With NCAA Football 13 hitting stores, we thought it would be appropriate to do a refresher preview on the newest installment of EA’s successful college football simulator. This years version brings a slew of new additions, and we’ll visit them in-depth below.
- Total Control Passing
The passing system in NCAA 13 has been dramatically refined this year, with several new enhancements. In previous games, you really only had six types of passes; short bullet/lob, intermediate bullet/lob, and deep bullet/lob. Now, there are even more passing trajectories for quarterbacks to take advantage of, which means no more deep throws over the middle getting intercepted by super-powered linebackers.Not only are the trajectories refined, but the ability to lead receivers into open spaces, including extremely tight windows. However, this doesn’t always work, as I’ve found that when I scramble out to my left or right and a receiver runs back to me to try to make a play, I somehow always seem to throw the ball into a defensive player, even if I’m leading the receiver out of harm’s way with my feet set.Which brings me to another addition to this year’s version: setting your feet. If you’re moving to your left or right while scrambling and preparing to throw on the run, your QB’s ratings will affect his accuracy and throw power. That’s not the new part. What IS new is that if you’re throwing off your back leg while trying to avoid defenders, you’re going to throw a very inaccurate, very intercept-able ball, just like in real life.
- Quarterback Movement
Now, quarterbacks automatically take 1, 3, 5, and 7-step drops to match the timing of receivers’ route patterns. This prevents the player on offense from having to run backwards themselves, which puts them in position to throw off-balance.
In last year’s NCAA Football, the right stick/R3 was a pump-fake, and whatever direction you moved it in, your QB pump-faked to that receiver. This year, Madden 13 and NCAA Football 13 are coming together to give you the same streamlined control scheme, which means that NCAA 13 is changing this process up a little bit. Now, players must hold the LB/L1 button, and press the corresponding button of the receiver they wish to pump-fake to. It’s a little bit more complicated, and takes some getting used to, but it works exactly the same for making safeties/corners bite on certain receivers.
- Read and React
Another new feature this year is Read and React. No longer will you throw a deep ball to a receiver, who never even looks back at you, only to have them miraculously catch it over their back shoulder for a touchdown. Alternatively, for defenders, you will not have those pesky “psychic” deflections or interceptions that have been a personal annoyance of mine.Receivers and defenders now operate on this Read and React system that dictates if they’re looking for the ball or not. Receivers will have their corresponding buttons above their head still, but they’ll either be brightened or darkened depending on whether or not they’re expecting the ball. This makes the defenders’ life more difficult, as in real life, because they can’t really keep an eye on the QB and the receiver at the same time. In my time with the demo build of the game, I’ve taken advantage of many a DB and LB who were solely focused on my QB and not paying attention or communicating with their teammates, resulting in huge gains, touchdowns, or both.
- New Play-Action Enhancements
Ever ran a play-action play, only to get sacked before you even finish the animation? You’re not alone. The new fixes to play-action allow quarterbacks to finish their animations quicker, and get ready to get the ball out the second a man is open, or let them take off on a scramble if they’re facing pressure.Not only are there quicker animations, but there is now the ability to abort the PA animation altogether by pressing RT/R2. There has always been an alternative to this, by hot-routing your RB to block either left or right, but this makes it more streamlined and helpful to the more casual football gamer.
- User Controlled Catching
User-controlled catching is a minor tweak, but still worth mentioning. I’ve heard a lot of gripes from hardcore online gamers that they’re catering to new players, and that’s exactly true. EA wants everyone to have a shot. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve taken control of a WR after throwing a deep bomb, hoping to catch the ball over a DB and make a big play, only to either overrun the route, or have the ball tip into the air, usually resulting in a user pick from the other player. The jury’s still out on if this is a great or terrible addition. I think it’s wonderful, and will really ease new players into the competitive online world.
- Heisman Challenge
A new mode to NCAA, Heisman Challenge is essentially Road to Glory with former Heisman Trophy winners. You can take any Heisman Legend in the game and put them on any team for a whole season to match or surpass their glory days of college football. The entire list of out-of-the-box playable Heisman Legends is as follows:
- Marcus Allen
- Doug Flutie
- Eddie George
- Robert Griffin III
- Desmond Howard
- Carson Palmer
- Barry Sanders
- Charlie Ward
- Andre Ware
- Herschel Walker
EA has already made plans for DLC players as well. Upon finishing a season as a Heisman Legend, if you gain the much-coveted trophy, you unlock them for your own personal use in Road to Glory mode.
- Road to Glory
Speaking of RtG, there are some enhancements to this game mode as well. This has been my favorite part of NCAA since I began playing it last year. Not only does it have an RPG-like feel, letting me customize my player the way I want both aesthetically and with his abilities, but it truly simulates what it would be like to be a Freshman fresh out of high school. Last year’s addition of being able to play a whole season of football in your Senior year of high school was a great addition, and let you get used to playing the game mode, slowly tweaking your skills, all the way up to the playoffs (if you make them).This year, you get all that and more, including a new feature called “Reaction Time”. This is also available in Heisman Challenge. Reaction Time essentially lets the play slow time, letting DBs getting into position for a crucial interception, RBs hit fast-closing running lanes, or QBs to make quick throws into tight, quickly-closing windows. As you first start out in your RTG career, you won’t have much Reaction Time to use at once; the minimum is 3 seconds’ worth. But through experience points, you can upgrade this aspect of your player like any other skill.You also get new in-depth scouting reports during the week of practice leading up to the game on Saturday. This will help you prepare to the type of team you play, and what side of the ball you’re on. You might need to focus on stopping LSU’s option game, or Miami’s running game. It’s safe to say this will still be my favorite game-mode when I pop the game in Tuesday.
- New Alignment System
Another gripe from the NCAA community has been defensive alignment. If you were in man coverage, all an opposing player would need to do is set a WR/TE/RB in motion and they would know, because your DB or LB would follow them. This year, the defenses do a much better job at disguising coverages, like in reality, allowing defenders to swap zones after the snap to confuse QBs or to pursue RBs.
- Dynasty Mode
The fan-favorite of pretty much every NCAA game, Dynasty Mode is getting a massive visual/audio overhaul.One new addition is Studio Updates, which occur dynamically throughout a game, informing players of scores for both important and under-the-radar games, as well as other news throughout the country. Another addition is the implementation of the infamous ESPN Bottom Line, which updates players with both real-time scores outside of game-modes, and breaking news and scores during your games. NCAA 13 Dynasty Mode has a new simulation process that evaluates teams before you play games, as well as over the period of your game. Like studio updates, players can also expect Upset Alerts, Final Alerts, and Priority Score alerts to keep them awed at the authenticity of NCAA’s newest installment.Scouting and recruiting have also seen some pretty dramatic changes, too. In pre-season, every coach has a certain amount of time to scout and unlock certain player attributes, helping determine their overall rating, and what kind of skills they will bring to your team. There are also a modicum of unique recruiting pitches, to help nab those top-rated prospects.
Overall, the newest installment in the NCAA Football franchise is looking like it’s the best yet. Plenty of promising features that the community has been begging for are now implemented, and NCAA is seems like it’s going to give both hardcore football fans in general, as well as Madden fans something to do while they wait for football season to start.