While it did have its moments, EA Sports never really hit the mark dead center with their NCAA Football series on this current generation of consoles. Constantly dogged by comparisons to how great it was in the title’s PS2/Xbox heyday, it failed to deliver the total package thirsty college fans were looking for. With the release of NCAA Football 14 it is apparent EA tried to put their best kicking foot forward.
NCAA Football 14 gets the new physics engine for the first time, dubbed Infinity Engine 2. The latest iteration of the Infinity Engine boasts a completely new experience that allows you to take advantage of the real time physics. How it relates to NCAA 14 is mostly positive as it as gives the game play a fresh feel. The running game has particularly been paid attention to especially because of the improvements to the physics and foot planting. The left stick allows for hard run cuts for changes of direction and the revamped blocking A.I. makes running plays more effective. The right stick features a series of combinations that look like fighting game combo moves that require you to execute a half spin one way in combination with another direction to pull of jukes and spins. After awhile I found the system to be cumbersome, football is played at too great of a speed to try and remember which combo move you need to do to evade two linebackers bearing down on you. The intention was noble, but the execution could have been better.
In some instances the running game is too effective as I have steamrolled some teams on the ground mostly by running the ball picking up chunks of yardage. The Option has also been showed some love as there are over 30 new Option types as well as an entire playbook completely devoted to the option. The game flags with an icon the two defenders your quarterback must read and players can determine what to do with the football based on the defense’s reactions.
If I have one gripe it seems that overall the offense might be a tad bit too powerful. Playing with some average teams I have had an easy time going down the field putting up points. Typically the college game is wide open, but my overall feeling is the offense may have gotten too much love. The defense does have some weapons at its disposal, as the revamped Hit Stick is even more powerful than before with the new Force Impact System. The defenders can make a lunge tackle by flicking the right stick in a downward motion or deliver a crushing tackle by holding the right stick down. But even on the highest difficulty level I found it rather easy to score as the defense is at a disadvantage.
One of my favorite additions to NCAA Football 14 is the Nike Skills Trainer. The Trainer allows players to familiarize themselves with the nuances of things like Acceleration Burst, Total Control Passing and Ball Hawk. The added caveat is completing some of the tasks unlock certain Ultimate Player Cards. Which brings me to my next favorite addition.
NCAA 14 now boasts its own Ultimate Team mode. If Madden has MUT, I guess NCAA has NUT. I barely gave this mode a sniff in Madden, but in NCAA it has a certain appeal. Nothing like playing with the Charlie Ward Heisman edition and showing why he was the best quarterback ever to play point guard in the NBA.
The Dynasty mode has also gotten several new features most noticeably the introduction of Coach Skills and Power Recruiting. The Coach Skills use a RPG-like progression system giving you a sense of growth, while Power Recruiting does away with the old phone call system and instead during the season the game has you assign points from a pool of 500, to demonstrate your interest in that prospect. It’s totally up to you how many points you want to assign a particular recruit each week. Coaches earn XP through solid in-game performances, wins, and signing prospects on the recruiting trail and pulling in enough XP grants a skill point. While I still haven’t fully embraced the RPG world invading my beloved sport games, I have enjoyed the new changes to the dynasty mode.
NCAA Football 14 is a solid title, and while there are some things like the presentation that still isn’t up to snuff (for the pregame introductions they show clips of a game that you haven’t played yet which I found weird and started cycling through after awhile) and some wonky animations that still plague the Infinity Engine, overall it is a fun game. Ultimate Mode is highly addictive and the new Dynasty changes will immerse you in your season like never before. All of this adds up to the best NCAA Football title this current generation has seen. – DJ Rhude