EA Sports was nice enough to pass along an early review copy of NCAA Football ’14 for me to review this year and it is a perfect choice for me because I love football, so I am excited to share whatNCAA Football ’14 has to offer this year and what my impressions are of the game.
On the field NCAA Football might be the best on the field football game to date. It plays like a dream in terms of fluidness of how the game plays. You see in Madden ’13 the game felt incomplete and it just seemed like there was something missing with the Infinity Engine the first time around, it just seemed very very sloppy and whenever you got touched it seemed to throw you off a lot sometimes leading to tackles or falling to the ground when maybe you shouldn’t have.
But with Infinity Engine 2 that is solved, in the case of NCAA Football ’14 the game is more fluid than Madden ’13 was with the first Infinity Engine and it really makes for an enjoyable complete experience. To add to the smoothness and overall great feel of NCAA comes a tougher AI, which sucks for me since I have a hard time with the CPU to begin with, but no in all honesty my first game was with Boston College and I played Boise State and it ended up being a great game, I lost the game 21-14 but I had fun playing it. I found that mixing up the plays works a lot better than airing it out like I like to do.
Part of the reason I ran the ball so much is because they worked on the running game and it shows, no longer will you be stuffed at the line of scrimmage like I found to be a problem in last years game, the added work on the O-Line is definitely noticeable as it creates more holes to run through. NCAA rewards you for wanting to play a manage the clock style of game unlike any other game I’ve played, which is fantastic. Let me also mention that not all runs are long runs, in fact more times than not it’s only a few yards say 3-4 if you have a good running back which I did with Boston College.
On defense I struggled, but not because of the game, it was because Boston College isn’t that good on defense to begin with and my coaching ability on defense is not the best, usually when I win it is due to offense and not a stellar defensive effort or game plan.
But overall I felt the game played great on the field, it is leaps better than Madden ’13 with the advancements made to Infinity Engine 2.
Dynasty Mode is tough, because I choose to create a coach and I started my career using the Oregon Ducks which was the #6 ranked team when I started the franchise, but as I write the review I am 4-5 with the Ducks and I was in the middle of the Conference. But I wasn’t sure if the team is faltering because of simulation logic or if I am somehow sabotaging the team with the coaching style I am running. So I started a second one, and I am using the Ducks with their current coach and the results were much better than when I started to as a rookie head coach. This Ducks team went from 4-5 to 9-3 and a Conference title of the UCLA Bruins with a bowl game set up to be played at a later date against Ohio State.
I attribute the success to two things:
1. I had a better idea on how to run the dynasty this time around, so it made things easier. 2. The coaching strategy, the coach that is the default for the Ducks plays a much more aggressive style than I did. Another thing that is part of the success and failure of a coach I think, is the coach skills. New to NCAA Football ’14 is the coach skills tree, and they are broken down into four sections. For head coaches they have categories of game management and recruiting, and they have a section for offensive coordinator and one defensive coordinator.
The best strategy is to add to these trees using the improvements that suits your of game. For example as an offensive coordinator you might work on the passing and receiving slots if you’re a pass happy offensive before you worry about the rushing slots. But as a rookie coach you have to build these from the ground up, but when I used the Ducks coach I had a bit of a head start and built on top of the presets.
Another thing I noticed were phone calls are gone, and that is great, because when you think of it the phone calls were nothing more than a waste of time, and effort that could have gone into simulating or playing games. I’d say the time used for recruiting in this years game is about 1/3 of what they were last year, especially once you set up the recruit board with players you want to recruit. The rest takes care of itself, you still have to scout players week to week and schedule visits but overall it doesn’t take that much time at all unless you lose out on a recruit or you get locked out, then you have to find one or multiple replacements on the prospect board.
Overall I like the changes to the mode and I think the game is better because there is less time devoted to the recruiting process, it helps the seasons go faster if you’re a simulation type like I am.
Road to Glory
Road to Glory mode returns this year, and since I didn’t try last years mode, but this year I did try it for the review. And I must say, the mode is fun. I had fun playing for my home town high school team trying to get recruited to a highly touted school. I started as a left handed quarterback with a scrambling style. When you start the mode you can choose your three top schools, so my original teams were Oregon, Boston College and I think Florida when I had the chance to pick my top schools. I played through an 8 week season and 4 rounds of a playoff with mixed results, some strong games but also some miserable games.
On national signing day I had multiple chooses, but my top options placed me as a second string quarterback, so I ended up signing with the Auburn Tigers over the likes of Oregon, Wisconsin, or Florida even though those would have been much better options in terms of team rating.
I played through a game on the NCAA level, and one thing I noticed and didn’t necessarily care for was not being able to audible or set hot routes for the receiver because NCAA has a coach trust component to it on the NCAA level. And since I like to read defenses and make adjustments, I had a hard time really adjusting. We lost the game, but not because of me, I gave Auburn a chip shot to win the game on a field goal but the kicker missed it which sucked, but I felt good about the game I played, I gave us a good chance to win only to lose because of a botched extra point earlier in the game.
Another thing about the mode that drove me a little crazy is during your high school football career there is no way to check your season stats. I mean this is just a minor complaint since you can in the NCAA.
This year NCAA added Ultimate Team mode, which allows you to build a team the same way you’ve done in Madden or NHL with their Ultimate Team modes so I won’t even bother going into details here. Mostly because I am not much of a fan of the mode to begin with in other games, so I didn’t spend any time with this.
Though on a side note I heard that they took Aaron Hernandez out of this mode for both Madden and NCAA in light of his recent actions off the field.
I would have liked to have tried online but during the week I had no time to sit down during the week and when I tried earlier to get a game in there was no one in the lobbies. So I will post this review without a tested portion for online. If I hear any problems I will do a follow up article on it.
Other Modes of Interest
New to NCAA Football ’14 is a season mode which allows users to play through one season of real life games from the real NCAA schedule without the need to do any recruiting, scouting or upgrading coach levels, season mode is meant for those who just want to play and forget the rest of the stuff that might be to complex or time consuming.
Another mode of interest is the Nike Skills Trainer, which is pretty much a sponsored practice mode, which can be good for beginners of the series, or veterans like myself of the series to fine tune their skills or just go out there and relearn the control scheme.
NCAA Football ’14 is a complete and solid package, whether on the field or off the field you can find ways to enjoy the game.
On the field the game runs like the dream on higher difficulty levels, the physics just seem much more fine tuned on the higher difficulty levels, and the players are much smarter. When you get to lower difficulty levels I have seen some weird things on the physics side of things such as tripping over one another after the play which is one thing that I disliked about years Madden 13 with the original Infinity Engine. Also on the lower difficulty ratings the computer seems way too stupid, they never learn from their mistakes, and since my Road to Glory was on varsity difficulty, I ended up having it be a little to easy with this level.
Dynasty Mode doesn’t disappoint, in fact one of the reasons I did not care for dynasty mode last year was how long it took to recruit, but since the time it takes now is much better, the mode is overall more enjoyable. Plus throw in Coach Skills and you have one heck of a combination of elements to keep track of.
And Road to Glory was untouched so those who are veterans of the mode might not find too much use for the mode, but for new players like myself it is worth trying out because it is a nice experience. However for a real test I recommend All American or Heisman difficulty otherwise you might be tearing up the high school league and NCAA.
Overall NCAA Football is a great game with a nice list of game modes and features, and the Infinity Engine 2 is great and adds great physics to the game while the revamped AI adds more difficulty to the game which is a nice change even to All American difficulty I was using.