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Amnesia: The Bunker - title

In a Nutshell


  • Opening hour or 2
  • Return of many classic survival horror concepts
  • Gun is as much a tool as it is a weapon
  • Reloading the revolver
  • Risk/reward of loudly cranking
    the flashlight
  • Artillery shelling keeps
    player on edge
  • Variety of methods to
    solve problems
  • Barbed wire loading screen


  • Beast is too omni-present
    and too deadly
  • Waiting for the Beast to retreat takes too long
  • Way too much backtracking
  • Constantly pulling the flashlight draw string
  • Can't change the difficulty
  • No PSVR or PSVR2 support

Overall Impression : C+ / B-
So close to hitting a survival horror sweet spot

Amnesia: The Bunker - cover

Frictional Games

PC (via Steam and Epic),
PlayStation 4 < (via PSN digital download),
XBox One | S | X (via XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)


Original release date:
6 June 2023

first-person horror

single player

Play time:
8 hours

ESRB Rating: N/A
MegaBearsFan Parental Rating: for mature audiences because of:
horror, violence, depictions of war

Official site:

Amnesia: The Dark Descent almost single-handedly popularized the "hide and seek" and "run away" sub-genres of horror that would go on to influence everything from Outlast to >Observer_, and even the likes of P.T. and Visage (though I'm always surprised to remind myself that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories actually preceded Amnesia by a whole year). Amnesia also remained one of the more mechanically complex horror games, as more and more horror games leaned harder and harder into the paradigm of the "unarmed, defenseless player character" and erred closer and closer to walking sims. But even though Amnesia retained more mechanical complexity and more genuine threat than its contemporaries, it (and its sequels) never hit the level of complexity and action of a classic survival horror game.

Survival horror seems to be going through a renaissance of late, thanks in large part to Capcom hitting it out of the park with most of recent Resident Evil games. As such, Frictional Games wastes no time in telling the player that Amnesia: The Bunker ain't no walking sim. This is a return to old-school survival horror, but with modern conventions and twists. I have not been this impressed or excited by the opening hour of a survival horror game since booting up Resident Evil VII for the first time.

Death from German machine guns? Or death from an eldritch Beast? Take your pick.

Bullets and draw strings

Within the opening minutes of Amnesia: The Bunker, the player is dropped into a World War I trench with nothing but an empty revolver. There's no HUD at all. In order to check how many bullets you have in the revolver, you have to open the cylinder and look at how many bullets are left. To reload, you have to open the cylinder, drop out the empty shell casings, and manually reload each new bullet one at a time. Aiming and firing the gun is slow, clunky, and imprecise. There is also an ability to lean around corners and aim the gun.

After a short gun fighting tutorial in which the player is scripted to take damage, the game hands us some cloth with which to craft bandages. So the player has actual health, instead of just automatically healing over time, or losing sanity.

Then the game gives the player a flashlight. But unlike other contemporary horror games (or The Dark Descent), this flashlight doesn't run on batteries or oil. It has a simple friction motor that is recharged by repeatedly pulling a drawstring. Apparently, nothing in this game is going to be simple or effort-free. I do have to say though, that I wish the flashlight charge would last longer. Fumbling around in the dark to charge the flashlight (and risk making noise that could attract an enemy) is a wonderfully tense and anxiety-inducing mechanic, but having to do it every minute or 2 (whether there are threats present or not) gets tedious and annoying real quick. The fact that the light has to be recharged multiple times to explore a single moderately-sized room at a modestly brisk pace should have been a red flag that the light doesn't last long enough.

The flashlight and revolver require deliberate engagement from the player to use.

And then, if this weren't already feeling like a real survival horror game, within an hour of starting, you'll wander into a save room, complete with an item storage box and a map showing objectives and puzzle locations. One could easily mistake this for Resident Evil. Below the save room is a gasoline generator, which burns fuel to keep the bunker's electricity and lights running. But the supply of oil is limited, and spread throughout the bunker. And a warning sign is printed next to it, saying that the "beast" prefers to hunt in the dark. Keeping this generator running is one of the key mechanics of the game, since it (not your flashlight) is the primary source of light, and also the primary defense against the Beast.

