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NCAA Football 13

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Tiburon
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 (Co-Op)
Genre: Sports/ Sports (Football)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

If I had to summarize my feelings on NCAA Football 13 in one word, "conflicted" would pop into my head. Yearly entries of just about anything are tough, especially when it comes to sports titles. Thereís always room for improvement from one title to the next, but really without a massive shift in hardware power or some other dramatic change in technology, how different can one year be from another?

EA does an okay job with NCAA 13. It is not the freshest title in the series, and probably a purchase only for the most hardcore of fans, but there are a few subtle changes worthy of note. Is it a massive leap over NCAA 12? Not really, but it offers a nice boost if youíre looking to get into a College GameDay sort of mood.

NCAA 13ís presentation brought a smile to my face. It sounds odd to say that about a bunch of overlays and menus, but seeing the full ESPN College GameDay experience put me in the mood for Saturdays in the fall. Youíll see a number of familiar overlays, including tickers, advertisements and even new studio update segments. Though a bit obtrusive, score updates makes the hundreds of simulations seem like something other than a bunch of numbers being run in the background -- especially if the update involves a division rival.

There are a number of noticeable visual tweaks scattered throughout NCAA 13. A number of stadiums have received updates and I noticed a few new celebrations happening during games. Mike, LSUís live tiger mascot, still looks silly Ė but Iíll let that pass. Next generation is another expectation entirely.

Stadium sounds are noticeably different. Fans actually sound like fans, a not a bunch of low hums and mumbles. Impressively, crowd sounds react to what is happening on field and stadium size does seem to matter. Commentary is, wellÖ it is everything youíve come to expect. It doesnít get in the way, but expect lots of repetition and maybe a missed call or two.


For better or worse, NCAA Football 13 takes the, "If it ainít brokeÖ" school of game design. Not that there was much that needed to be improved. Last year's game was fun and NCAA 13 does little to upset things. Then again, "Same as Last Year," isnít an enticing back-of-the-box bullet point. Oddly enough, the lack of major changes is likely NCAA 13's biggest drawback Ė that is, if that sort of thing actually matters to you.

Heisman Challenge is NCAA 13's big-name feature. For the first time ever, NCAA 13 features real athletes and lets you play a season in their shoes. The mode is similar to Road to Glory, where you only control one player, and challenges you to either match or beat the records of past Heisman Trophy winners. The downside is you're playing through modern schedules and with modern teams, which does take the vintage "neatness" out of the mode. On the flip side, it is fun to see how legends might match up against current teams. Bringing Heisman winners on to other teams is a little weird. As far as I can tell, the mode is best used to mess with diehard fans by placing a loved/ hated player on a rival teamÖ but the fun only lasts so long.

Heisman Challenge is new, so I understand there are bound to be bumps in the road. Yet, with so few changes in other spots, it is hard to not want something more. On the plus side, Road to Glory features a number of welcome improvements, cementing its place as the franchiseís signature mode. Most of the changes are under the hood, primarily in the way of A.I. and difficulty tweaks, though there is the Reaction Time mechanic. Iím always weary of bullet-time anything, but Reaction Time makes a lot of sense. Slowing time down during key on-field moments brings a little more immediacy to whatís happening. There are limits, so it wonít "break" the game, but when used right, it can help you earn a few more yards.

NCAA 13 also ships with the series requisite plays modes (Exhibition, DynastyÖ), including online conferences. Unfortunately, time constraints (and a lack of top-level skill) keep me from joining online conference play, so I can't say much about the mode. I can say, however, normal online matches were smooth and without noticeable issues.


Without going into too much detail, NCAA Football 13 puts a lot on the playerís shoulders, at least when it comes to the passing game. The system is reworked, offering more control over where your passes go, though youíre also charged with keeping a better eye on whatís happening on-field. It is easy to lose focus, resulting in any number of blown plays or, worse, a loss of yards.

A couple of my A.I. nitpicks from last year are fixed, or at least werenít as obvious as they were in NCAA 12. Thereís a little more going on in the way of player awareness, particularly in Road to Glory. Beyond that, NCAA 13 is packed with adjustable options and difficulty settings, so there are any number of ways to customize the play experience to your liking. Thereís even an option to simulate game elements, such as recruiting or full games. Doing so is always a gamble, but it is an option.

Game Mechanics:

This could be because my team actually has a decent QB at the helm for the first time in years, but I was surprised with the number of completed passes I had in NCAA Football 13. The passing game has seen a couple of noteworthy tweaks, primarily offering you some control over your receivers. Itís easier to hit passes in tight spaces and you can even toss the ball while going down (or cancel a pass if you see a rush coming), though the mechanic isnít without its clunky moments. The system doesnít work as well when a receiver is covered, and there are still a few "magic moments" where a wide-open receiver drops a great pass or a defender unexpectedly snags a ball. I do like that receiver icons light up when theyíre in position for a play. Itís a nice touch and a lot of help.

Defenses are as stout as ever, which can be good and bad. As previously mentioned, defenders still have an uncanny knack for knowing exactly where the ball is. I had a record number of completions this year, but also saw a record number of interceptions as well.

So, here we are, back to "conflicted." I donít want to give the impression that NCAA 13 is a bad game, because it really isnít. Itís as solid a football game as you could ask for, which is a good thing. Still, even with this yearís improvements, there is little that sets NCAA 13 apart from NCAA 12, which is a bad thing if youíre an on the fence fan.

If you are the type who loves college football and either needs every iteration of the game or wants to play in an online league with friends, then by all means pick up NCAA 13. Itís a great game. Then again, so was NCAA 12, so if the new features donít matter and youíre not into online play, the option is on the table.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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