Indie Games scene over the last four years. This library includes three College Lacrosse games and two National Lacrosse League licensed titles, with real teams and players from the indoor league. The newest title, College Lacrosse 2012, is a game ripe with promise but flawed in a number of areas of execution.

College Lacrosse 2012 boasts better graphics than its predecessors, and continues to support online multiplayer as well as have a single player season mode. While there is no NCAA license (completely understandable), the game does offer the ability to edit teams for your own customization. As you earn money from in-game performances, you can purchase equipment upgrades like new helmets, gloves or shafts.

The controller layout is fantastic and really impressed me. While you move with the left stick, the right stick is solely for shooting while the right trigger is for pressure-sensitive passing (which can be aimed or you can use the right bumper for icon passing). The face buttons are for individual moves like a swim or split dodge, and you can also call for a player on your team to cut to the crease. Without the ball, the right stick becomes a hit stick, familiar for Madden players, while the other buttons are different poke checks. The directional pad calls different formations on offense or defense. The framework for a solid sports game is all here.

Unfortunately, when you jump into a game, what enjoyment you do find from passing the ball around to set up a good scoring opportunity is overshadowed by a shaky AI and what feels like a rushed final product. Face-offs typically lead to fast breaks, as your defensemen avert course and move out of position and the goalie AI is horrendous. I have completed games where my goalie made one save and let in 20 goals, which just can’t be realistic. There are also some glitches around players going out of bounds and still retaining possession. Despite a hit stick and check moves, it is nearly impossible to dislodge the ball from the opponent, and that’s only after you locate who has the ball, as there is no icon indicator on the CPU side. The post-game stats do not foot correctly to the action you just witnessed, causing more confusion and generally just coming off as a bit sloppy.

With a patch currently in process, the developers did note on their Facebook page what they were looking to address: improved goalie play, groundballs, AI, sideline management, physics, penalties and shooting. That is quite a menu, but the team is at least receptive to feedback and continuous improvement.

It is important to keep a perspective around indie games, especially sports efforts. For five dollars, you’re getting the heart and soul of a small dedicated team of developers. This is not an EA Sports release with anywhere close to that studio’s level of resources. With a number of titles already under their belt, I’m confident fixes will be made and College Lacrosse 2012 will improve. The controls and basic game play are really solid with a lot of thought put into them. (If you’re new to the series, I would suggest starting with the 2011 college game or perhaps one of the NLL efforts for now.) This is your only outlet for a video game form of lacrosse, and in that context, it’s worth checking out.

Pros: Great controller layout, heavy attention to detail to recreate sport
Cons: Poor AI, lot of areas to improve on

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.