Jayson Young: Maybe it's just the lower difficulty setting, but this demo felt like a return to the "wide open gameplay" of NCAA Football 09. Alabama vs. LSU is supposed to be a matchup of two great defenses -- the teams played eight quarters plus an overtime against each other last year and combined for a score of 27 - 9. But in this demo, these two highly rated defenses read and react to plays like they are freshmen being thrown into a varsity game for the first time.
Defenders in pass coverage are giving huge cushions to receivers and ignoring offensive players running through their zones. Linebackers and safeties are standing flatfooted instead of coming up to fill running lanes or flow along with the play. The running holes are huge, and once again, simply twitching and weaving with the left joystick throws off defenders more than any of the actual special moves. Interactions between the offensive and defensive lines remain incredibly limited and unrealistic.
Basically, the demo feels like the same old NCAA Football game only with some tweaks to pass trajectories and improvements to play-action plays. NCAA Football won't be winning any awards for its gameplay until major issues like player movement and line play are overhauled.
On the presentation side, I was impressed with the new chants and crowd noise, but the in-game studio updates felt excessive and annoying. On my first drive of the game, I was interrupted not once, not twice, but three times just so Rece Davis could tell me that, "This game is tighter than a sumo wrestler in spandex." Or that, "Ripping the opponent's guts out, figuratively, of course, makes it all the more pleasurable." If all of Rece's lines are going to be this cheesy, and the studio updates aren't tuned to appear less frequently, then I have a feeling most people will just skip through them in the retail release.
Bo McCready: I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying this demo. The recent Madden announcements really took the luster off NCAA’s more subtle changes, but so far, I’m seeing a game with some very real improvements.
It’s difficult to overstate how much the improvements to the passing game improve the overall experience. Passing in the NCAA games had become stale, as only slants, streaks, ins, posts, and tunnel screens worked with any regularity. Now, it’s actually possible to throw outs and sideline routes because the psychic DB’s appear to have been toned down. I completed passes that I would never have tried in NCAA 12, and routes that were broken appear to work. Still, this could lead to a lack of defense across the board as Jayson alluded to earlier.
My time using RG3 in the Heisman Challenge mode left me worried about the simulated defenses in this mode. As Baylor against Kansas State, I threw for more than 650 yards and 9 TDs... but my simulated defense gave up 70 points. As Oregon against USC, I threw 7 TD passes, but Matt Barkley (excuse me, "#7") matched me every step of the way and threw for 570 yards and 8 TDs as my simulated defense gave up 59 points. I know these are good offenses, but the numbers are a little ridiculous.
The studio updates are a nice touch but one that could get annoying quickly. The simple addition of the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen makes a huge, huge difference for dynasty immersion though. What college football fan doesn’t love scoreboard-watching after all?
A good dynasty mode makes you feel like you’re playing your games as part of a living, breathing world, and seeing score updates as they happen is really cool. As many of you have pointed out, the simulated completion percentages for quarterbacks in the games we see during studio updates are absurdly low, so hopefully that gets fixed.
Graphical improvements in this title aren’t extreme, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything just looks more natural. I’ve seen new animations and reactions from players that contribute to a better overall visual package. Plus, it’s fun to see things like marching bands in the crowds having their own separate animations. The motion blur creates a smoother look when players are running, further enhancing the graphical updates. But when players are moving slowly, it looks a little silly, especially post-play.
Color me optimistic. Based on the demo, I’m more excited than before the demo to play the full game. But I’ll admit that may be more of a factor of my low expectations than anything else.
Matthew Coe: After playing several games of the NCAA 13 demo, I came away neither impressed nor disappointed. I feel the improvements to the passing game make a real difference. I saw a few of the new catch animations, like a player laying out to catch a low pass and I liked that. So while the Infinity Engine isn't in NCAA until next year, I do see some gameplay improvements that will be worth our while. However, it's still going to be awkward playing NCAA after Madden releases.
As Jayson said, the studio updates are far too frequent. I really do appreciate the attempt at immersion, but I hope it doesn't interrupt my game as often in the retail release as it does in the demo. The line play is still atrocious in the NCAA 13 demo, and I don't see any reason to expect that to change in the retail release. EA Sports needs to find a way to make line play more dynamic and less "canned" with the patty cake stuff and the defensive linemen getting flipped as soon as they come off the ball. Line play should be one of a few key focuses for Tiburon's '14 football titles.
Overall the demo is on par with what I expected. The improvements that are there seem well done, and the things that weren't touched are obvious. I'm not sold on the Heisman mode either, but maybe some people will enjoy putting Barry Sanders on the 2012 Auburn team? The changes are just enough to peak my interest, and I'm ready to see more.
What do you think after playing the demo? Is NCAA Football 13 a buy or no buy for you come July 10?