It's that time of year where I start counting the days to training camps, preseason games, fantasy leagues, and lots of talking smack with friends and g1s. Football is that close, which means that EA Sports has put out the first of their annual American Football duo, NCAA Football 13. It's also the first time in a long time that NCAA feels new and challenging, and I like it.
The main reason for this comes from what's been done with the wide receivers, the guys who in the past always knew when you threw the ball to them. EA Sports finally removed the eyes from the back of receiver's heads so they won't catch what they can't see, and only after a certain point in their route will they be prepared to make a play at all. Those of you used to getting the ball out quickly are gonna have to learn some patience. The quarterback did learn a couple new tricks to make up for this, since they can now use Total Control Passing to put the ball where only their guy can get it on the left stick, and use the right stick to avoid sacks to keep the play alive. On the other side of the ball, defenders have to see the ball to make a play on it, meaning your linebacker won't be your interception leader anymore. The game is changed even further by the number of animations created for the quarterbacks and receivers/backs, such as how players twist, turn, and contort themselves to make a play. Before this year, I'd never seen three receivers try to make a play on the ball as it continued to be knocked around. Nice.
As their big, new, shiny mode this year, EA Sports has added a distilled version of Road to Glory called the Heisman Challenge. In this you'll jump in the cleats of one of the 16 best to ever play the game and attempt to recreate their Heisman-winning campaign. Along with the way you'll be able to hear from each of the 16 winners as they talk about college football in their time and now. This is real fan service for the college football history buffs. Whoever you pick you can take them to any school and drop them in any system you like, but I kept Barry Sanders at Okie State and accomplished two season challenges in the first game, so I think he’s good where he’s at. With the introduction of the Heisman Challenge also comes what is effectively college football bullet time. When you're playing Road to Glory or the Heisman Challenge you'll be able to slow down time to make the perfect juke, spin, or pass. If you do poorly on the play the meter won't refill, but if you truly are “the one”, there will always be meter.
Dynasty Mode long since passed depths that I am personally comfortable exploring, and this year it only goes deeper. In continuing to make it as real as possible, recruiting now includes virtual time limits to simulate the restrictions on coaches looking to sign their next stars. You've still got a slew of pitches to convince prospects with, but players will have to make the most of their brief time before they figure out if they've got a gem or a bust.
If there's one thing I get but don't quite understand about NCAA Football 13, it's how much time EA Sports spent on things people will watch a few times and then skip every instance that follows. Recreating an ESPN broadcast looks really cool, using their bottom line, graphic packages, videos, and bringing back Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit (who still miss calls) to commentate makes every day feel like Saturday. It's just that some of this may break up the flow of a game instead of sucking you in. In actual games, one of the reasons for those in-game updates is it helps the flow of a broadcast and in that time the teams are working towards the next play, but in NCAA those updates just drag out the process and will be skipped in favor of getting to the next play. All this stuff just ends up on the periphery when someone is hyper-focused on guiding their team to a November road win, or on the chance that someone is doing a full 30 year dynasty, they're probably simulating all of those games. That means they're not seeing any of this big “selling point”.
Save for some noticeable music absences like Texas Fight and some stadiums not bearing their true name, like playing the Red River Rivalry in Dallas Stadium instead of the Cotton Bowl, NCAA Football 13 continues to improve on recreating the unique atmospheres and traditions found in each of the FBS school stadiums. The development team traveled to multiple college football games this past season to capture the sights and sounds that make stadiums stand out on Saturday. For better, like Big Bertha and the Cowgirls at Texas, or worse, like the depressingly accurate two thirds empty stadium my North Texas Mean Green call home, playing on your home field feels like home.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys college football and the NCAA series but refrained from purchasing the series the last few years, NCAA Football 13 feels like the game has changed enough in challenging and engaging ways to be worth picking up. The improvements to the fundamental gameplay, the opportunity to recreate some of college football's greatest seasons, and bringing the ESPN experience into the game even more sucked me back in.
(8s are great games that have something holding it back from excellence, or some features aren't as polished. The game is still extremely worthy of playing, but it may not be the most impressive.)
|Bryan Baker is the Community Manager, Promotions Manager, and a Jack of Several Video Related Trades here at ScrewAttack. He's been gaming since the MS-DOS days and still gets a little joy out of using CD and CD\. If anyone's gonna make an obscure reference in the office, it's this guy. If you don't understand him sometimes, don't panic, there's probably a longwinded explanation.|
» Comments: 26