bill-swift - July 11, 2012
With NCAA Football 13, the team at EA SPORTS was looking at stability for all of the features introduced in NCAA 12 and to make some tweaks to the passing attack that veteran players had been requesting for years, it seems. The stability issues with Online Dynasty, Custom Playbooks and whatnot were killers last time out and so far there haven't been any major meltdowns for NCAA 13 that we've seen. We reserve the right to come back to this one though.
Improving the passing game is a bit trickier because adjustments to offense require an adjustment to defense. Essentially, gamers wanted a passing system that wasn't so punishing when it came to placing passes. Defenders that could seemingly read your mind, read and then react to a thrown ball with amazing athletic ability changed the way we all played the game last time out. A linebacker who's not watching the quarterback shouldn't be able to make an interception on a pass that he hasn't seen. This limited the plays we'd call as we limit ourselves to passes that didn't challenge psychic linebackers and corners. On defense, you would call plays and arrange personnel knowing simply cluttering up the field with super hero defenders who can read minds will be enough. That's too much automation to be a interactive video game simulation.
With NCAA 13 then, we're confident that the new passing attack and pass defense system will make this a game worth playing again. As far as online/stability issues go there already seems to be an issue with the Teambuilder system and we're waiting to see how Online Dynasty is holding up.
Clearly the new animations for receivers, quarterbacks and defenders in pass coverage make a huge difference in NCAA 13. Likewise, the new pass trajectories not only make your amazing pass plays look better, they compel you to use the entire playbook instead of sticking to the known "safe" plays. Finally the elimination of psychic football players who react to the play that they know you called rather than reacting to the play and the position of the ball are gone. A receiver has to look back and be expecting the ball at a logical point in his pattern to make the catch. A defender has to see the ball before he can move in for a swat, interception or timely tackle. All three of those improvements --trajectories, new player animation sequences and players who have to see the ball to react to it-- work together to make NCAA 13 a huge improvement over its predecessor.
The lingering question is: did we need this many iterations of NCAA 13 on PS3 and Xbox 360 to get to this point? Surely there had to be a ramp up back in 2005-06 to get sports games up and functional on those new systems. But now, six years later or so, we should be at a higher level of accomplishment than what we have with NCAA Football 13. Without setbacks to the offensive-defensive equilibrium or to once promising features like Online Dynasty we'd be into sports video game heaven by now, I think. Success stories like the excellent Road to Glory mode, that improved every year, shouldn't be overlooked either. But there are just too many gimmick modes like Mascot Mashup and Heisman Challenge (Road to Glory on rails) that have cluttered the path along the way. This is the best NCAA Football game to date, it just should've gotten here before now.
Get this game if: you're a diehard fan, you can't wait to get a taste of what Madden NFL 13 is going to be like, you're a huge Robert Griffin III (first NCAA Football cover athlete to appear in his own game) fan or if you can sincerely appreciate a two-notch improvement to the passing game.
Don't get this game if: you still think Florida is the best team in the country, you prefer to run the option, you want something satisfying until Madden NFL 13 (you'll be playing the demo in a month) or if you thought the 2012 NFL draft class was one of the best (it was) because the cupboard seems bare now.
Star rating (out of 4):
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