Off the field
Of course, as any athlete knows, what happens off the field is just as important as what happens on it. Just like with in-game gameplay, game modes and extra features are a story of ups and downs. Game modes remain largely unchanged from last year, including basic quickplay, dynasty mode in which you can play a team over multiple seasons, and Road to Glory, which lets you control either an existing player of a created one through their college career (and on into the pros if you export them into Madden). The new addition to the stable of modes is Heisman Mode, which lets you play as one of a few Heisman Trophy winners on any team that you’d like. While this is cool, it just isn’t quite as deep as I’d like. For one, there needs to be way more Heisman winners. The 10 or so that are available are fine, but it seems ridiculous that so many are/were/will be conditional unlocks dependant on things like pre-ordering and future DLC. If EA really wanted this to be a defining mode, which it would appear they did being they changed the format of their game cover to reflect it, they should have done one of two things: either increase the number of players three or four fold to include a good number of classic and modern players alike, or pulled an NBA 2K11 and focused on giving a much more focused and in-depth experience on just a few players.
While it isn’t new, it’s worth noting that dynasties are still a great deal of fun, especially when playing with friends. While the menus are often times overly complicated and poorly laid out, there are always good times to be had battling over recruits with your friends, scouting prospects, and hunting for the championship. Especially noteworthy is the improved recruiting, which adds an extremely useful scouting system. Calling recruits are still what sway them to come to your school, but recruiting time can be spent to nail down a prospects ratings, allowing you to see exactly what type of player they are, as well as finding busts and gems.
Online team building
Lastly I’d like to give a shout out to the game’s online team builder, which should be in every sports title released. Basically, it takes the team creator and puts it online. From there it can be downloaded by anyone anywhere to use. Certainly, sharing teams isn’t rare, but the freedom allowed by having it on the PC in addition to consoles is amazing. Instead of being limited to the handful of annually-repeated mascots, you can upload any image from your computer to use, opening it up to be placed on everything from helmets to fields and beyond. This allows users to accurately create any team in the world. My friend and I currently have a dynasty with a perfectly re-created UW-Whitewater (the Division III school I go to and he graduated from), and Northern Michigan University (the Division II school in my birth town). It’s a blast, it adds a lot to the game, and it needs to be everywhere.
A two-edged sword
All together, NCAA 13 is a rollercoaster of rises and dips. For every nice addition like better sideline play and some improved animation there are equally negative aspects like heavily glitched replays and occasionally poor AI. While most of the gameplay and modes are fun, the title rests a bit too much on past success instead of adding in more new. Scoring this game is hard, because there is two ways to go about it. On the one hand, I believe games should be scored on their own merits separate of other games in the series, because some people haven’t played other games in the series. On the other hand, I find it incredibly difficult not to penalize a game that releases yearly yet refuses to address common and obvious problems. So, allow me to say this. If you haven’t owned an NCAA title in a few years you’ll probably be pretty happy with this game as it does have a lot of legitimately good times in it. But, if you’re still enjoying NCAA 11 or 12, I wouldn’t recommend dropping the money for a mixed bag of hits and misses. I, personally, find myself a bit disappointed when all is said and done. Not because I have a poor game in my system, but because what could have been superb is instead only good.
Some improved animations and AI, Team Builder is awesome, Dynasties with friends are great
Too many of the good things are carried over from past titles, Too many of the bad things are carried over from past titles, Heisman Mode lacks the punch I wished it to have.