Let me start by saying I had very low expectations for this game. Even when I started playing it, nothing blew me away and I was not impressed. Maybe it was the fact that I have played the NCAA Football franchise for going on 8 years now that lead to my initial view of the game being so poor, but after getting a few games under my belt in Online Dynasty, my interest in the game did a 180. This review for the game is based solely on the Dynasty and Online Dynasty modes.
The graphics in this game are typical of what you would expect from a NCAA Football game. Year after year they improve the graphics just enough to make if feel like it’s a newer game than the previous edition. This year’s graphics are phenomenal. They are so good that the untrained eye often does not know it is just a video game. They added the Madden 13 physics engine to the game this year in order to improve the “realism” they always strive to achieve. Sometimes the physics engine actually hinders the so called “realism” by making players fall or get tackled awkwardly, or do things I cannot even describe. It also changes up how a player goes about running the ball behind their offensive lineman, because if they run into one of them, it completely stops their momentum and can cause them to get tackled for a loss. It can make them trip and fall over as well. This can happen to you often if you are not careful about where you are running because this sort of thing happens almost every time you run into the back of your linemen.
If you can figure out how to avoid running into your offensive line, the gameplay this year is better than ever. In years past, blocking schemes had no effect on the way you ran the ball at all. They simply blocked forward, and any defensive player who was being blocked could easily slip off of it and make a tackle if you ran next to them. This year that has been completely done away with. The blocking mechanics are amazing and it makes blocking schemes matter. You can run next to a defensive player who is being blocked by one of your players and no longer have to worry about them suddenly flying off and making a tackle. Plays out of the wildcat formation and reverses out of other formations actually work with much more success because you can wait on blocks to develop and find the hole to make a big play. All of this however depends on the skill level of both your players and the person controlling the ball carrier.
Defenses are much smarter this year and it makes it much more realistic than it has been in the past several games. They are better at learning what you are doing if you run the same plays repeatedly. This is not always the case but, it is most of the time. They have finally done away with the “Hercules” linebackers. It used to be that anytime you threw the ball over the middle and it was less than 10 yards down the field, a linebacker could literally leap 10 feet in the air in any direction and intercept the ball. This was very frustrating for players that loved to sling the ball around the field. The only issue with the smarter defense is that it is extremely hard to throw the ball down the field. You have to have a very strong armed quarterback and a speedy receiver most of the time in order to throw a deep ball, or else it will be intercepted more times than not. This also will depend on how good the person controlling the team is on whether or not it actually affects them. You can always adjust by aiming where you want the ball placed or just by not throwing the ball to those players unless they are wide open. The opponent’s offense tends to run the read option a lot in this game, which can be very annoying. Even on teams that do not usually run the read option, if they run it once on you and it works, they will continue to run it over and over again. It can become almost unstoppable because they are very smart on whether or not to hand the ball off or keep it; even when you read it right sometimes your player will just run right past the ball carrier rather than making the tackle.
Dynasty and Online Dynasty mode has been stale the past few years with too few improvements being added. This year they have gone to great lengths to change that and make it actually feel like a new game. The recruiting portion of the Dynasty modes has changed more than anything else in this entire game. It has been streamlined in order to make it easier and faster for those who do not wish to spend a lot of time recruiting, but it’s still just as deep for those who wish to get the most out of it. It does take a while to get used to since it has an all new interface and works in a completely different way, but after getting familiar with it the system becomes much more fun than it was last year. Initially the user is given 5,000 points a week to use and you can place up to 500 points on any given player you wish to recruit. Every week following that, you will continue to automatically spend those same points on that player unless you manually change it. This was done so that users can assign how many points they want on players and then allow them to not have to check it again for a few weeks if they choose not to. Users can still check in every week, and see their progress on the recruits if they wish, and make any changes they want to the overall points being spent on these players.
They have also added coach experience points and a leveling up system with a skill tree to the game. This can be a game changer for someone who plans to spend a long time in one of the Dynasty modes because the skill trees have some really rewarding skills. Examples of some of the skills include things like adding more points to your recruiting during the season, being able to spend more than 500 points on players every week, and being able to recruit a player that has locked you out. These all come over time, though, and you cannot buy them all at the beginning or it would make it too easy.
The Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
This game has all of the parts of the NCAA Football formula that has made it such a great game for the past several years, but it also finds ways to improve in many areas. It is a breath of fresh air to those of us who have been playing the game for close to a decade and a great game for newcomers to jump in to (especially since this may be the last college football game we see for a long time). It is fun to play a dynasty as your favorite teams and try to take them to the BCS National Championship Game every year and just as fun to play against your friends for bragging rights. This is definitely a video game for any college football fan and anyone who likes football games in general. I have enjoyed my experience with it after over four seasons of play and will continue to enjoy it for the foreseeable future.