NCAA Football 13 Review

By Jonathan Deesing - Posted Jul 10, 2012

NCAA Football 13 brings to the table two new features: a bullet time mechanism and an ability to play as past Heisman Trophy winners. Beyond that, it's just the same old solid football game that is sure to please, but not excite.

The Pros
  • Bullet time in a football game? Yes please.
  • Heisman Challenge lets you play as Eddie freakin' George
  • About a billion new animations make the game look as real as ever
The Cons
  • Heisman Challenge forces players to play on modern day teams
  • A swath of details are once again ignored
  • The game doesn't bring a lot of "new" to the table

NCAA Football 13 Review:

We sports gamers don’t ask for much. No, really. All we need is a good solid game that we can play with our buddies with a few cool new features, and enough content to get us through the time between games. Unfortunately, EA Sports seems keenly aware of this and continues to do the bare minimum to keep their games purchase worthy. NCAA Football 13 is a solid game with a number of additions, but at the end of the day won’t be drawing new players into the football video game arena.

 

 

The more things change. . .

Anyone who played NCAA Football 12 will feel at home with NCAA Football 13. The game looks great as usual. There are close to five hundred added animations that lend a fair amount of realism to the game, especially in replays. The delightful Road to Glory mode changed very little, if at all, but remains just as fun. My player, Dre Santiago, is currently starting QB at the University of Utah and has already thrown for over 2,000 yards his freshman season.

Though EA has waxed poetic about the improved AI, you will be hard pressed to notice any significant changes from computer players. Dynasty mode features a number of welcome improvements in both scouting and recruiting to make the process not only more user-friendly, but more reliable. Commentators Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler remain just as annoying as in past iterations, and you will have heard every line of their dialogue within three games.

However, 13 isn’t entirely without innovation. Indeed, one of my favorite features in the game (and for that matter, any sports game to date) is the Reaction Time mechanic, which feels just like the bullet time feature from many recent shooters. Any time after the snap, you can simply press a button that slows the game down precipitously, warping the camera and giving you a general Matrix-“whoa” feeling.

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As a running back this allows you to juke and react quicker to defensive players. As a quarterback you have much more time to read receivers and make the proper pass decision. There is a finite amount of reaction time each play, and only if you make a good play does the meter fill up again. In Road to Glory mode, you start with five or less seconds, and your meter increases with skill. In the new Heisman Challenge mode you start with fifteen seconds—a lifetime in most plays, but understandable considering the skill of the athletes.

The other major addition to 13 is the Heisman Challenge, which is the first time any NCAA game has featured real athletes. Taking cues from NBA 2K’s NBA’s Greatest mode, the Heisman Challenge features sixteen past Heisman winners and allows you to play a season as them, trying to beat a variety of their records, including yards in a season, touchdowns in a season, touchdowns in a game, etc. You can play as each of these athletes (although I don’t know why you wouldn’t just stick with Eddie George, I mean, come on) on any modern team you want, which is fairly amusing.

NCAA Football 13

Nick Saban is a Tool

Maybe I’m asking too much, but a year is a long time to add just a few things into a working formula. Sure, throwing bullet time into a football game is a pretty slick curveball, and the Heisman mode is fairly cool (if not a bit overdue), but I struggled to decide whether or not these changes were enough to satisfy me.

Indeed, EA seemed proud of their additions of things like the Texas Cheerleaders and the USC song girls, but these are nothing but trimmings on the game, and they are few and far between. For example, the year spent playing high school ball for a local school is awesome, and thankfully my alma mater is actually in the game. But, as with last year’s game, the schools are simply aggregations of neighborhood names. Though it may sound daunting, entering 15,000 high schools and their mascots is not really that much data entry if given an entire year to do so.

NCAA Football 13

Sure I’m being nit-picky, but if EA Sports isn’t committed to making big changes, I would appreciate the little things working. After all, details are the single most important aspect of any sports game. Fan animations suffer in NCAA Football 13. The scoreboard during high school games never works. When watching a replay, players often just disappear. When playing the Heisman Challenge or Road to Glory, offensive coordinators make some seriously dubious calls (not just questionable, but completely asinine like a dive on 3rd and 20).

As far as the Heisman Challenge goes, the game forces you to play each athlete’s season in modern day with modern teams. While this can be fun, not offering the option to play as the 1981 Trojans or 1988 Sooners represents overwhelming laziness on the part of EA Sports. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and the half-assed presentation of the Heisman Challenge really irked me. It’s clear only player models were added along with a few statistics for players to beat. Commentators don’t mention the athletes’ names and players aren’t given the opportunity to play in their seminal games. These little things all add up and left me with a bad taste in my mouth, as if EA Sports is churning out sports titles out of sheer obligation, not passion for the game.

NCAA Football 13

Probably still worth a purchase

There is a stark divide between people who play sports video games and those who do not. Those who don’t play sports games rarely understand why we will buy essentially the same game year after year. They have a point, really: it’s like buying the same model of car every year. Sure, it may be a great car and there may be a few changes, but it’s the same car, year after year—save for every couple years when they overhaul the entire vehicle.

For NCAA Football 13 this rings especially true. While there are some awesome additions, it seems with much of the game as if EA Sports was simply going through the motions. While Reaction Time and Heisman Challenge bring new life to the series, low attention to detail leads to some eye-rolling moments and frustrations. On the whole, I felt like the title does the bare minimum to justify a purchase, but nothing more.