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NCAA Football 13 Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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NCAA Football 13 Review (X360)
EA Sports
EA's NCAA Football 13 falls on the gameplay side of the "gameplay one year, features the next year" back and forth EA Sports titles go through. Specifically it has better passing and far better A.I. along with a multitude of other tweaks that make the gameplay even better than last year. NCAA 13 also adds a significant new feature in the Heisman Challenge mode, but the jury is still out on that one. All in all, though, NCAA Football 13 features solid gameplay, nice presentation, and plenty of modes to keep you busy.
Game Details

  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Tiburon
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Football
  • Pros: Customization options offer lots of freedom; 3D grass; beefed up difficulty; solid gameplay; tons of modes
  • Cons: Commentary; occasional glitches; Heisman Challenge is a letdown; offseason stuff in Dynasty is a drag

NCAA Football 13 has all of the features and modes we've come to expect from the series over the years. Exhibition, Dynasty, Road to Glory, mascot silliness, online play, and more are all present and much the same as they were last year, which isn't a bad thing. I do have to admit the offseason minutiae in Dynasty is kind of a drag (but that is purely subjective), but there have been some significant changes made where how you perform and even what specific plays you call during the season can affect recruits, which is pretty nifty. Road to Glory also has better situational play calling so you aren't forced to run quite as many awful calls as you were in the past. Also returning is a wealth of customization options so you can make custom conferences, change BCS bowl alliances, or even build entirely new teams online. We love options like this.

Presentation-wise, all of the neat school tradition stuff introduced in NCAA Football 12 is here along with a bunch of new stuff, and these little details really do make a big difference in making the whole experience as authentic as possible.

Heisman Challenge

The major new feature addition is the Heisman Challenge mode where you pick one of a handful of past Heisman Trophy winners and try to recreate their success. You can choose from Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer, Barry Sanders, Eddie George, and others and then place them on whatever team you want so you don't have to keep RG3 at Baylor or Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State if you don't want to. Similar to Road to Glory, you only play as your chosen player in Heisman Challenge, which makes the games fly by since you aren't on the field for every play. Strangely, the mode is designed in such a way that you are basically super human (which, arguably, some of these guys were the year they won the Heisman) so it isn't a question of if you'll match their stats, but by how much you'll beat them by. Furthering the super human illusion is that you can hold the left trigger to go into a sort of slo-mo (also available in Road to Glory), which makes it easier to juke around defenders and make spectacular plays. Each player has different strengths and weaknesses and depending on what school you send them to it can be easier or harder so there is some fun to be had. I suppose that the whole point is to make it as easy as possible for you to perform like these great athletes, but for the most part it is too easy to just demolish opponents and it gets boring pretty quickly. Being able to put players on teams they just don't belong on feels kind of strange as well.

Gameplay

EA Sports
From a gameplay perspective, NCAA Football 13 is the same solid game as last year but makes a couple of big changes that you'll notice right away. The first is the passing game. Set drop backs and plays with built in pump fakes happen automatically. New throwing animations have been introduced along with different physics for when you're scrambling or planted, but more importantly, so have more than 20 different trajectories (compared to just three before) so now not every bullet pass or lob flies the same way whether it is 5 yards or 50 - they'll all look different. The addition of player awareness means that actually following the plays as they are drawn up is also important this year as players will be marked by their icon lighting up when they are actually prepared to catch the ball. This means you have to wait for players to be in the correct position along their route - so precise timing is important - for them to realistically catch the ball. That is a big change over past games where you could just throw it wherever and whenever you wanted.

The other big change comes from defensive A.I.. Defensive players no longer magically know where the ball is going to be, so no more linebackers jumping up for skyscraper interceptions that they should have no business attempting in the real world like happened far too often in past games. Something else that we noticed was that the difference between the haves and have-nots seems to be wider, and more realistic, in NCAA 13 than ever before. In the past you could put the difficulty on easy and easily beat the #1 team in the country with the worst team. Not so this year. Team rankings are actually pretty accurate and winning as a mid-major or annual cellar dweller is really challenging. You actually have to play smart and realistically for once!

The rest of the gameplay just builds on the solid foundation put together over the last few years. It is just a great playing game of football with a distinct college flavor that separates it from Madden and keeps it interesting.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation in NCAA Football 13 is top notch on the field, but we're getting a bit tired of the ESPN College Gameday menus. They were sort of interesting at first, but now it is just clunky and crowded looking. The real focus here in out on the field, of course, and the game looks fantastic there. Player models are nice, the animation is great for the most part, stadiums are detailed and mostly accurate (Idaho's Kibbie Dome is accurate this year, but the extra seats added to Boise State's Bronco Stadium over the Summer aren't here) and everything just looks great overall. And we love, love, love the 3D grass. It just looks so cool. One flaw with the graphics, however, is that replays are really screwed up for some reason with players skating around, throwing animations looking bad (but they look find during gameplay), and other weird things going on.

The sound is also solid for the most part in NCAA 13. Lots of accurate school fight songs. Great crowd noises that actually sound appropriate for the size of venue and crowd. And nice sound effects on the field. Commentary isn't so hot, though, with comments repeating a bit too often and some flat out inaccurate play by play calls being made now and then that are just plain weird.

Bottom Line

EA Sports
All in all, NCAA Football 13 is another solid entry in the franchise. It isn't quite as big of a leap forward as NCAA 12 was, thus the slightly lower score, but it is still an absolutely fantastic football game that die hard college football fans shouldn't pass up. The gameplay changes and tweaks improve the game in meaningful ways, and additions to Dynasty and Road to Glory make those modes even better. We aren't huge fans of the Heisman Challenge mode, but going through it at least once is worth the effort just to feel like Superman on a football field. As a whole package, though, there is little doubt that NCAA Football 13 is right up there among the best college football games yet and well worth a purchase for sports fans.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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