Perhaps more than any other sport, college football is built around the magic of the upset. Everything changes when one of the nation’s top teams falls to one that no one even gave a chance to, and sports memories are made. EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2013, now in the franchise’s twentieth year is obsessed with this idea to the point where it becomes a regular expected occurrence and makes the game’s other features less enjoyable in the process.
Still, NCAA Football 13 is a solid, if not repetitive and forgettable sports gaming experience that makes some substantial changes that should be checked out — especially if you’ve missed the last few years.
Published by: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
What works: new passing engine, new animations, still feels solid
What doesn’t work: feels very familiar, unfair AI
As you may have already guessed, NCAA Football 13 looks, plays and sounds incredibly similar to the last few games. All of the modes you expected are here, plus a few slight additions. Surprisingly though, there are quite a few changes made to the established formula, but they’ll be overshadowed by the game’s insistence on pushing several features and little else.
I’m the type of sports game player that almost immediately jumps into Dynasty Mode. I love taking a team and building them up through recruiting into a national powerhouse. This year’s game though made things a lot easier by making upsets happen nearly every time an unranked team plays against one in the top ten. The first few weeks of the season, it was cool — “this is going to be a great season” I thought to myself, but when it kept happening, it became clear that this year — I wouldn’t have to try quite as hard. As long as I just kept winning, I would eventually make my way into the top ten, since there’s no real validity to any of the game’s top teams.
It’s also a bit funny how excited the game gets when these upsets repeatedly happen. This year’s game features studio updates from ESPN personality Reese Davis who proceeds to lose his mind at even the slightest hint of an upset. I remember one in particular where Maryland took the ball down the field on their first possession against the number 2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners and ended up kicking a field goal; Davis reported this as if they had just won the national championship on a flea flicker. Calm down pal..there’s still a lot of football to be played.
As recycled as NCAA Football 13 feels, if you go in expecting to play like you have in recent years — especially on offense — you’re bound to fail. The game employs a new passing engine where the receiver icons turn solid above their heads when they’re looking for the ball in their routes. Throwing to them too early can result in getting picked off (like my first two passes were), and it takes some time to get used to the new system, but it feels incredibly refreshing once you get used to it. Now, players have to think like a quarterback and read the field — at least in theory. You’ll no longer be successful every time as long as you throw the tumbstick back and chuck the ball to your top receiver.
The new system isn’t without its flaws though — as it often falls victim to some curious timing. There were several times when I throw to an open receiver who was looking for the ball, only to have a defender swoop in and change his icon at the last second resulting in a touchdown. There were also several instances where the icons would light up when they clearly weren’t open and ready for the ball. It may be a flawed system, but I would love to see a cleaned up version of it implemented in future titles.
The other big change to this year’s game is the Heisman challenge, which allows you to take several former Heisman trophy winners, put them on any team and attempt to recreate their legendary stats. I just don’t get who this would appeal to — college football is a game of team pride, and as much as I would have loved a guy like Desmond Howard to be on my beloved Wisconsin Badgers, he was a michigan Wolverine — and that’s where it ends (even though he was a Green Bay Packer in the NFL). I just don’t see people getting into it – -why not make it similar to the Madden moments and have you recreate moments in their collegiate careers?
The Blast Factor: NCAA Football 13 plays a great game of football, but it’s a game you’ve played year and year out. Yes, there are a few new plays thrown in for good measure, but there’s almost no denying that this year’s game is incredibly similar to last year’s..and the year before. Still, if you’re a fan of video game sports and the college football atmosphere, you could do a lot worse than NCAA Football 13.