In real life, sports are a merciless competition in which only the strong survive. Punishment is swift and severe for teams that languish, so there is a constant push to make huge improvements from one season to the next. Virtual sports are very different. The NCAA Football franchise has been lagging for years, shoving the same basic content out the door without any major changes to keep things fresh. Its lack of evolution goes against everything professional sports have been built upon. And NCAA Football 13 continues this unfortunate trend. Although the gridiron action is solid, dull off-field activities and crushing familiarity make this another tired entry in the stuck-in-the-mud franchise.
6386113Wolves versus dogs? It's how nature intended.None
There is one notable addition to this year's update: Heisman Challenge. Previous winners of the prestigious trophy are included in a spin-off of the Road to Glory mode, giving you a chance to re-create the past successes of some of the most decorated amateurs to ever lace up a pair of cleats. Don't let historical accuracy limit your creativity. If you always imagined Barry Sanders donning the maize and blue of Michigan, you can break the hearts of millions of Oklahoma State fans by shipping him off to Ann Arbor. There is a definite appeal to putting on the helmet of these former greats. Running around as Charlie Ward before he succumbed to the lure of basketball delivers a nostalgic tug to anyone who grew up wishing the Seminoles would just stop doing their Tomahawk Chop for a second.
Despite the appeal of reliving past glories, there are two obvious problems with Heisman Challenge. The first directly affects the on-field action. Each dimming star has access to Reaction Time, a special move that slows down time. Considering that NCAA Football strives to provide an authentic experience, this out-of-place feature clashes with the realism (or attempted realism) present in almost every other area. Granted, the bar allows for only a few seconds of slow motion per play, but it refills quickly, so you can use and abuse it to your heart's content. The second major problem is a victim of the downloadable-content craze. Six of the players require an alternate means to unlock (preorder bonus, through the demo, future DLC), which is downright chintzy in a game sorely lacking new content.
Huh, apparently Duke has a football team. Who knew?
Thankfully, once you move away from the Heisman Challenge and into the more team-focused modes, the action is as good as ever. NCAA Football 13 hasn't changed much from previous iterations, but there are a number of small tweaks to the passing game, which the diligent should appreciate. One problem that has plagued the franchise for years is a receiver's inability to properly navigate the sidelines. The frustration from previous games has finally been minimized. An assortment of new animations and improved artificial intelligence ensure receivers now catch the ball inbounds instead of running off the field, oblivious to rules and regulations. Furthermore, quarterbacks are more accurate than ever. Putting touch on a pass or slinging it to a specific place on the field is much easier now, letting you march down the field through the air with the biggest roadblock being your own skill.
The revamped passing game comes at the expense of a diminished defensive impact. Defenders are often slow to react, especially when playing zone, so they pose little threat for a quarterback who's feeling his oats. Interceptions are still handled extremely poorly. Catching an errant throw is completely random because the stone-handed cornerbacks can't hang on to a ball to save their lives. So when you do come away with an interception, it doesn't feel like a prize obtained through skill and cunning; rather, it feels as if the computer randomly handed out a gift to keep you invested. This problem has existed in NCAA Football for more than a decade, and it's embarrassing that it has resurfaced in yet another entry. Dropped passes make defense feel unpredictable and arbitrary, draining the satisfaction of a well-executed play.