NCAA Football 13 Review

I moan about games being produced annually,  on a fairly consistent basis. Obviously, there is not much you can do with sports franchises, as leave it one year, and your game is already out of date, with the latest set of licensing and the influx of new players. However, that shouldn’t be enough to warrant a $60 or a £40 purchase every year. If a developer wants me to keep coming back every year, they have to show they have put in the time and effort, that would warrant the investment. Is NCAA Football 13 worth it? Not Really.

Starting off with the main aspect off the game, which is Dynasty mode. The game has already added a fair few layers to the mode this year, so any improvements made this year were obviously not going to be revolutionary. However, there are quite a few nice additions that add even further depth, to a franchise mode which in my opinion, was already superior to its sister franchise, Madden. Dynamic Ratings have finally been introduced, meaning as your team progresses or declines up the BCS ladder, certain ratings will be impacted by that change. There is a set of circumstances, in which each rating can be altered over time, and is a nice little feature, to motivate you to keep going with your dynasty.  On top of that, the recruiting has been made much slicker, with the new-scouting system which works very effectively as a new enhancement for the mode whilst the actual pitches themselves have finally been altered, now enabling you to choose which topics you wish to pursue with a certain prospect. As I said, there was never going to be anything revolutionary with dynasty this year, but all of these new features go a long way, in enhancing the college football experience.

Heisman Mode is the only completely new game mode for NCAA Football, this year and it’s relatively lacklustre. The idea behind it, being that you get to take control of previous heisman winners with whichever team you wanted.. That is literally it. It is a poor attempt by EA to extract some more money from their consumers (yes you have to pay for some of the Heisman “challenges”). My advice? Go find your old NCAA games, and actually PLAY WITH THE PLAYERS ON THAT GAME. There is literally no difference, apart from the obvious gameplay improvements that have transcended over time. Seriously, don’t bother with this.

As with every year, NCAA Football 13 brings with it a host of new presentation improvements. Yeah you get the odd new mascot or whatever, but the main feature this year, links in with the dynasty mode. Now, the game utilises broadcaster Rece Davis to bring studio updates, whilst you are playing your game. That is not the end of it either, as the ESPN ticker will be a prominent feature in the bottom of your television screen, as it constantly gives updates on any upsets or ‘priority games’ that are currently occurring at the same time as your game. On paper, it is a really cool idea in creating an even more immersive experience but unfortunately, the execution isn’t fantastic. The studio updates lack content, and the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen, is quite frankly, a distraction. If this can be improved for NCAA Football 14 however, then this is definitely a worthwhile feature to have implemented in the game. But for now? Fairly poor execution hinders the overall experience, rather than enhancing it.

But no matter how well done the previously referenced aspects of the game this year are, it is ultimately gameplay that will be the defining  factor in determining whether or not NCAA Football 13 is worth the money. The new improvements this year, are the inclusion of 20+ new passing trajectories, ensuring superman linebackers will no longer be swatting the ball whenever you try and pass over the middle, and a read-and-react mechanic, which ensures defenders and recievers alike, must be making eye contact with the ball before making a play. Both are fundamentally sound ideas, and both are executed fairly efficiently but where the features falter, is unfortunately, by making these improvements the balance of the game has been fairly dramatically changed. The offensive side of the ball, is simply, far too easy now with defenders biting far too easily on play action and pump fakes, meaning the deep ball is always far too easy to complete.  In one game, my QB had 10-30 completed passes for over 400 yards, that is how much the balance of the game has been distorted.

Overall, this is still a fairly solid outing by the NCAA franchise. You can tell, they have put in the effort with numerous new enhances, which in principal should be fantastic. Unfortunately, the execution lacks, meaning the overall experience is slightly tainted. Still, if you have never played an NCAA game before, go and buy it, it’s definitley worth your money. As for returning players from NCAA 12? Well, if your willing to spend the money on some admittedly fantastic improvements to the recruiting mechanic and new rosters, then go for it. My advice? Don’t bother.

Game Modes – Dynasty is improved with the new recruiting system but Road to Glory sees very little improvement. As for Heisman Mode? Don’t Bother. 7.5/10

Gameplay – Markedly worse than last years iteration, with the offensive side of the ball being far too easy. 7/10

Presentation – The game has made some fantastic additions, unfortunately the execution in some instances, lets it down. 8/10

Total Value – Some nice improvements, but not enough to warrant the price tag. 6.5/10

OVERALL – 7.3

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La Noire Review

Before I start discussing La Noire, as this is my first review on the site, I thought I’d give you a brief outline of how this blog is going to work. Unfortunately I only currently own a PC and a PS3 due to financial problems, so for now I won’t be able to review any of the xbox exclusives and let’s face it.. there would be hardly any for me to review anyway. Don’t distress though microsoft fans, due to the piss poor E3 (my impressions will be coming soon), in terms of First-party exclusives, the majority of the games i’ll be reviewing will be Third Party games anyway.  So don’t leave just yet. Anyway that’s enough about the future, the reason I’m here is to review LA Noire, so here it is, my first review for this blog, and hopefully there will be a lot, lot more..

