NCAA Football 14 is back on the PlayStation 3 and this year the game is totally revamped with new graphics, new physics, improved gameplay modes and many other new features that has college sports fans excited for this year’s release. NCAA Football 14 is the first in this series to boast the Infinity Engine 2, which allows players to experience a realistic cutting-edge physics engine. There’s also a new Coach Skills tree to improve your team and a robust ‘power recruiting’ feature for an engrossing college football experience within the Dynasty mode. Between all of the new features and a very enjoyable on-field gameplay experience, NCAA Football 14 is the best title the series has ever had to offer.
By integrating the brand new Infinity Engine 2, NCAA Football 14 brings a new layer of realism for both physics and artificial intelligence. With new real-time physics the game plays a world apart from last year’s edition. Gamers will really see the force impact system at work on each play. Elements such as truck moves, stiff-arms, big hits and various jukes will play with more realism than seen in the past. This is especially prevalent in the running game, as the new physics drastically alter how running backs move and operate in the field of play with the ball in their hands. There’s also a brand new blocking intelligence in the game to adapt to for players, making the running game a completely different (better) experience.
Another major revamp is for the Option Offense, which now boasts over 30 new option types, including the newly popularized Read Option plays that are all the rage in both the NCAA and NFL ranks. The new Spread Option, Zone Read and other Option Offense plays really bring a new level of authenticity to the on-field experience within NCAA Football 14.
The game also features a new presentation layer that is seen both on and off the field of play. There are new camera angles for replays, some of which have a ‘handheld’ style to them. EA Sports has also fully partnered with the folks at ESPN, bringing in Kirk Herbstreit (once more) as color commentator to Brad Nessler for the play-by-play. In addition, the pre-game preview is done by Rece Davis, who also appears (off camera) to bring updates from around the nation on other important games. An impressive group of pre-game vignettes, traditions, text wipes and music to kick off the game also shine in NCAA. The menu system is also redesigned, fortunately for the better, to make diving into game modes or hopping around the many tasks in Destiny mode a treat.
The number of game modes and their ridiculous depth really make NCAA Football 14 shine. For players that want to familiarize themselves with college football, there are a ton of mini-games that highlight many of the features unique to NCAA. The two main game modes most players will visit are the Dynasty mode and the Ultimate Team mode.
In Dynasty mode, gamers will create a coach and take over a college football program. Using the new ‘Coach Skills’ players will shape their program by adding points into skill trees for the head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. These skills aren’t necessarily seen on the field, as there are many options to improve recruiting efforts that really make a difference in long-term dynasty games. There’s also a brand new Power Recruiting system that has made this part of NCAA Football a much more enjoyable experience. With streamlined menus, easier navigation and less hassle, the recruiting process week-to-week is fun instead of tedious. A great feature that isn’t necessarily new with NCAA is that Dynasty mode can be enjoyed both offline or online with friends.
Ultimate Team mode allows players to build a great team from a collection of over 2,500 former NCAA athletes. Players can grab new items from both the Shop and Auction House to pick up packs to add to their teams. This mode plays like a trading card game that can unlock goodies enjoyed elsewhere in the game. There are both solo challenges and head-to-head seasons available.
With the integration of the Infinity Engine 2 system, the graphics are dramatically improved. Gamers won’t really notice better player models, or even better stadiums and stadium elements. Where the Infinity Engine 2 will really shine is in player movement and collision. During the course of playing a few games, it’s hard to find two tackles that were identical. The game, more than anything, feels a hell of a lot more fluid with player movement and how they collide. Perhaps the greatest improvement with the graphics that Infinity Engine 2 brings is in the running game. Blockers feel part of a cohesive unit, but operate individually as they independently will adapt for blitz packages. Running backs will have to adapt to all of this, but the change is all for the better. On the field, there aren’t any radical changes with the modeling that will make anyone jump out of their seats. This graphics update is for true players of the game who will notice that the on-field performance and fluidity of the physics makes the game feel more realistic than ever. One negative of the on-field graphics is a “pausing” as a play ends. Once a player makes a catch and gets tackled, there seems to be a one second hiccup that feels like a limitation of the hardware manifesting itself.
The presentation layer is also another new element to the NCAA series. In years past, the game typically revamps the menu system and other elements every year or two. This year’s edition features a great user interface in the menu system, so getting around from mode to mode, or to elements within some of the bigger game modes is extremely easy and pleasing.
NCAA Football 14 has some ups and downs when it comes to sound. The positives include the soundtrack and in-game stadium crowd noise. This series typically has some of the best soundtracks out of all the sports titles that EA Produces and NCAA Football 14 is no different. In addition, the in-game stadium sound is absolutely fantastic. Using a 5.1 stereo surround sound system will be a revelation as gamers will be treated so some killer sound effects from the crowd and even the PA announcer.
Where NCAA Football 14 fails is with the play-by-play. Brad Nessler sounds more like a speak-n-spell than he does an actual announcer. While Herbstreit occasionally pops in with some generic color commentary that usually makes sense, the presentation with the play-by-play is pretty brutal. For some reason that has been the norm in EA Sports football games, while others like FIFA and NHL tend to shine. After a few games, players will most likely just turn the play-by-play off.
By adding in a ton of Option Offense elements, NCAA Football 14 feels like the most authentic college football game ever made. In the past players would almost run their offense identical to a pro style offense (which is what some colleges do) nearly most of the time. This year, there are a ton of option plays with the on-field translation adapted perfectly. There’s an authentic feel to the play players move, react and perform at the college level in the game. The on-field gameplay experience in NCAA Football 14 is the truest ever created to date and college football fans won’t be able to get enough of the action. If there’s one negative, having to press the R3 button to run an audible or create a hot route is not something that’s easily adapted to and is still something that our review team is fumbling with to master.
The various game modes are robust, highlighted by the Dynasty mode and the Ultimate Team mode. In Dynasty, players will create a coach and then completely take over a college football program. Every element of the team, from the players, assistant coaches and recruiting will be under your jurisdiction. The recruiting element in this year’s game is completely revamped and takes it from tedious chore in previous years to something that players might actually want to dive into regularly. Ultimate Team is a great way for players to get into the nostalgia of college football and enjoy players from the past, including Heisman Winners like Bo Jackson.
NCAA Football 14 is the greatest college football game ever produced, period. The new Infinity Engine 2 was sorely needed and has re-ignited the series completely with new physics elements that redefine the on-field experience. The updated Dynasty and Ultimate Team modes, along with some of the other modes of play, bring layers of depth to the game that are rarely seen, even for a sports title. The good news for college football fans is that NCAA Football is finally back with a genuinely awesome title that they’ll enjoy.