This opening hour or 2 is so perfectly exactly what I want in a horror game! It is slow, tense, and methodical. I'm 2 hours in, and I haven't even seen the monster yet; I've only heard its threatening growls and the sound of it scuttling around within the walls and ceiling, seemingly ready to pounce at any moment. The game is already mechanically rich and varied, and full of risk / reward mechanics. Light and sound are both thematic effects and also full-fledged mechanics with strategy associated with them. It has an ever-present sense of dread and danger. The existence of the save room and item box suggests actual stakes for failure, and the presence of healing items and fuel suggest that the battle against this Beast will be one of attrition. It's looking to be a modern take on classic survival horror from one of the studios that innovated modern horror gaming.

Can I just give it an A+ already and start singing its praises on social media and YouTube? Well, let's actually play it and make sure. You know, just for shits and giggles. I mean, I haven't even seen the monster yet, so I should probably get at least that before I make up my mind, right?

The opening hours feel like pitch-perfect, classic survival horror.

The Beast

The Beast is kind of where tings go south for me. To put things as simple and reductionist as I can: the Beast is too hard to deal with on Normal and Hard modes, but too easy on Easy mode. I was tempted to start on the Hard difficulty setting because I'm an experienced horror gamer, and have played all of Frictional's other games except Punumbra, but I opted to start playing this game on the Normal difficulty setting to see what the developer's default "intended experience" is like. If it's too easy, I can always up the difficulty, right?

Well. upping the difficulty has not once crossed my mind. The default "Normal" difficulty feels, to me, closer to what I would expect from a "Hard" or maybe even a "Very Hard" difficulty level. In fact, after several hours of dying and respawning at my last save over and over again, I tried going into the Settings screen to lower the difficulty to Easy. But there is no such option. The game's difficulty cannot be reset mid-game. Whatever difficulty level you pick before starting, that is what you're stuck with unless you restart the game over from the beginning. So I decided to try to stick with it and tank through the game. Maybe I'll get better as time goes on, and won't die as much.


On Normal difficulty and higher, the Beast is incredibly sensitive to sound and is highly aggressive. The biggest problem, however, is that regardless of the difficulty level chosen, the Beast can instantly kill the player if you are caught. There is virtually zero margin for error! It's also possible for the Beast to hit the player with a glancing blow, and there's also small rat enemies that will bite you and deal damage. This is why there are healing items, because you can take damage without dying. But for most practical intents and purposes, getting caught by the Beast is an insta-kill, unless you're quick with the revolver and have ammo to spare.

The idea of a single enemy being able to instantly kill the player for a single, small mistake is, in my opinion, anathema to good horror design. This is because players will make mistakes. Especially early in the game, when they are still learning and experimenting. And The Bunker explicitly tells the player to try experimenting. But if the monster is insta-killing the player every time you botch one of these experiments, it quickly desensitizes the player to the threat of the monster and teaches you to stick with repetitive strategies that work, while also becoming frustrating and tedious.

The game tells me to experiment, but then brutally punishes me and clobbers progress whenever I try.

The insta-kill nature of the Beast, and the lack of a margin for error means that (if I didn't die already) I often retreated back to the save room after making small amounts of progress, instead of venturing deeper into an area. It became very tedious. But even so, I still suffered many deaths. Perhaps I wasn't effectively using the tools at my disposal? Or perhaps I was doing the open-ended exploration in the "wrong" order? I don't know, but in either case, it often took me an hour or 2 to make 10 or 20 minutes of progress, either because of all the backtracking, all the hiding under tables, or because I would die and have to restart from the last save.


The Beast can jump out from small holes in the walls. These holes are everywhere! Almost every hallway and room in the game has at least one such hole, and the player can hardly take 10 steps without walking past one. This means that if you do something to attract the monster (such as make a loud noise or pick up certain key items), the Beast will basically spawn right in your face. I've rarely had enough time to be able to run back to a hiding spot before the Beast catches me. And even if there is a hiding spot near enough, the Beast might still find me because I wasn't really able to break line of sight long enough, and it sees where I go.

And even if I do successfully hide, it can sometimes take a really long time for the Beast to give up searching and retreat back to its hidy holes. I've repeatedly had to sit for 5 minutes or longer waiting for the Beast to go away, all while the generator is steadily burning away fuel. And if I crawl out of hiding after that long, only to die a few minutes later, it's all the more aggravating to know that I wasted so much time, and that I'll likely have to hide and wait for as long (or longer) again in the next attempt.

Barrels, crates, or traps can temporarily block or
slow the Beast from exiting its hidy holes.

And that's assuming that I'm not in a dead end, and the Beast spawns between me and all possible hiding spots. In these cases, the only recourse is to use a weapon to scare the Beast off. I can shoot it or throw a grenade at it. But since these resources are limited, and your inventory space is very limited (only 6 inventory spaces on the Normal difficulty), there's no guarantee that I have any bullets or grenades available.

