The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
If you’ve been waiting for the NCAA franchise to hit its stride and capitalize on the time developer EA Tiburon has had with the current generation of consoles, that moment has arrived. I don’t think this applies to the casual fan, but if you’ve been playing this series for as long as I have, you’re going to be heartened by some of the changes and additions in NCAA 13.
The passing game is revitalized by a slew of improvements that make slinging the ball less frustrating and more fun than ever before. Even with an average quarterback, I like being able to throw to many different parts of the field through a combination of factors like the new ball trajectories, added placement control, and variable throwing speeds. Timing deep balls is still a little tricky, but it’s good to know that you can throw to more routes than ever before. Elsewhere, the improved play-action, new quarterback avoidance moves, and quick pass animations also bolster the aerial attack.
The passing game is also improved because the linebackers’ jumping abilities have been toned down. This means you can finally throw medium-ranged routes around the middle of the field with confidence. That being said, defenses aren’t at a loss in NCAA 13; you have to be careful with the ball. When a defensive back is visually tracking the quarterback and the receiver, they’ll aggressively jump routes for interceptions. This is great, but the flipside is that receivers are still too passive, never challenging for the ball and thus having a disadvantage in jump ball situations. NCAA’s offensive and defensive balance is also maintained by the fact that receivers drop more balls outside of their normal catch radius and lose more contested balls than in previous years.
The on-the-field gameplay sells this game, but scouting in NCAA’s Dynasty mode is another important addition. The mechanic is straightforward, where you’re granted information for the more time you put into it, but I like how scouting and recruiting work together. You can uncover gems and busts, which in turn influences where those players are on your recruit board. However, I still think the recruiting feature needs more points distinction among the different pitches you give recruits, and overall Dynasty mode needs to be injected with some color and personality.
Similarly, both Road to Glory and the new Heisman Challenge (where you can play and unlock Heisman campaign seasons for historic winners of the trophy in a player-focused format like Road to Glory) introduce a new mechanic that offers a limited boost. Reaction Time is a replenishing resource based on your players’ awareness meter that lets you slow down play in real-time. I didn’t mind this gimmick in the Road to Glory/Heisman Challenge context, because at least it makes these modes more fun than they normally are.
NCAA games are always different from year to year, but this year’s additions are noticeable improvements. NCAA 13 doesn’t take the kind of giant leap forward that will be noticed by the masses, but it’s an installment that will be built upon and which we will look back at as a key moment in the franchise’s larger history.
NCAA 13 Sights & Sounds Trailer
NCAA 13 Dynasty Trailer
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