Is NCAA Football 13 a better game than its predecessor? Sure, in those little, incremental ways that are inherent whenever you have a game that goes through yearly updates. For the most part though, you may be hard pressed to differentiate this game from last year’s. However, that isn’t to say that it isn’t fun. Truth be told, I continue to envy NCAA Football as being the superior football product compared to the Madden NFL series. Although I’m not a huge college football fan and prefer the pro league, hence my affinity for the Madden series, I have to admit that NCAA Football has had the edge when it comes to various features, on-field play, and over all presentation for the last few years. Madden NFL 13 may close the gap on that this year, but it won’t be easy as this game continues to excel in those areas.
The biggest new addition is the all-new Heisman Trophy Challenge. Here you get to relive the career of a Heisman great such as Barry Sanders. You play their college career and see if you can duplicate or even surpass their historic success in order to earn the Heisman Trophy. Fun stuff. Plus, you can switch things up a bit. I have Barry Sanders playing for the Colorado Buffaloes. Cool. As you proceed, you’ll also unlock some very cool videos featuring interviews with the players talking about their Heisman careers. Again, it’s fun stuff, especially to see things like Barry Sanders talking about what other college offenses might have been fun to play in. This is a great addition that adds a little more historical perspective to the college game. Plus, it’s just fun to see if you can match the stats and get to that trophy; especially since your progress is constantly updated, making it hard to resist that “one more game” to inch a little closer. And don’t worry Tebowmania, you can play his career via some DLC.
Playing for the prize isn’t anything new in sports, but some are surprised to hear that it’s also a part of the Christian life. It’s not something that’s discussed all that much as grace and salvation are often the emphasis, and rightly so. We can never perform well enough to earn our way into heaven; only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can do that for us. However, once we’ve secured that future eternity, there are trophies to be attained. Again, often the focus is on all the “dos and don’ts” of Christianity and how they just take the “fun” out of life. Well sure, there are rules and guidelines and principles, just like there are in sports. However, the rules in sports are there to keep players safe and to make the game enjoyable. The same is true of Christianity, the rules are there to help us understand how the game is played, if you will, and to help us understand how we can push for attaining those prizes God has in store for those who excel. “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Matthew 16:27. You want to win the reward, attain the prize, get the trophy? God says play by the rules, and he’ll definitely make it worth your while.
The other new addition is admittedly a bit gimmicky, but in this case it’s a good gimmick. It’s called Reaction Time, and it brings the whole “bullet time” phenomenon to football. With it, you slow down the action on the field so you have a few more seconds to respond. Once I figured out the best times and places to use it, I found it to be fun and rather helpful. It was more helpful as a running back; slowing things down so I could spot the right hole or time the right move to dodge a tackle. As a quarterback, I didn’t use it much outside of scrambling and occasionally getting a look at where my receivers were on the field and whether or not they were covered. The number of seconds you have to use it varies on the talent level of your player. So a guy like Barry Sanders has a full fifteen seconds to use, whereas my created player only had three. But don’t worry, the timer replenishes quickly. While this feature doesn’t completely unbalance the game, I have to admit with someone like Barry Sanders, using it almost felt like cheating… almost.
In addition to that new mode, the usual ones are back such as Dynasty and Road to Glory, and most of them remain pretty much the same. Dynasty mode is till a blast with it’s added challenge of making sure your coach can keep their job based on how well they do during the season meeting certain goals. Road to Glory allows to take a created player through their college career, and again features the great Coach’s Trust system (you’ll earn the ability to do more as you gain more of your coach’s trust) which actually give you a reason to practice even after you’ve a position battle. You also earn XP to help your player improve, all of which are things I’ve been longing to see added to Madden in a similar form. You can take your dynasty online and play with friends if you like, and there’s also the easy to use One Button mode and the wacky but fun Mascots game. Most of this is familiar but very welcome as it’s all pretty excellent.
Other tweaks and improvements are on the field with things like new animations for passing and catching and tackling. All of this just makes an already pretty fluid game flow even better. It’s great to see a runner get a glancing hit that spins them around, but they don’t lose their balance, continue to move forward unsteadily, only to finally get decleated by another solid hit. It adds to the realism and the thrills. It was also nice to have seven or eight out of ten passes batted down at the line, which has been aggravating in the past. And although play-action is supposed to be fairly effective in the real world, I’ve never been able to use it well in a game. However, I was able to get it to work in NCAA 13 as the defense didn’t always seem to know when to call that bluff. The gameplay here is as solid, fluid and fun as ever, the the little tweaks made may not be immediately apparently, but they make a great playing football game feel even better.
If you don’t have NCAA Football 12 or have never tried the NCAA Football series, this is a great time to jump on board. If you do have last year’s game, the additions and improvements to NCAA Football 13 are good, but they probably aren’t enough to justify the price of picking it up over last year’s game. However, if you’re a die-hard college fan, the little things like the Heisman Trophy Challenge, getting in-game updates on what’s happening with other teams, the loving attention paid to school traditions and more make this game a must have for any college football fanatic.
Score out of 7:
Graphics: 6 - Things are looking great, which is really no surprise after all this time. Players animate well, although they can still look a little stiff during cut scenes. The presentation of each game is great, really making it feel like an ESPN game.
Sound: 5 - Solid commentary that’s been given a new wrinkle with “Studio Updates” on what’s happening with other games, which is actually kind of nice. On field things sound excellent as usual.
Controls: 6 - If the controls seem daunting, you can always try the “one button” mode. However, the controls are all familiar as ever, and the new addition of Reaction Time doesn’t muddle things up much at all.
Gameplay: 6 - This is about as solid as it gets. Things have been tweaked and refined to make this game play smooth like butter. Lots of modes keeps things varied, with the new Heisman Challenge being the stand-out addition.
Content: 7 - It’s football.
Final: 5 - I know I scored everything pretty high and am still giving it “just” a five out of seven, but that’s merely because there’s nothing revolutionary about this game, but there are plenty of nice refinements. This game has been humming along just fine the past few years, making it difficult to improve on. The only major problem is the fact it’s hard to say this is vast improvement over last year’s game, but it is better.