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There were a few slight adjustments to the actual in-game experience this year, one of those being the ability to lead receivers with your throws. This does add a bit of realism and makes you feel much more in control than previous games did when you were at the QB position. The big problem is that you won’t be using it often, as most of the time it’ll go unnoticed and the time it is noticed is when you accidentally led your receiver into coverage and got a pass picked off because of that. While it’s a slight change, your defense now reads and reacts a bit better to the quarterback. This doesn’t lead to any huge changes, only smoother animations when a ball is picked off.
EA Sports also found it necessary to add an ESPN ticker that runs at the bottom of your screen as you play. During Dynasty mode, this can be helpful at times if you’re wondering how your rival school is doing, or if you just like to keep up with the goings on in the league. But they also added in a studio update that, like real life, sends you away from the game and to a box score of another game for a commentator to tell you how that other game is going. This can become a bit of annoyance, especially if you’re playing at a time when only one game is going on, which then leads to them constantly cutting back to that box score after every touchdown they score. No, I don’t care that Notre Dame is beating Michigan State by 37 points, Rece Davis!
Speaking of Dynasty mode, possibly the best change of the game is to be found there. No it’s not the studio updates nor the fact that EA has given the Purdue Boilermakers a new run-out animation, it’s the changes to recruiting. I’m a recruiting junkie both in real life and in video games so I may be a bit bias in that assessment. Either way, changes to recruiting have been something NCAA fans have been clamoring for years for and while these new additions aren’t all we wanted, they’re a good start. First off, most of the recruiting interface has changed. While it isn’t much nicer by any accounts, it’s a bit easier to navigate and in a game where menu navigation is always awful, any positive is welcome. Second, you can now recruit any player, at any time. While it sounds simple and like it should have been there since the beginning (it should have), this hasn’t happened up until now. This doesn’t mean you start out as the Mean Green North Texans and immediately recruit a five star, but you can at least gain his consideration if you try hard enough. Lastly, you can now fully scout players before offering them a scholarship. In previous games you could always see letter grades in player’s specific stats but not until now could you use an allotted amount of time to scout them and actually see what their overall rating would be going into the season. This also opens up chances to recruit a 3 or 2 star player, scout them, and find out they’re a hidden gem. It adds some real excitement to an otherwise dull recruiting process for some.
Let’s get down to the big thing, the Heisman Challenge mode. This has been the big feature EA Sports has been touting since NCAA Football 13’s announcement. In it, you take control of a former Heisman winner and go through a season, attempting to match their season totals and eventually win the Heisman trophy just like they did. Along the way you can see videos from the player as they give insight to key aspects of their college career. The fact of the matter is that this mode is just not as special as EA Sports wants it to be. Unless you’re a fan of the team one of the athletes played for, your interest in playing through multiple Heisman winners’ seasons is probably rather slim. Even if you are a fan of one of the teams, you’ll only have about one season to play through and even then, why not just create yourself and play Road to the Show? It’s a much more in-depth experience than the Heisman Challenge.
The obvious counter to that would be the fact that you can change any player’s team that he played on in his Heisman run before starting the season. But again, the fact of the matter is, that’s not that interesting. I’m really not that interested in seeing Doug Flutie in a Tennessee Vols uniform, because it probably looks the same as when he is in a USC uniform. EA Tiburon tries to make Heisman Challenge have some variety by adding this in, but instead they fall on their face, just like they did with the mode itself. It’s never an offensive piece of trash, it’s just not fun, and ultimately makes you wonder why it even exists.
Something that was implemented mainly for the Heisman Challenge but also made its way to the Road to Glory mode was “Reaction Time.” If you’re unfamiliar with Road to Glory, it’s where you create your own character, play through some High School ball, get some scholarships, and ultimately land yourself at a college of your choice. From there you practice, practice, practice until ultimately you take over the starting job. This mode has remained mostly unchanged for a few years now and Reaction Time seems to be the biggest change since Road to Glory’s integration. That’s not really a positive, however, as all Reaction Time does is slow down time during the game to allow you to get a better site of the field in front of you. It’s occasionally useful but most of the time it’s the last thing on your mind as you’re attempting to bust through a hole on the offensive line or get that pass down the middle of the field to your receiver that’s probably only going to be open for a few more seconds.
There were a few changes to NCAA Football 13 this year, yes, but how many of them were significant to the overall experience is the question everyone will be asking and that answer is very clear: not many. I, personally, love the recruiting changes, but apart from that, there’s nothing to write home about in this year’s installment. This is the time when EA Tiburon has to step back and realize they need to do something drastically different next year or this franchise is going to fall apart.
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