The NCAA Football series has often been treated as the bastard son of all the EA Sports titles. It has often received hand me down updates from the previous year’s madden game, and it rarely receives the credit it deserves for being a great football simulation game. This year it looks to break from that bastard typecast, and with a load of new features it might just do that.
This year’s version of NCAA Football is not using the new Ignite Engine that EA has hyped up at their previous events, but instead it is using a new and improved version of the Infinity Engine from Madden NFL 13. A lot of the issues that people had in Madden have been cleared up, and the game promises to add better physics with greater and more realistic collisions, but I often found them to be the same and not really living up to the hype.
This new version of the Infinity Engine does not provide any improvements to the graphics either, and in fact when I loaded a game up for the first time I often found the textures to be blurry and have jagged edges. As I continued to play the game started to look better, but that could be due to my eyes adjusting to the bad graphics of the game. The NCAA Football series has not really been known for its graphical fidelity, but blurry players and jagged edges on the stadium, crowd, and field do not get a pass.
What the game lacks in the graphics department it tries to make up for in the presentation. Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit are back as the play by play caller and color analyst respectively, but a lot of the lines said are obviously recycled from the previous year’s games. Rece Davis is back as the in-studio analyst, and you can tell that there were a bit of new lines recorded by him, but I often found myself skipping them because I wanted to jump straight in the game. The different TV packages have gotten an upgrade, and I like the fact the game tries to highlight players that have been hot in a previous game or throughout the season, but for it to work you should have random names turned on. Because seeing QB #7 is having a great game kind of breaks your immersion, but that is if you even have one with this game.
NCAA Football 14 adds a bit of new features to the gameplay, including new combo options for juking, spin moves, stiff arms and much more. You now have a new button for the ability to hurdle.
Yes, you read that right, you can now hurdle in the game. This is great for those goal line situations with less than a yard to go. No more hoping a hole opens up for you to run through. You can now just hurdle over the defenders into the endzone, but watch out because the defense has a new tackle available to put those running backs flat on their backs.
Every player now has an energy bar that surrounds their feet. Energy is used up, as players sprint and perform spin and juke moves, stamina decreases and makes these moves less effective. So be mindful of how much energy a player has and don’t deplete it too soon. Energy does regenerate, but it does this very slowly.
Gameplay improvements weren’t the only big thing add to this years edition of the franchise, as Dynasty mode has also seen some major improvements, as well as new additions.
Recruiting is now more improved and is actually kind of streamlined. Long gone are the days of calling players and choosing topics to get them to commit to your school. The game now uses a point system for recruiting. You add the players you want on your team to your recruiting board, and you are given a set amount points to spend each week recruiting players. You can spend up to 500 points in the earlier stages of a dynasty on players, but as the years go on, and you progress, you can spend more points.
Each prospect also has bonus points that will be applied to how many ever points you put up. The amount of bonus points you get depends on your grade in each of the prospects wants. Prospects now have deal breakers, and you won’t be able to recruit them if you have a really bad grade in one of their highest wants.
This new recruiting system is a breath of fresh air, and is a welcome addition in my mind. It’s a lot more easier to use and understand. Visits actually matter in the game, and you can see your school shoot to the top of the list or fall to the bottom if you have a really great or really bad visit. Their is also a new compliment and competitive system. If you schedule the visits of a QB,RB, and WR on the same day, you will get a really nice bonus. However, if you schedule two QB’s on the same day you will lose some points.
One new feature added to dynasty mode is that coaches can now level up via experience points earned via playing games, and recruiting prospects. leveling up will give you points that you spend in the new skill trees. Head coaches have two skill trees to put points in, while offensive and defensive coordinators only have one skill tree. The two skill trees for the head coach focus on game management and recruiting. This new system is great, and it makes the dynasty mode fun to continue playing after the first year. I mean lets be honest, who plays more than one year of dynasty?
While dynasty mode received new improvements and additions, NCAA 14′s Road to Glory mode has seen no changes, and is the exact same as last year’s version. However, be that as it may the mode is still a blast to play, so I guess if it aint broke don’t fix it.
Dynasty and Road to Glory are staples in the NCAA Football franchise, but EA has added a new mode that has been featured in all of their other sports games, and that is the Ultimate Team mode. It’s the same thing that we’ve seen in other games, but it now features former college all stars. Some of whom have went on to have great careers in the NFL. Cards can be bought with real money or with coins earned in game. In my opinion this new mode is nothing to write home about.
All-in-all NCAA Football 14 is really a mixed bag. The gameplay improvements and new abilities are really great, but the graphics really bring the game down. Having new and improved features in dynasty are nice, but having no new features in Road to Glory really sucks. The Ultimate Team mode is not really great if you have played the mode in other EA Sports games, but if you haven’t you might enjoy it. I enjoyed my time with NCAA Football 14 and will continue to play, but I can’t help but think there could have been more added to it.