So instead, I might try to rely on pre-emptively blocking the beast by pushing barrels, crates, or explosive traps up against the holes to block the Beast or slow it down. But on Normal and Hard difficulty, the Beast is so insanely sensitive to sound, that the sound of the barrel or crate scraping against the floor while I'm pushing it is often enough to attract the Beast right to the hole I'm trying to block off. It will jump out of the very hole I'm trying to block off, and kill me. This is often true whether I'm crouching or not, and whether the generator is running or not.

So even when I think I'm being clever and proactive and resource-savvy, the game will still punish me with an instant death that may erase 10, 20, or 30 minutes of progress.

In one case, I went into the Chapel to pick up a key that is hidden away in a confessional booth. As soon as I picked up the key, it seemed to trigger the Beast to spawn outside the room. So I quickly hid inside the confessional booth because it is like, the only hiding spot in the room. I shut the confessional door, crouched down, shut off the flashlight, and didn't move. The Beast still swung the door open and killed me anyway. This happened 3 times in a row. In one case, all the other furniture in the room was already smashed before I even got there, so there was literally nowhere to hide except for inside the confessional or behind the altar.

Generator fuel is ticking away while I'm hiding under tables.

I posted my frustration on Reddit, and saw replies from many people saying that the Beast either didn't spawn for them at all, or it did spawn but did not open the confessional. Others asked if I was bleeding, and therefore left a trail of blood into the confessional for the Beast to follow. I was not. Yet others said they had a similar experience. So does success or failure in this situation just come down to a die roll and blind luck? The maintenance section is a pretty lengthy and complicated level, and it's immensely frustrating and unfair to lose an hour of careful, methodical exploration, item-collection, avoiding rats, and hiding under tables because the game decided to break its own rules and kill me out of spite.

The rats are also a pain to deal with. They will congregate around corpses and around any food stuffs that might be lying around (including a chunk of meat that you can throw to bait them). They will bite the player if you get too close, and also hiss at you from close or medium distance, which can attract the Beast. They can be killed with any of the offensive tools available to the player, but they will usually respawn unless the food is removed or the corpse they're gnawing on is burnt. However, the only way that I could find to burn a corpse was with a molotov cocktail. Grenades don't blow up the corpse, nor could I simply light a corpse on fire with a torch or the lighter. And sometimes, even if I did burn a corpse with a molotov, the rats would still eventually return and continue gnawing at it.

The inability to permanently dispatch them became frustrating in my Normal difficulty playthrough because I often needed to make multiple trips back and forth to an area to fully explore and collect all the items, and the rats would often be located at chokepoints that I had to cross every time, both there and back. I was rapidly running out of supplies to deal with them. The rats are infinite, but my resources aren't.

Rats often block critical choke-points.

I like the rats, in principle. It's good to have a smaller enemy to supplement the big, bad stalker monster. But did they really need to be this damn difficult to deal with?

More generally speaking, the inventory is severely restrictive in this game. Thankfully, bullets for the revolver have their own special inventory slot, but that is about the only concession that Frictional is willing to give its players. On Normal difficulty, you start with only 6 inventory slots. If you want to carry the flashlight, gun, and stopwatch, that's half your inventory right there! There are inventory upgrades scattered around the level, but each one only adds a single slot, and you'll pick up more critical tools over the course of the game (such as a lighter and wrench) which will usually fill up those additional slots.

Thankfully, the game does allow the player to drop items on the ground, and those items will stay where you drop them, even if you leave the area or reload a save. This means that you can always drop a relatively poor item and pick up something more valuable. You can also drop an item, to make room, pick up a new item, and combine that item with something else in your inventory, then pick up the item you dropped.

The ability to drop items on the ground without permanently losing them is also a godsend considering that the item box in the save room has limited storage capacity. Only a few hours into the game on Normal difficulty, I had already filled up the item box with grenades, bottles, bandages, and pieces of meat, and didn't have room for new items. So eventually, I started pulling some items out and just dropping them on the floor next to the box. Just don't drop a piece of meat! If you do, the rats will show up and block your access to the item box!

I filled up the item box and had to start stacking resources on the nearby shelf.

Maybe the fact that I have more items than the box can hold should be taken as an indication that I'm not using enough of my resources. But I rarely try to do anything clever with my tools because the game and Beast often punish me whenever I try to get creative. So what's the point?

Compared to other games

Compared to Alien: Isolation and Mr. X in Resident Evil 2 REmake, the Beast of Amnesia: The Bunker just feels horribly unfair.

In Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph was a lot easier to deal with, even though it is also an un-killable monster that insta-kills the player if it catches you. There were hiding places everywhere in that game. The environments were larger, the hallways more twisty, and there were more places to break line of sight. Plus, that game included all the high-tech gadgets for tracking the Xenomorph's position and for distracting it. In Amnesia: The Bunker, I struggle to tell where the monster's growling and footsteps are coming from. I have a modest surround sound system, but I still couldn't tell the direction of the Beast's growls. Game like this really should have a visual assist feature that would highlight the direction of audible sounds on the screen. This would be helpful for people who don't have surround sound, or good directional headphones, as well as for people who are hearing-impaired.

The invincible stalker enemies of Alien: Isolation and REmake 2 are more manageable.

Anyway, in REmake2, Mr. X could be avoided for lengthy periods of time while the player explores. Even if he finds you, he's not necessarily an insta-kill. So even if you run into him, or screw up and back yourself in a corner, you'll take damage, but you won't necessarily die. Instead, you'll have an opportunity to try to run away in a panic and live to fight another day, and will probably have consumed some ammo, healing items, or other resources in doing so, which contributes to attrition and creates consequences for your failures that persist through the rest of the game. That's way better than just dying and starting over from a save or checkpoint. There's also all the regular zombies, dogs, and lickers to deal with, which adds variety to your strategies for how you deal with them.

Yeah, sure, spending too much time hiding from the stalker monster was a problem in both Alien: Isolation and REmake2 as well (and also in Outlast and even in the original Amnesia). But at least in Alien: Isolation and REmake 2, this hiding didn't happen while a precious resource (the generator fuel) is rapidly depleting.

If it were up to me, the player in Amnesia: The Bunker would not suffer an insta-kill if the Beast catches you. Instead, the player should have the opportunity to push off of the monster (hopefully while the camera does a good job of obstructing or obscuring the actual monster so that we don't get too good a look at it). Escaping the Beast's grasp, however, should still severely wound the player character. Maybe there could be a button-mashing QTE, or some kind of consumable defensive item (like Resident Evil REmake's daggers) that mitigates or outright prevents damage?

I do not think the Beast should be an insta-kill.

The encounter should give the player a chance to run away. However, even if you escape the initial attack, the injury should require that the player either bee-line to the save room and barricade yourself in, or find a quiet secluded corner to bandage yourself up. Failure to do so would cause the player to start bleeding and give away your hiding spot.

The big difference between The Bunker and games like Alien: Isolation and Resident Evil is that those other games, being bigger-budget titles, have much larger environments. The smaller confines of the Bunker probably contributed a lot to Amnesia's developers making the Beast be an insta-kill. It would probably be too easy to simply sprint back to the save room every time the monster damages you. So if the Beast were made more forgiving, the bunker itself would probably have to be bigger in order to accommodate that.

But making the bunker bigger would also solve other problems. It could allow for the Beast's holes to be spaced further apart. It would allow for more nooks, crannies, and small rooms that the player could hide in. Also, with a bigger overall bunker, the different areas could maybe even have been separated by sections of open trench, where the player might even be exposed to German machine gun fire. This might break some of the suspension of disbelief, because, if there bunker has access to open trenches, then the characters could just climb out and escape. But the game could establish that doing so would be too dangerous due to barbed wire, mines, and the threat of gas or machine gun fire. So the only practical escape option would still be the blown exit which would lead to the allied back lines. In fact, the game does, at one point, do this almost exactly. If you climb to the top of the pillbox, you can see the battlefield stretching out before you. If you look for more than a second though, you'll be pegged by German sniper fire, forcing you back into the bunker, where at least you can see your antagonist face-to-face.

I would like to have seen more time spent in the trenches of World War I.

I think I also would have made it so that the bunker being shelled by artillery would startle the Beast and cause it to run away. This way, the player could use the shelling as cover to make a dash to an objective or back to another safe place.

The bunker, itself

Aside from the frustrating trial-and-error nature of the Beast's A.I. and behaviors, I think almost everything else about Amnesia: The Bunker works very well. Exploration is almost completely open-ended and player-driven. There are definitely "better" routes to take through the game's various areas, but it's entirely possible to do things in any order you wish. Worst case scenario is that you make things a little bit harder for yourself because you haven't yet picked up some tool or another. For example, finding the lighter early in the game makes everything way easier.

