The latest trend in sports video games is nostalgia: Michael Jordan in NBA 2K11 and 2K12, Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios in NHL 12, even Walter Payton will be playable in the upcoming Madden NFL 13 game. NCAA Football 13 has joined in on the classic fun with their new Heisman Challenge mode. This mode, similar to Road to Glory, will let you play with up to 16 past Heisman winners (10 on disc, 3 unlockable by playing the NCAA 13 demo, and 3 downloadable through GameStop pre order). You will have four goals that the player achieved during his Heisman-winning season that will need to be equaled. If you reach them all, you will automatically win the Heisman and unlock that player for use in Road to Glory mode. Barry Sanders' four goals include: rush for 2,628 yards, get 39 rushing touchdowns, score five rushing touchdowns in one game, and rush for 332 yards in one game. And if you don't reach all four goals, you can still win the Heisman if your stats are just too good to ignore.
The Heisman Challenge will feature the new Reaction Time. With Reaction Time you'll be able to put the game into slow motion for up to 15 seconds. This will allow you to find the right hole with Barry Sanders, or be even more elusive with Doug Flutie. The goal of Reaction Time is to give you the feel of playing with the best of the best in college football - and it works, it almost works too well. Using a legend like Herschel Walker gives you an advantage over any defense, but combined with Reaction Time, you are unstoppable. I played Walker's Heisman Challenge, on Heisman difficulty level, and reached his goals halfway through the season. The Heisman Challenge was pretty easy to complete for the running backs, it's more of a challenge with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Reaction Time has also been added to Road to Glory mode, but you'll have to earn the Reaction Time as you progress through your career.
The biggest gameplay change in NCAA Football 13 is Total Passing Control. This allows you to better lead receivers with your passes which, combined with putting loft on your passes, makes for a wide variety of different pass trajectories. I love the new passing system. It feels really good to lead your receiver to the corner of the end zone and put the ball where only he can catch it. But you have to be careful as you can lead your receiver too much, leading to bad passes. But I think that's a good thing. In real football, the quarterback will occasionally throw a ball that lands nowhere near the receiver. This has happened to me a couple of times, but when you hit that perfect pass just over the defense, it's rewarding. It's also nice to know that in NCAA 13 your passes won't be knocked down by the Leaping Linebacker, or Robo Linebackers. For those not familiar, the Leaping Linebacker was an issue in last year's game where linebackers, on any team - no matter the talent level, would leap in the air with a vertical that would make Derrick Rose jealous, and knock down passes they had no business knocking down. It was highly frustrating, but it's now gone as part of the new Read and React defense.
Read and React defense means the defender will not make a play on the ball if he doesn't see it. This mean no more psychic defenders. Previous year's games, defenders would make plays on the ball, even if they had their back to the pass. I've been able to zip passes by defenders who have their back turned. This is another welcomed addition that benefits the passing game, even though it's a gameplay change made for defense. But like I mentioned earlier, if your pass is off, it will be picked. Because if the defender is watching the pass, they will react and jump your route. It's a fine line you have to walk in the passing game. You will try to dump a touch pass in over the linebackers, but since a touch or loft pass will stay in the air longer, it will give the opponent safety more time to break on the pass and make a play. I play on Heisman level and I have thrown my share of interceptions. Even though there's no more Leaping Linebacker, the defense plays the pass tight, and there are a lot of interceptions, on both sides. I have yet to play an online game, so I'll be interested to see how Total Passing Control and Read and React defenders will work in user vs. user competition.
I still have a few issues with gameplay as far as the AI is concerned, on Heisman level. Your offensive line still can't seem to pick up a blitz properly, which drives me insane. Your guards always opt to double team the defensive tackle with the center, while completely ignoring the blitzing linebacker. Sometimes you have a blitzing linebacker blow right through two of your blockers as if they were not even there. On the flip side, when you blitz, the opponent AI picks it up perfectly a majority of the time. The draw play is far too effective for the opponent AI. And there are still times, on other run plays, where your defenders will continue to back peddle, even though the running back has the ball and has crossed the line of scrimmage. View the short video clip below of my safety taking a couple steps back, even though the running back is headed up field.
