NCAA Football 13|
The EA Sports yearly game release cycle is back in full swing with our annual dose of NCAA Football! I still can’t figure out how or why EA continues this insane release schedule with only minor improvements. The licensing fees must be enormous. There must be a boatload of people buying NCAA Football every year that justifies a yearly financial outlay. I enjoy this time of a game consoles life cycle. Most of the developers have tweaked the graphics to the limit of the system so now all that’s left is to work on the little details that make a sports game special. NCAA Football 13 is no exception.
When you start the game you’ll find the menus similar to last season, however it looks like the compression used on the menu animation has been improved so text is a little clearer and motion is a little smoother. The overall presentation of NCAA Football 13 has again improved, especially with ESPN integration. The bottom line ticker has been improved to include settings for most every sport. EA has also implemented an ESPN “live studio update” with Rece Davis to add to the realism. At natural breaks during your game, Brad Nessler will call for an update from Davis in the studio. This is especially useful during Dynasty games when you might want to see how your big division rival is doing in their game as you battle for the conference championship.
On the “artistic interpretation” side of things, the camera zooms on instant replays and cutscenes are frequently out of focus until the virtual cameraman gets it locked in. This is probably supposed to be motion blur, but it’s not good. I understand the “realism” factor with camera depth of field, but I’m really surprised ESPN approved this presentation since it reflects poorly on their broadcast style. Out of focus game coverage happens sometimes, but not this much and certainly not on every play.
123 teams are available including newcomers Massachusetts, Texas State and University of Texas at San Antonio. South Alabama has been left out of NCAA Football 13. With all the realignments and shifting of conferences and new logos in the past couple years, NCAA 13 is almost a ‘must buy’ if you want accuracy. EA once again includes the tools to make NCAA Football 13 the most accurate rosters possible. While they are contractually not allowed to use real player names, they do allow users to edit rosters and create teams. The really nice area is EA Sports Locker roster share. Fully edited rosters are available FREE from our friends at Operation Sports including real names, skin color, and hair type (I didn’t realize dreads were that in style nowadays). Once you save the rosters to your Xbox, you can play single games or in Dynasty mode with named players and somewhat realistic likenesses, but you can’t play online with edited teams.
Users can also create their own high school or college teams with TeamBuilder on the EA website. There are lots of ways to customize your team right down to the height of your socks. For those starving artists out there, you can even create and upload your own logo. Additionally there are 233 new uniform pieces including helmets, shoes, and uniforms from Under Armour and the Nike Pro Combat line. New uniform and helmet combinations are added in the game the same week they are debuted during the real college football season which will be great for Oregon Duck fans.
EA has added over 80 new team specific presentation improvements, including:
The gameplay has been revamped slightly. Very slightly. On the “little details” side of things, EA did a lot with quarterback animations, including new drop backs, and fakes. The passing game has been tweaked quite a bit with over 20 new pass trajectories covering different zones around the field. The biggest change in the passing game is in “receiver awareness”. He basically has to see or expect the ball to be coming to him to make a play. This results in a lot more missed catches and quite a bit more expletives hurled at the TV screen. On the defensive side of the ball I had a difficult time finding any substantive changes. It appears like defenders now have to more obviously “see” the ball coming to swat it down or intercept. But basically the same defensive engine remains from last season. It’s not horrible, but it’s certainly not great either.
Dynasty mode has quite a few little tweaks that make it a little more fun. Scouting now has a specific 20 hour bank of time devoted during preseason. During the regular season its set at 3 hours a week. Recruiting now has “triple threat” athletes that can be assigned to several positions. Recruiting pitches have more influence factors such as coach prestige and coach stability, and new stadium atmosphere and playing style round out the list.
The big “improvement” in NCAA Football 13 is the inclusion of Heisman Legends. These are the real named athletes. This new mode gives users a chance to play with some of the all-time greats and attempt to replicate their legendary seasons. You are given a list of goals to complete for the player to win the Heisman. Heisman Trophy players included in the game are: Marcus Allen, Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Barry Sanders, Andrew Ware, Desmond Howard, Charlie Ward, Eddie George, Carson Palmer and Robert Griffin III. If you played the NCAA Football 13 demo you also get Jim Plunkett, Archie Griffin and Tim Brown. If you pre-ordered NCAA Football 13 from Gamestop you also get Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, and Mark Ingram.
The Heisman Challenge is certainly interesting, but those players would not have won the award without their team. The teams are not included in NCAA Football 13 because it would cost way too much. Instead players can take the legends and put them on any modern team they want. It is kind of fun, but it wears out way too quickly. I don’t see how licensing all these guys can justify the cost. As a bonus, EA included a series of over 60 interviews with the athletes talking about how they chose their school, how it felt to lift the Heisman Trophy and other topics.
Road to Glory mode has a handful of improvements as well. The biggest being that reaction time is now directly tied to a player’s awareness rating. There are also 8 new high school stadiums in several different settings. These are all little detail things that together are a nice improvement over previous years. Online play is virtually unchanged from last season. Unfortunately, EA is still forcing people to input a code to play online. If you rent or borrow NCAA Football 13, you’ll have to fork over some cash to play online or download TeamBuilder teams. EA does provide a 2 day trial for free, but then you have to decide how important online play is for you.
There are 36Achievements for NCAA Football 13 to earn those 1,000 points. These are a little unusual for the achievements we see in most games, and unlocking this list will actually take a large chunk of time. Achievements range from winning the high school championships all the way to winning the BCS with each of the Heisman Legend players included in the game. Winning by 35 points on Heisman difficulty level is beyond my skills, so you enjoy yourself attempting that one.
NCAA Football 13 is the year of the eye candy. With all the little detail improvements it is an upgrade over last season – especially for Purdue and military academy fans. But some gameplay annoyances still remain, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The detail improvements are welcome, but gameplay is what matters and this just isn’t much of an improvement over last season to justify dropping another $60 in EA’s pockets. But if you love college football, even the slightest improvement will make you part with your money in a heartbeat.