So, LA Noire, what better first review to have than a game that could possibly re-define the games industry as we know it. Yes, I’m talking about the all new MotionScan technology that has been developed by Team Bondi. This piece of kit makes use of full-time actors, detecting everything on the face from a single flinch to an eye flicker. However it is JUST the face, whilst the characters display a full range of emotion, and you really do feel every bit of anger or sorrow etched on Cole Phelp’s face, there is still a sense that the head is detached from the rest of the body. The contrast between the fluid, precise face animations and the stiffness of the rest of the body is apparent, nevertheless the technology is still very cool, and hopefully provides the basis for 360 motion scan technology in the future.

So how does it affect the gameplay? Yes it looks great, but does it actually enhance the experience? The answer is simply, yes. The core of this game revolves around interrogations, new cases mean new clues and when a suspect is identified, it’s your job to extract information out of them. The gameplay mechanic is pretty simple, you select a question from your notebook based on the evidence you’ve already collected, the suspect answers, and the motion technology enables you to make a judgement on whether or not you think he/she is lying. If you think the suspect has suddenly become twitchy or is avoiding eye contact, you can claim they’re lying, the game will then give you a list of all the evidence you’ve acquired from the case so far, and you have to select a piece of evidence you believe backs up your claim. Be prepared to be frustrated however, selecting an answer that may seem relevant, may not be the answer the game was looking for, which sets off an infuriating cut scene where the suspect berates you for the accusations.

The concept is brilliant, and the technology makes every single interview and every single person feel different but the concept is never truly realized. You’ll find yourself always selecting the doubt button, even when you think they’re lying, simply because you’re scared you may select the wrong piece of evidence. Sometimes the doubt mechanic comes across as more aggressive than selecting lie, and perhaps if there is an LA Noire 2, the developers could make the difference between the three selections a bit more blatant.

Unfortunately, the word that sums up the rest of the gameplay experience is, ‘repetitive’.  You’ll find the game goes through the same sequence of events in practically every case. You start off by investigating the crime scenes, you’ll then determine a suspect and a list of evidence from this. The suspect will then run away before you can interview him, instigating a chase scene in which you will eventually track him down. You then interrogate the suspect, and so on… It is all very repetitive, I understand and acknowledge what Team Bondi are trying to achieve, this is an adult experience, you will never play a game like it, and I understand the point of this game was not to have 20 man gun fights in the street during every mission, but the lack of variety in the gameplay detracts from the overall experience. When the odd action sequence does come along however, it is brilliant. Everything feels meaningful in LA Noire, when you finally crack a case and track down the suspect, just to have to fight through 10 bodyguards and eventually put a bullet in his chest, you feel everything a real detective would do, dejected. The amount of time you’ve invested in solving it, just for it to culminate in one simple bullet shot, feels depressing and these range of emotions you feel are evident throughout the game, and is exactly what makes LA Noire such a magnificent experience.

The story in the game revolves around main protagonist, Cole Phelps. A war veteran, that was awarded a silver star for bravery during the Battle of Okinawa in World War 2. You start off in patrol, and as cases are solved, you will eventually find yourself climbing up the policing ladder, going through the homicide, vice and arson department. Whilst the game appears to let you make decisions, the overall experience is pretty linear. If you miss a clue, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail the case, the game will simply give you an extra clue to get back on track. It’s pretty much impossible to fail a case, and the only time a game over screen appears is during a failed action sequence. The overall progression of your character will not be the result of the decisions you’ve made either.. No matter, how well you have done, you will always get a promotion once you have finished the specified amount of missions. This is not a game like Heavy rain or mass effect where the decisions you make are going to affect the outcome, it simply delays it instead.

I won’t go into the plot details too much, but whilst the main storyline is clearly Cole as a detective back in 1940′s Los Angeles, we are also given a sequence of flashbacks that run throughout the game, giving us a little back story from his time in the war, and whilst it doesn’t appear relevant at the start, all of these flashbacks do in fact correlate to the endgame. Another plot device is the newspaper articles that are scattered across the map. There are 13 in total and each time a new article is discovered, you’re provided with a cut scene which give extra detail to the background of your final case. All of these little plot devices are there to provide build up to the final mission of the game, which in the end.. is a bit of a letdown.

1940′s Los Angeles has never looked so good in a video game. The game contains roughly 20 real life monuments from Los Angeles, all of which have been re-created to perfection. Whether it be the tar pits or the LA County museum or even the small inclusions such as the Hollywoodland sign, with the events of La Noire taking place 2 years before the last 4 letters were removed. These tiny nuances are incorporated throughout the game, and it really does bring the world to life. However despite this perfectly re-created world, there isn’t an awful lot to do. You may think it’s a sandbox experience but really, it might as well be an action adventure game. Apart from the main storyline, the only things you can really do within the city are collecting cars, exploring the monuments and responding to dispatch calls. Which are, in there own way pretty fun, but it doesn’t do enough for me to become fully engrossed in the city.

Overall, this game hits and misses on so many levels. There are some moments, which are pure brilliance, the motion technology is revolutionary and the city is as wonderfully crafted as anything I’ve seen in gaming. These moments however are countered with moments of pure frustration, but this is way more than just a tech demo. On this generation of platforms, this is an experience that only Heavy rain can rival and yet I come away from it, looking back, wondering what could have been.

Story 8/10

Gameplay 7.5/10

Presentation 9.5/10

Total Value 8/10

OVERALL : 8.2