NCAA Football 13 Demo Impressions

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The demo for NCAA Football 13 was released earlier today on Xbox 360 (PS3 users, you will be able to download it starting Wednesday, June 6th), which marks the official start of EA SPORTS’ ’13 football season to me. In case you missed it, here is the article we posted earlier discussing the contents of the demo, but to save a few clicks I’ll recap it below as well. The NCAA Football 13 demo includes:

- One game of Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Challenge (Using Baylor, USC, Oregon, Kansas State, LSU or Alabama) with four quarters (five minutes long each) and SuperSim defense. This is where you can test out the new Reaction Time feature.

- Three Week 10 match-ups from last season: USC vs. Oregon, LSU vs. Alabama and Baylor vs. Kansas State with four quarters (three minutes long each.) These games feature in-studio updates courtesy of Rece Davis, and upon completion of each you unlock a new player to use in the retail version’s Heisman Challenge.

- Five Pro Combat uniforms (Ohio Shate, LSU, Boise State, Stanford and Navy) are unlocked for the retail version if you share the demo with a friend via your console.

So, onto the impressions. Admittedly, it is a tough sell from the get-go after learning that NCAA Football 13 would not be using the Infinity Engine like Madden NFL 13 (which drastically changes the way players interact on the field through physics), but I’m willing to see what this year has in store for college football fans regardless. Remember, these impressions are based on a game that is not yet final, so take them with whatever size grain of salt you’d like.

 Gameplay

With the elephant in the room (above) out of the way, NCAA Football 13 features similar, albeit tuned, gameplay as previous versions. Two major points the development team pushed this year were Read and React defense and “best on best” player match-ups. I’m happy to say that in my first few games into the demo, I was forced to adapt my typical style in order to maintain a decent level of play. Not to say that I “cheese”, per se, but my safety valves and common go-to plays were stifled by a more intelligent defensive A.I., forcing me to dig deeper into my “football knowledge” rather than my “video game football” knowledge. Then again, I spent most of my time playing against the Crimson Tide defense, so I brought some of that upon myself.

The passing game has been opened up by the addition of numerous passing trajectories, which for the most part eliminated what would have been sure “super linebacker” interceptions and otherwise wonky play results. I was impressed by this specifically because it was one of those things where I heard it and went “eh, yeah, but does it work?”…well, yes, it does. A refreshing addition to the pass attack is something EA SPORTS is calling Total Control Passing. Basically, you can lead your WR using the L-Stick, which is especially useful when you have a defender on the inside and want to try to place the ball where the receiver can catch it without breaking stride. I may have relied on this a bit too much, seeing as how I frequently got the animation of my receiver hauling it in only after his feet were out of bounds.

 Presentation/Audio

This is where the NCAA Football 13 demo truly shines. They teased fans a few years ago by adding in the ESPN score bug, and this year’s game appears to offer immersion that we have never before seen in a college football game. I really liked seeing the Rece Davis score updates, even if they did happen a little too frequently for my liking (I got three in one three-minute quarter.) A score ticker at the bottom of your screen provides updates on all the games in your Dynasty, and it’s the little things like that which suck me in as a gamer. I’m trying not to come off too strong with a “it’s shiny and new, it rules!” feeling, but I’m a football gamer who thrives best when I can immerse myself within a universe that gives me the tools to pretend it’s real (read as: I’m a nerd), and being able to follow games through “live” updates and constant score checking helps that happen.

The audio in NCAA 13 is definitely improved, but it’s not the commentary that did it for me. I was still disappointed to hear dead spots pre-snap and until events actually occurred during a play, but by and large the commentary of NCAA Football was never their weakest point. What really struck me in the NCAA Football 13 demo was how the crowd seemed more in tune with the action on the field opposed to previous games, and I’m hoping there is even more in store for the full retail version.

 Heisman Challenge 

Robert Griffin III (formerly of Baylor, co-cover athlete of NCAA Football 13) is in the spotlight here, and if you have ever played Road to Glory the Heisman Challenge will feel right at home to you. If not, the biggest difference between this style of mode and the others are that you only control your player and not the entire team. As a fan of Road to Glory, it was exciting to hear I’d be able to take legends of the college ranks and try to duplicate (if not exceed) their on-field accomplishments. If you’re more into changing history than merely reliving it, you can walk on to a school of your choice and start their career in a new uniform. I will never use that as I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to that sort of thing, but if I do I’ll finally get to see what it’s like if Barry Sanders chose Rutgers over Oklahoma State.

I have a feeling a hot topic of Heisman Challenge will be the new Reaction Time feature, which slows down a play (for up to 15 seconds at a time, much longer than the average football play) allowing the user more control with their jukes, spins and gives more time for decision making. While Reaction Time definitely isn’t the most “sim” feature ever in a game, there are two sides to every coin. Without getting too preachy, I enjoy the ability to use it and while I probably won’t rely on it or use it more than once or twice a game, it’s a relatively small feature that makes the game a little bit more fun. As I said, it’s not really a “hardcore” feature, but I don’t see a problem with something being put in the game if you aren’t forced to use it in the first place.

Final Thoughts

As previously mentioned, NCAA Football 13 looks primed to deliver a better game than last year, at the very least. I’ll withhold any further judgement because ultimately we haven’t played the final game just yet. Personally, I enjoyed the NCAA Football 13 demo but the real fun begins when I can get my hands on Dynasty mode, and all of the improvements there will surely help dampen the disappointment of no Infinity Engine. Before I wrap this up, here’s a shot of the Pro Combat uniforms you unlock by sharing the demo with a friend via console:

 

I know I’ve spent a long time talking about it, but what about you? Be sure to let us know what you think of the NCAA Football 13 demo by leaving a comment below or talk about it in our forums!

 

If you've never met a person who can talk about why Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the greatest video game of all time while simultaneously picking apart defenses in Madden, that's where Dave comes in. Follow him on Twitter (@RedZoneD25) for incessant rambling on the Philadelphia Eagles, video games and more.