The limited fuel of the generator also creates a sense of urgency for the player, while also being one of the biggest components of strategy. With the fuel for the lights slowly burning away, and a limited inventory, it's critical to think carefully about what you bring with you during any expedition out into an area. You want to have enough items to give you options for dealing with threats and obstacles, but you can't take everything with you because a.) you don't have enough pockets for everything, and b.) you also need to save room to bring new supplies back with you.

I just dropped fuel cans on the floor next to the generator, instead of taking up space in the item box.

A larger bunker might also allow for each area to have its own save room. Perhaps each level could have a save room locked behind a door or other obstacle that requires exploring the rest of the level and looping back around to unlock the save room. Each area-specific save room could then be easily accessible from the central hub's save room, and each save room can also have easy access to most sections of the given area. This would create some good checkpoints for saving progress, while also simplifying back-tracking.

The bunker itself isn't very big, but the slow and methodical pace of exploration definitely makes it feel much bigger than it actually is. The darkness also makes it feel bigger, since the player can rarely see to the end a hallway the first time you visit an area, because the lights are usually flipped off when you first enter. Increasing the gamma of the game or the brightness of your TV won't help either, since the game actually fades to pitch black beyond the edge of the light.

I like that cranking the flashlight and reloading to the revolver are both time-consuming actions that have some risk and reward associated with them. I like the concept of leaving blood trails if you're injured and bleeding. I like how the bunker is continuously being shelled by German artillery, which creates loud noises, rattles, the entire complex, and shakes up dust and dirt. This ensures that the game never gets too quiet for too long, and it reminds the player that there are things outside that are just as dangerous (if not moreso) than the monster you're trying to escape from.

Really, the only thing that I don't like is how my success or failure often hinges on a die roll that determines if the Beast appears at a particular location, or happens to look in my direction. Sure, I guess that is actually thematic, given the details of the game's story. But I think there are better ways of communicating the senselessness and randomness of death in World War I than to arbitrarily clobber large chunks of progress on a whim.

The bunker isn't very big.

Worst of both worlds?

I wanted to love Amnesia: The Bunker so much. And after that opening hour or 2, I really thought I would. Frictional seems to want to restore the core gameplay structure of old-school survival horror, but with modern sensibilities and trends. But I think it actually manages to hit the worst of both worlds. The insta-kill "GOTCHA!" nature of the modern-trend-chasing stalker monster only highlights and exacerbates the tedious backtracking to save rooms to manage inventory and preserve progress from old survival horror. It's a combination that makes the whole game far more frustrating than either old or modern horror titles, while simultaneously killing the methodical pacing that both concepts are trying to evoke.

The irony here is that the original Amnesia was a trend-setter, while The Bunker seems to be mostly chasing recent trends. Whether it's the insta-kill stalker enemy of Alien: Isolation, the return of classic horror gaming conventions a la Resident Evil VII, or even the World War I setting popularized by Battlefield One, The Bunker feels like it's far from the cutting edge, and just can't make it all come together.

That being said, much like with From Software, even a "bad" Frictional Game is still pretty OK. While this particular monster doesn't gel with me, Frictional once again proves themselves to be masters of creating a tone and maintaining that tone through ambiance. The titular bunker is a very well-realized and intimidating setting that deserves a better monster.

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Sid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Silent Hill: The Short MessageSilent Hill: The Short MessageSilicon DreamsSilicon Dreams
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Song of HorrorSong of HorrorSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of Time
Spider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsStar Trek ResurgenceStar Trek Resurgence
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars SquadronsStar Wars Squadrons
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
Still Wakes The DeepStill Wakes The DeepStranded DeepStranded Deep
The Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Callisto ProtocolThe Callisto ProtocolThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within
The Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2The Last GuardianThe Last Guardian
The Last of UsThe Last of UsThe Last of Us Part IIThe Last of Us Part II
The Outer WorldsThe Outer WorldsThe SaboteurThe Saboteur
The SwapperThe SwapperThe Twilight Zone VRThe Twilight Zone VR
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5U-BoatU-Boat
Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil WarUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Until DawnUntil DawnVirginiaVirginia
VisageVisageWhat Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

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NCAA Football 12 Playable demo's limitations don't have me sold on this year's gameNCAA Football 12 Playable demo's limitations don't have me sold on this year's game07/02/2011 The NFL may be in lockout still, but the NCAA is definitely going to be playing football this fall. Now that it's July, we're almost at the point where EA is ready to start releasing it's annual football titles. But first come the playable demos. I finally got some time to mess around with the NCAA Football 12 demo that was...

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