NCAA Football 14 Review (PS3)
College football is right around the corner, and many sports fanatics are anxiously awaiting those Saturday games to see their teams take to the field. This also means it is time for the yearly release of NCAA Football. Whether you are a fan or not of the series, gamers as a whole have noticed that there hasn’t been a huge improvement made upon the games in quite some time. This has led to many fans asking for some innovation, so let’s see if EA Sports delivered or not with NCAA Football 14.
As soon as you launch NCAA Football 14 you will notice that the overall design of the game has changed. It has a much more simple approach in the layout of the game. The menu now resembles the popular Windows 8 tile layout that you are seeing more and more. This design eliminates unnecessary menus, and makes it easier to navigate the game itself. This more simplistic look is inviting, which makes you want to get into game mode quickly. You will still be able to find all of the modes that you have come to love in the series (Exhibition, Coach Mode, One-Button Mode, Mascot Mash Up, Dynasty, Online Dynasty, Road To Glory, and Online), as well as the newest additions (Nike Skills Trainer and Ultimate Team).
Below you can find a quick summary of what each mode offers:
- Exhibition Mode – your pick up and play mode, simply choose your team and get ready to play.
- Coach Mode – make the play calls, and see if you have what it takes to win with strategy alone.
- One-Button Mode – you literally play the game using only one button.
- Mascot Mash Up – for those that are looking to goof off within the game, everyone on your team will take on the role of your favorite mascot.
- Dynasty – become/create a coach and lead the team you choose towards success
- Online Dynasty – taking the Dynasty mode and all of its features online with other players.
- Road To Glory – pick your position and fight for a college scholarship.
- Online – take on other NCAA Football 14 players and see just how good you are.
- Nike Skills Trainer – head here to test your skills and unlock medals that will get you rewards for use in Ultimate Team mode.
- Ultimate Team – the highly popular mode that has been on Madden makes its debut on NCAA Football. You will create your dream team by earning cards and coins as you play.
When looking at the modes that have been there for quite some time, you don’t really see much change until you look at the Dynasty and Online Dynasty. The biggest addition would have to be the Coach Skill Trees, which allows you to gain specific bonuses/abilities as your coach levels up. Each coaching position (Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator) offers different things to unlock as you level up. If you happen to be an Offensive Coordinator or Defensive Coordinator then you will only have one skill tree to focus on, like boosting passing abilities to improving the instincts of your defense. However when you are Head Coach of a team you will have access to two skill trees, one for recruiting and one for game management. These can include giving your team a pep talk during a time out to being able to discover the best athletes to recruit. This addition to the Dynasty mode not only gives the game more of an RPG feel, because your coach really does level up as you play the game, but it makes it seem more realistic. Being able to unlock/learn things as a coach as you play adds so much more realism to the mode. No longer are you an instant powerhouse coach, you have to earn that ability by succeeding.
At the end of each season you will enter the Coaching Carousel, this is where different jobs can be offered to your created coach. This is where you must make the decision for the future of your coach’s career. To earn the jobs from the more prestigious schools you must not only win, but fulfill your promises, and build up your football program. Doing these things will build up your coach’s prestige, earning you better jobs. The choices are yours throughout your career – personally I like starting at a small school and building it into a powerhouse; however, it takes several seasons to do.
Road To Glory is pretty much still the same mode overall: You start out as a high school senior and must earn a college scholarship. As you play through your senior season, college scouts will come out to evaluate your performance during games. The better you perform, the better the scholarships from higher ranking teams. At the end of your senior season you must make the choice that is best for your created/chosen athlete. After this, you will lead your athlete through a full four years at the chosen university. You will have to earn your coach’s trust, by performing well on the field.
Ultimate Team mode started on the Madden franchise years ago: Essentially you begin by choosing a team, and build that team with card packs that you can earn or spend coins to get. Once you have your team built, head online to take on other Ultimate Team players, or play offline to complete tasks as well. As you play through games you will earn not only packs, but coins as well. These coins can be used to buy more packs, or buy particular player cards that online users are auctioning. Essentially you are getting to build the football team you want, including players like Peyton Manning, Bo Jackson, etc.
Where NCAA Football 14 really shines is in the gameplay itself, it plays better and is much more realistic. This is due to the implementation of the Infinity Engine 2, which marks the first time it has appeared in the franchise. We saw the first entry of the engine last year in Madden NFL 13. This second entry of the engine fixes a lot of the bugs that we saw last year, and the physics have never looked better in a football title. Offensive lineman and other players will actually block. Breaking tackles has never been more realistic, and avoiding incoming defensive players with your QB has never looked/worked better.
The option game has also been completely overhauled. If you are a fan of the option playbook, then you will be happy to hear that it works better than ever. You will now read off specific defenders as the play is taking place, so running a triple option play will have you reading several things at once. If you make the wrong read, then the defense will definitely be sure to take advantage of your mistake.
Which leads to another point, when playing in offense, the defense will pick up on your tendencies and react to things a lot quicker than you realize. If you throw into double coverage, the risk for an interception is definitely there, so be sure to read the defenses correctly when running a pass play. The level of realism in both the running game and passing plays is great, using the analog stick when passing allows for much better ball placement than in past entries. This allows your WR to get to the ball, without any threat from the DB. When running the ball, the cuts that your RB can make will shock you, no longer are you just running to a specific hole in the offensive line. If the play breaks down there may be another hole elsewhere, if you see it simply flick the left analog stick in that direction. This will make your RB make a quick cut towards the new hole and allow for extra yardage to be gained.
Defensively, the game features many of the things that you found in previous games, but with the Infinity Engine 2 it makes everything more effective. Pass rushing now works a lot better, but take into account the offensive lineman that you are facing, because now, more than ever, o-line attributes actually matter. When defending the pass you can quickly switch to the defender and break on the ball, and if your player happens to be a ball hawk he will break on the ball to get the interception giving you immediate control. While all defensive players are capable of this, DB’s are the most effective.
Graphically the game has never looked and ran so smooth, though there were a couple of hiccups that occurred from the first installment of the Infinity Engine 2. While it hasn’t been a major graphical overhaul from previous entries it has definitely been optimized, and it shows. The stadiums look great, but it would be nice to see more teams added in future releases. The sounds/commentary are okay overall, would be nice to see some more variations in the future.
Some of the noticeable issues I ran into with the game primarily came up with the no huddle offense. During times when running this offense there will be a delay at times in the play choices, especially when playing defense against it. If you don’t react quick enough, it will leave you feeling like you barely have any time to call a defense. Granted the no huddle offense is supposed to make it tough on defenses, because of its uptempo speed that makes it harder to get plays/substitutions, but this was almost ridiculous at times. Also as mentioned earlier, there were the occasional glitches with the Infinity Engine 2 that came up during games.
Overall, NCAA Football 14 delivers in pretty much every way imaginable, with a few issues that arise from the Infinity Engine 2 and some issues with the no huddle offense. The improvements that it brings with this year’s installment are what fans have been asking for. In fact, it is the best football title to date to be released on this generation of consoles. EA Sports definitely changed things up this year by including awesome features like the new physics, coaches XP in Dynasty mode, as well as the Ultimate Team mode. If you are a fan of the series the game is well worthy of picking up.