EA Sports played it safe with NCAA Football 13 by addressing some legacy issues while adding a highly marketable mode with the Heisman Challenge. Unfortunately for veterans of the series the game will feel all too familiar and those tempted primarily by the allure of legends may find themselves somewhat unsatisfied with the path they’re being led down. NCAA Football 13 is a product as rich in content as it is uninspired in its execution.
Given that only the three days were had to formulate thoughts on NCAA Football 13 what follows will act as more of an overview than a detailed review. As a whole the game could be best described as mediocre and inoffensive while still offering a respectable amount of depth and variety in modes. Fans of the series will not find much new – unless Heisman Challenge mode provides intrigue – while the lack of advancement elsewhere is immediately evident. Dynasty does come through with some worthwhile additions but the reach there becomes more limited.
Aspects like play action, pass trajectories, screen passes, and non-psychic defensive backs provide the improvement on the field. They represent significant advancements but at the same time it’s hard to get all that excited about those things which should have been addressed long ago. Issues with the gameplay however were quickly identified. Poor safety play might be the most glaring of the bunch but at times deficient offensive line blocking along with the CPU being inept running the option and out of shotgun also stand out. User swatting or pick attempts with defensive backs appears to be terribly unresponsive allowing for some passes to be completed without any contesting of the ball. The CPU has also demonstrated some poor clock management and SuperSim is still busted.
Otherwise the game plays fairly clean with solid balance between offense and defense. Recognizing just how many problems there are none really will be all that startling to those used to the NCAA series. They can at least be somewhat overlooked, especially considering the actual improvements that are present, but will understandably create some frustration as well. More though should be expected of the game than just being adequate.
There seems to be no point to the addition of motion blur other than to make the graphics somewhat worse and to act as a constant slight annoyance. Visually the game is still spectacular despite that. Presentation is less effective with a mishmash of broadcast style shots with replays and post-play scenes that come from cameras on the field that don’t exist. Even though there is a disconnect in the post-play scenes – reaction shots often come from a totally different part of the field than when the play ended – at least it’s not as utterly embarrassing as what was on display last year. Players still can’t seem to walk around without bumping into each other but at least the focus isn’t consistently on those interactions.
The additions to Dynasty mode are worthwhile. In particular the ESPN Studio Updates and Bottom Line Ticker are effective in making the games within Dynasty feel more important and connected to the other results around the country. However the updates become bland with audio sometimes poorly stitched together and when in the process of playing actually glancing down at the ticker could act as a distraction. More time will have to be spent recruiting but thus far the dynamic pitches, enhanced phone calls, and new scouting have added some much needed spice to the process.
Where the NCAA series has failed the most in recent years – and continues to do so with the latest iteration – is in providing a true representation of the college football experience. This is particularly the case in the audio area where crowd noise is often flat and in general doesn’t have the effect that one would expect. The lead devs were at the Notre Dame vs Michigan game last year and still couldn’t translate that experience to the game which is disheartening. Player reaction scenes are still weak and more often than not feel disconnected from what had just taken place. It’s unbelievable how many teams have their uniforms omitted or incorrect. Commentary has grown stale but with the departure of Erin Andrews maybe EA will have the motivation to revamp it in the booth and not limit it just to the sideline.
Check out my full impressions of the Heisman Challenge mode here. Online impressions will be posted later this week and then the full ‘Hits and Misses’ review early next week.
There’s value to be had with NCAA Football 13 – there remains a rich array of content and commendable depth to Dynasty mode. However those who play NCAA every year may struggle to identify what exactly would make it a must-have product.