|System: PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Dev: EA Tiburon|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: July 10, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
There's not a whole lot you can do with a game in a year's time. Franchises that end up pigeonholed into the yearly release schedule very frequently find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel for new content. Yearly releases end up being less new games and more slightly tweaked expansion packs with a higher price tag, and no company exemplifies this better (or, should I say, worse) than the EA Sports. There already isn't a whole lot of room for innovation in the simulation of a sport that everyone already knows the rules of. The sheer fact that they have been able to keep their sports series fresh year by year is astounding. But the well will eventually run dry, and NCAA Football 13 is proof.
Last year when I reviewed NCAA 12, I called it a decent football experience with some interesting modes and features. I'd say the same thing about NCAA 13 because it's basically the exact same game. The graphics haven't changed at all. The core gameplay hasn't changed at all. The game modes haven't changed at all. At first glance, it's hard to tell if anything about the game has changed whatsoever.
Now, I'm a fan of the adage "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" and in a way, that's exactly what this game is doing. It has basically copy/pasted everything that worked in NCAA 12 in an attempt to avoid messing up something good. The problem that I have is the game's price tag. When you can pick up NCAA 12 at a fraction of the price in any game store's bargain bin, charging full price for a game that hasn't really been changed in any meaningful way seems like a rip-off. Sure, it's a great deal if you didn't buy NCAA 12, but let's face it: If you are an EA Sports fan, or a college football fan in general, you probably already did pick up NCAA Football 12. And that's probably the only demographic that is seriously looking to pick up NCAA 13.
The lone new addition is the Heisman Challenge, which puts you in the shoes of a Heisman trophy winner in an attempt to replicate their achievements in winning the award. This marks the first time that players have ever been able to take control of real players in the NCAA franchise, but you can barely tell. Their models aren't all that different from the models of the rest of the players in the game. They don't play wearing classic jerseys nor do they play in classic stadiums. In fact, it's a lot like you are just playing the base game with the name of a superstar plastered over one of your players.
The Heisman Challenge is a mission-based mode that asks you to reach certain goals in order to increase your Heisman score. Unfortunately, these goals aren't the most interesting milestones to shoot for. With challenges like "reach a certain number of passing yards in a season," the goals actually feel more like in-game achievements than an active simulation of a Heisman trophy winner's career. It would have been more interesting if you had to recreate memorable plays or replay clutch moments in important games rather than simply attempt to reach these milestones. In the end, it kind of reduces what should be the most epic part of the game to an RPG-esque stat grind.
One aspect of the core gameplay has been changed as well, and that's the passing game. The new "total control passing" system essentially gives you a modicum of control over your receivers. By leading them into open pockets, you can actively avoid the defense rather than just hoping the A.I. gets it right. The moniker "total control" is only half accurate, however, as the new system does give you more control over your passing, but this actually seems to only increase the chance of error on the player's part.
When you navigate a receiver into a completely open area and complete a pass, the system feels great. However, if your receiver is being covered by the opposing team, the system feels clunky and frustrating. Sometimes you'll attempt to throw a pass over the defense's head to get to your receiver, and you'll end up throwing it right into their hands without any real way of telling what you did wrong. You can also throw passes too early or too late, making them sloppy and making your receiver unable to catch it even if your pass was dead on.