|Photo: EA Sports|
Another year, another version of NCAA Football released to the public on the second Tuesday of July.
There was a lot of hype surrounding this game.
After all, in recent years, it has been Madden, not NCAA Football, that has miserably missed the mark and let down its faithful fan base. After solid games in the previous two years, no doubt the latest installement -- NCAA Football 13 -- would continue to build on the series' previous successes, right?
Maybe the problem isn't necessarily the game, but rather me, who was in such dire need of my yearly football fix to prevent any more suffering from withdrawal that I put this game on an unfairly high pedestal before it was even released.
No joke, I was so excited to receive my package from Amazon (NCAA 13 pre-order was $45 from Amazon) on July 10 that I only managed about four hours of sleep the night before because I was my anxiety waiting for the arrival of this game was comparable to a young teenage couple waiting on results for that foreboding pregnancy test.
Pathetic, I know.
But what can I say? I was excited and as I stated above, needed my football fix.
Needless to say, I regret being the de facto conductor on the NCAA 13 hype train, but what's done is done.
Let's take a look at a quick breakdown of NCAA Football 13.
Presentation -- Rating: 7/10
At first glance, the game looks and sounds amazing.
The newest addition of authentic in-game ESPN Studio Updates featuring Rece Davis is a solid step in the right direction considering the feature is only in its infancy. I'm also a big fan of the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen that provides scoring updates for games relevant to your dynasty, giving you that feeling that you're truly part of something bigger. However, the frequency of said updates could be toned down a bit.
Not to mention, this is kind of embarrassing, but when I first started my offline dynasty, there came a time during a cut-off scene from the broadcast camera angle that I actually felt compelled to switch from the game feed to the regular TV feed to make sure I was playing and not watching an actual televised game. So I guess in the sense of more realism to presentation, mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, that was all for naught.
The absence of updated uniforms for teams like Missouri, Rutgers, etc. that were hyped up about by NCAA Football producer Ben Haumiller is an extreme disappointment. EA Sports has since come out and said they intend to patch-in the new uniforms in a later update, likely sometime in August. And get this, they're doing it free of charge!
Really, EA? How stupid do you think we are?
You try to sell yourself off as being some sort of saint when in fact those missing uniforms should have been in the game upon its release. You're damn right you'll be giving them to us free of charge. Anything less and you would have an angry mob with torches and pitchforks threatening to break into EA Tiburon and trash the place.
Another thing I found unsettling was reading that a generic fight song was being played whenever the Texas Longhorns scored. I'm not sure if this is an isolated incident or not, but the omission of the authentic fight song is worth noting as a fault, especially for a perennial powerhouse team like Texas.
The inclusion of blurriness as another way to show the discrepancy between different players on the field was a nice thought, but for me, it's something I'd be okay without. To put it plainly, it's not something I'm focusing on when in the heat of the battle on the gridiron.
Overall, presentation has some new bells and whistles, but there's still so such a long way to go.
I'll be honest. I seriously considered rating this lower. The addition of total control passing with ability to use the left joystick to lead receivers as well as being able to manipulate pass trajectory by timing how long you press a receiver's icon button is pretty cool. But realistically, it's 2012, people. This stuff should have been in the game long before now.
One thing to be thankful for, however, is that the frequency of linebacker rocket boot interceptions and batted balls (you all know what I'm talking about) have been severely toned down. The psychic defense has also been fixed, making it so defensive players have to take a more read and react approach and actually see the ball before making a play on it.
Sadly though, for all of the so-called "improvements", I feel that a mountain's load of work is still needed on the defensive side of the ball. Zone defense is predominantly broken, especially on deeper routes, and the tenacity, for lack of a better term, of offensive skill players needs to be toned down quite a few notches.
There are also way too many broken tackles. I only play on Heisman difficulty, and even on the game's alleged highest difficulty, I still saw non-elite running backs and receivers bowling over defenders and blowing holes in the opposing defense like a 12-gauge shotgun.
Seriously, there were times (though not always) when I felt like every receiver was playing like Terrell Owens back at Tennessee Chattanooga and every running back was the reincarnation of Heisman Trophy Winner Herschel Walker from his heyday "between the hedges" at Georgia.
Either this needs to be patched ASAP or I have to start my hunt for a set of sliders that may or may not be the remedy.
One redeeming factor, though I'm not sure whether it's more related to gameplay or just overall, but the custom playbooks interface is amazing this year. In NCAA 12, you had those "phantom" Four Verticals plays that you had to have despite not really wanting or needing them, and that was just one of many bugs.
However, this year, EA Sports hit the nail square on the head. Not only can you start your playbook with the bare minimum plays, you can also get rid of the "Hail Mary" and "Goal Line" formations entirely. No more phantom plays whatsoever. If you're an X's and O's junkie like me, you'll appreciate this.
The only thing that I can see that could make custom playbooks any better? Giving us the option of manually setting our own formation audibles (quick pass, deep pass, PA pass, and run) for each personnel grouping we use. But for what the team at EA Tiburon has given us in terms of custom playbooks this year, I can be patient on that front.
Game Modes: 7/10
The new Heisman Challenge mode offers gamers the chance to try and match or surpass what previous Heisman winners accomplished in one season -- their Heisman season. Overall, the mode seems fairly easy. Even on Heisman I was still dominating as Herschel and Eddie George, but I guess that should be expected considering the types of players they were in college -- dominant.
Road to Glory saw no changes outside except for the inclusion of the new Reaction Time feature introduced in Heisman Challenge, allowing you to see the game slower -- even if only for a few split seconds -- allowing you to fit the pass in the tightest of windows as a quarterback or making that vintage LaDainian Tomlinson jump-cut before bursting through the hole you may not have seen in full speed.
However, for my money, both modes offer little appeal and are better for the casual gamer. They're simply too easy; so much so that I doubt I'll be tinkering with either mode again anytime in the near future.
Instead, I'll be focusing on my offline and online dynasties.
Nothing much to show here outside of the addition of sleepers and busts in recruiting, which is a more than welcome sight. Also, along with your regular ten recruiting hours per work, you'll also now have scouting hours to spend, which you can use to unlock players' attributes throughout the recruiting process to help better gauge whether it's worth continuing to try and lure the prospect to your school.
One thought I did have, though. While it's nice to have scouting, doesn't it make the whole sleepers/busts scenario somewhat redundant?
I mean, if you already have the guy's attributes, you'll know in advance whether or not he's likely to pan out, won't you? Either he has the goods and you're happy to bring him on board or he doesn't and you can sever ties immediately if you don't like what you see. It could just be me, but it doesn't seem like there is as much risk involved as I initially thought and hoped there would be in recruiting this year.
Not a bad showing, but certainly not a great one. A phenomenally underwhelming performance by the NCAA team this year. It's by no means unbearable to play, but it didn't come remotely close to the high hopes I had for it.
For players like me who are strictly hardcore dynasty players, whether that be online, offline, or both, this game is the worst intallment in recent memory, at least as I type this today and if it weren't for the savings I got from Amazon when I initially made the purchase, I likely would have already returned it or only kept it as a placeholder until the August 28 release of Madden 13 which, God willing, will be better.
For $45, it's not a bad game, but it's definitely not worth the full market price.
My final word to describe the game in its entirety? Mediocre.