NCAA Football 13 review
We’ve heard it year in and year out – if a sports franchise is popular, chances are that the changes that are made with the following entry in the series will be minimal. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, right? Well, with NCAA Football 12, EA Sports really shook up the franchise in a good way, but left us wondering just what would be left for the following year’s game. Well, the good news is that NCAA Football 13 continues the status quo of goodness from last year’s effort, with a few new tweaks and an entertaining Heisman mode to satisfy the millions of college football fans out there. But this time around, it doesn’t feel quite so daring and new. Hey, sometimes them’s the breaks.
The first thing you’ll notice is the gameplay. The quarterback has some new step-off animations – 20, in fact – that make passing feel a little more fluid. There’s also indicators to let you know how your receivers are positioned, though I felt there were instances where the defense reads them just a little too closely. (Thankfully, the “blind swats” that were such a pain in previous versions are gone – the defender now has to see the ball to take a shot at it.) The running game shows some signs of improvement as well, with better read-outs of hot routes and the ability to change it on the fly if you deem it necessary.
While most of it does lean on the same old stuff we’ve seen in previous years, NCAA 13 as a whole operates like a great sports sim. Very rarely will you find an instance where something didn’t go as planned – save for user error or simply playing as a low-level, stat-drained team. You can adjust sliders however you please in the game, should you feel you need work on your passing game or how you run on the field.
And as always, NCAA 13 packs on the modes for players to try out. The newest of the bunch is Heisman mode, where you can take one of a dozen past winners – including cover star Barry Sanders – and run them through their paces for a superstar season. While lacking in overall innovation, it’s nice to see these achievers get the recognition they deserve in game form. And, hey, you can shut your friends up about who can do more in a Heisman season.
Aside from that, most of the modes from the series make a return. The mascot football mode is a bit ludicrous, but well worth trying out if only to silence your buddies by dominating them with dudes in Air Force Falcon uniforms. Road To Glory is once again back, where you can create a player from scratch and run them through a high school-college career, earning XP and making them a better-rounded player. The addition of extra goals and Reaction Time (a cool little slowdown feature) are nice here. Finally, Online Dynasty lets you make the run for records through either Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, setting up conferences and changing around staff to see if you can perform better in your league.
Though not all the schools made the cut in this game (which is a bit weird, considering it’s the “ultimate” NCAA package), we did see plenty of our favorite universities represented with mascots, authentic fields and player celebrations in the game. And even if actual player names aren’t included (NCAA rules, I guess), it’s still a decent overall experience.
That said, the graphics can lack a bit in certain areas. From a distance, the crowds don’t really look that much different, even if your team is romping and stomping a long-time rival. Also, some of the environmental effects and camera angles don’t change much, even with extreme weather conditions. Just something for EA to keep in mind with next year’s go-around. Otherwise, the game looks marvelous. Especially the menus and the replay system. Talk about ESPN inspired.
As for audio, Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit once again return for audio commentary, and though there are times they sound slightly disjointed (especially when meshed with Erin Andrews’ sideline reports), they offer some good rapport as your team marches forward. The crowd noises are quite enthusiastic and fun to listen to, and the authentic themes for each school are a blast. More cannon fire would’ve been nice, though. (Yes, some schools still use cannons.)
Though not quite as trend-setting as last year’s rendition, NCAA Football 13 is still a good game of pigskin, packed with features and a strong presentation that fans of the sport will happily embrace. At the very least, it’ll tide you over until you see if Madden NFL 13 can make the grade or not. That’s a month and a half of Online Dynasty domination. See you on the field.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]