Returning punts continues to be a useless exercise. It's amazing how every player on the opposing special teams is just as fast as your 99 speed return man and your AI teammates just don't block. I've had much more success returning kickoffs, returning a few already.
It seems that the opponent AI defense knows what your doing at times. I come out in I Formation, with off tackle selected, but when the safeties creep up I audible (within the same formation, meaning no one moved) to a pass, then the safeties move back. I audible back to run, they move up again. It happened four straight times. There's no way, with players not moving, that the opponent AI defense should know what play I'm running. I know this is done to make Heisman level a challenge, which I welcome - it's not fun to win every game 49-0. But it's frustrating when you pick the right play or make the right adjustment and the AI just seems to play it perfectly as if they knew what play you called. Heisman level gameplay is a challenge, especially if you're playing with a non-powerhouse school. Some were worried about the difficulty after playing the demo. But the demo was just on Varsity level (second lowest of four gameplay levels) and Heisman gameplay should be a challenge. The AI defense is much tougher against the run this year, due to a high amount of blitzing, especially when I come out in I formation. I've started using it less and running out of Ace or Pistol since the AI doesn't seem to blitz that as often. I've also starting using the HB Toss more out of the I Formation (a play I rarely used) since the opponent AI is blitz happy and that has helped a bit. But it seems to me that the AI will blitz the run roughly seven out of 10 times.
The only real change to Dynasty mode this year were the changes made to recruiting. When calling a prospect the random topic, slot-machine style feature is gone. Now you can pick what topics you want to talk about, but you can only bring that topic up once a call. You can't hammer that point over and over like you were able to do in NCAA 09 or NCAA 10. It's a good change and will help players that like to play with smaller, non-powerhouse schools. If you're playing with a school like Northwestern, which I have done in the past, you can hit the Academic Prestige topic every call, you don't have to rely on chance.
You will also be able to scout players this year in the preseason and during the season. There will be bust and gem prospects that you will uncover through scouting. For example, you can have a 5-star running back, with a projected rating of 82, fall to a 75 after being scouted 100%. On the other side of that coin, you can have a 2-star middle linebacker with a projected rating of 66, and after scouting could go up to a 74, an equal rating to a 3-star or low 4-star middle linebacker. I love the new level of strategy this will add to recruiting, for both offline and online Dynasty mode. If you scout some 3-star guys, let's say with a rating of 67, and they end up being gems with a real rating of 75, you might be the only one recruiting them. So you can land these guys pretty easily, if you find them, because other people in your league will just see them as a low rated prospect and might not bother. You will have 20 hours to scout in the preseason and you should use all the hours. Even if you only need a handful of recruits in a particular year, add enough guys to your board just to scout them, because you might find yourself a gem. You can view my NCAA 13 recruiting video below.
Overall, NCAA Football 13 is a solid game, despite some frustrations with the AI blocking. It also needs to be noted that due to changes with Madden NFL 13 and the addition of their Connected Careers mode, there will be no importing of NCAA draft classes onto Madden this season. This will hopefully be back next season.
The new passing system feels good and can punish you as much as it will reward you. The Heisman Challenge is a nice addition for those who like to play the individual game modes. Hopefully this will be a first step towards getting classic teams similar to NBA 2K. NCAA 13 will take up a lot of my time, as always.
SCORE: 8 out of 10 (Note: this score will be lowered if the online dynasty advance issues happen again this year. But we won't know this until online dynasties start up.)
Update: As of now, I haven't had any issues advancing my dynasty. I've made it through two seasons of a MAC dynasty and have had no problems. So far, so good.
Herschel Walker Heisman Challenge Video - Georgia vs. Missouri
Filed under: NCAA 13
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