REVIEW Electronic Arts' latest incarnation of the popular sports franchise gets college gridiron experience just right.
Re-creating the experience of a college football game is tough. There's so much that goes into game day: tailgates, body paint, fight songs, the guy behind you spilling beer on you the entire game. It's an atmosphere that can unite an entire campus (plus all its alumni) for a few hours in gridiron bliss.
"NCAA Football 13" comes as close as a college sports game could ask for in nailing that experience. You won't exactly be able to smell the meat grilling in the parking lot, but inside the stadium, you won't believe you're not watching an ESPN telecast.
It all starts with the stadiums. As a University of Maryland student, I can tell you that the game's version of Byrd Stadium is eerily realistic. Everything from the giant inflatable Testudo balloon to Cole Field House in the distance made it feel like I was watching my Terps play from the best seat in the house.
The fans still look like giant blobs of their home team's colors, but close-ups show the fanatics wearing giant wigs, and you can hear them chanting their team's fight songs after a touchdown. The players themselves look good if nondescript, which comes with the territory of not being able to use the likenesses of real players.
As top-notch as the presentation is, none of it would matter if the game didn't play well. This is where realism is a blessing and a curse.
Do you remember the days when you could scramble forever with your quarterback, press a button and still have him lob a perfect pass to a receiver that there was no way he could've seen? Well, that doesn't exist anymore. Throwing on the move still works, but throwing across your body will affect your accuracy and power.
What this new throwing dynamic does is make games play more like actual college football. College athletes make mistakes. In "Madden," it's acceptable to see a few superhuman plays here or there. Now there will be more interceptions, fewer huge throwing plays that aren't earned and an actual reason to run the football -- you know, like a real college football game.
"NCAA 13" has all your standard football video game modes: Dynasty, where you pick a school, build the program up over the years and create a college football powerhouse; Road to Glory, where you create a player and turn him into a legend, and the new Heisman Challenge, where you can take the likes of Robert Griffin III and Barry Sanders through their college careers and put up insane numbers.
Aside from a few spotty graphics and moments where Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler's commentary don't sync up with what just happened, "NCAA Football 13" splits the uprights in almost every way. "NCAA 13" is exactly what college football fans need to tide themselves over until September.