Another year, another rendition of EA Sports' NCAA football game. The theme of this year's game is all about the Heisman Trophy. The big "gimmick" that has been implemented is the ability to play as one of several former Heisman winners either at the schools they played at, or any other school you so choose. Is this new feature enough to encourage buyers to pick up a new copy? Let's find out.
NCAA Football 13 Heisman Trophy Intro (via jayarealgoon21)
EA's NCAA Football has entered it's 20th year, with the first incarnation of the series being released in 1992. It was originally known as "Bill Walsh College Football," and only featured the Top 25 teams as playable for that year, however 25 Historical teams were also added as well. It was followed by by a sequel two years later in 1994 under the aptly named "Bill Walsh College Football '95." As you can see, our Palo Alto rivals made the cover since Walsh used to coach them, however it was also the year that the Cal Bears were first entered into a college football video game.
Fast forward to the present. This year, NCAAF 13 has every single FBS-level school included in the game, even the new schools that just graduated from FCS level... all except the University of South Alabama. This has been met with some controversy, however it has been reported that it took the NCAA too long to confirm that USA would indeed be FBS ready to EA Sports, and it was outside of EA Sport's development deadline. The flip side to this whole ordeal is that USA will be given the red carpet treatment for next year's game, ensuring that USA will be one of the more well-scouted and well-developed schools in the entire game.
I, personally, am happy for them. However, I also wish that I saw this kind of effort go towards ALL of the major schools in the game.
I say this, because another year goes by and it is honestly hard to see the difference between this year and last year. While this does not make NCAAF 13 a BAD game, it can be a letdown to the more dedicated fans who wanted just some more effort from this year's release.
Cal Intro - NCAA Football 13 (via Swamphunter)
That's not to say that they didn't add ANYTHING... making it's return from last gen is the screen score ticker bar (most prominent in Dynasty mode during the ongoing season), and brand new to this year is ESPN studio updates. They both have scores from games that are being "played" outside of your own, and studio updates do what they do just like in the real world: keep you informed of other notable semi-high-profile games that are being played at the same time or have just finished. This helps the already strong ESPN presentation just that much more like the real thing.
Graphically as a whole, the engine itself is mostly unchanged from previous games this generation. However, motion blur has been added, which is both a good and bad thing. It looks cool from afar and on replays, but during actual gameplay it can come off as a bit weird to look at. Nothing TOO bad, but it may be a bit annoying to those that have beef with fake motion blur in games.
Minute details on the graphics side have also been added for several teams, especially with our Golden Bears. Our helmets now correctly sport their "Bears" front sticker, and also have the "California" script on helmet models that have the plastic lining on the back near the neckline. Our white helmets have also been added after they made their debut last season. We are now one step closer to matching Oregon in uniform combination options. If only we had a throwback option of our own...
Around 500 new animations were added to this year's game. If you were tired of the same two run animations for running backs, fear no more since there are tons of variations to everything thankfully implemented this year, from passing to dropbacks to tackle avoidance.
Gameplay at large remains unchanged. The notable changes were to the tackling system that was updated last year, making this year's tackling engine a lot better and more realistic. Clipping has been noticeably cut down, which is always a good thing in any sports game. Game rules have been updated to match with this season, mainly all the new kickoff rules that were implemented in this past off season. One of my major grinds against last year's game, which was the psychic defensive pass coverage that the AI abused to insane levels, has thankfully been toned down and fixed. This makes passing in NCAAF 13 against the AI much more enjoyable and nowhere near as much of a headache. Receivers also have improved perception when having footballs throws to them.
NCAA Football 13 Gameplay (via Swamphunter)
The Heisman Challenge that was implemented this year is, unfortunately, nothing all that special. Out of the box, you have the choice of Robert Griffin III, Barry Sanders, Doug Flutie, Herschel Walker, Desmond Howard, Charlie Ward, Marcus Allen, Andre Ware, Eddie George and Carson Palmer to play as in what is essentially a customized version of the already existing "Road to Glory." The difference between the two is that while you have a lot more free reign in "Road to Glory," in Heisman Challenge you play to meet or exceed the yearly stats of the player you choose.
So if you play as Doug Flutie, you have the objective of passing for over 3,454 yards in that season, throw more than 27 TDs that season, throw more than 6 TDs in a single game and gain more than 472 pass yards in a single game. For certain players and stat nuts, this may seem as a welcome challenge for them, but to me, all I see it as is a, "What If" scenario for your favorite school.
I say this because when you play Heisman Challenge, you have the option to play them at any school you wish. The flip side of this whole thing is that it can become embarrassingly easy for your chosen player to win the challenge if you decide to play them at, say, a school in the WAC or Sun Belt.
All in all, I see it as a fun time killer, but nothing really else outside of that. There is to be DLC for the mode, as Archie Griffin, Tim Brown, Jim Plunkett, Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram and Matt Leinart are listed as future downloadable content. I'm tempted to get the Plunkett DLC just so I can kill Furd with their own Heisman winner.
In the end, while NCAAF 13 is not a bad game by any means, it hasn't improved quite enough when compared to last year's version to encourage a purchase. Heisman Challenge may be a fun little gimmick that is worth trying out if you want goals to shoot down and see a Heisman winner play for your school, but for the most part, if you have last year's game and this year's one is just not speaking to you, then I will have to say that you should probably skip this one.
But, if you haven't purchased one in a while, then like I said last year, there's no better time than now to pick up the latest version.