NCAA Football 14 Review

EA's Football leadoff hitter, NCAA 14 was released with some new excitement and features but an old marketing push. Does the stale "Play the way your favorite team plays" mantra hold up the best and only college football game around? Lets see.

For those without a lot of time to read all of this, short answer is no. The NCAA franchise may get the features of last years Madden, in this case the Infinity Engine, but with another year to prefect it, NCAA boasts a finer tuned engine experience than Madden 13

The traditional game modes are back. Dynasty, Road To Glory, where you take a created player from high school into the Heisman running and your normal season mode. Dynasty has been blessed with a few improvements. '14 has gotten rid of calling and pitching recruits on your school and rather you are given points that you are supposed to assign and adjust as you go. All of your moves as a coach earns XP, which you use you better certain parts of your game. This is part of the EA focus with sports games that is more of a RPG feel but isn't overbearing and cumbersome.

The biggest add in the modes department is the highly-addictive Ultimate Team, which makes its debut for NCAA Football. My FAVORITE mode from Madden, NHL and FIFA is finally in the college ranks and my love of college athletics and interest in "where did he play college ball" makes this version even more life siphoning. Its a card based almost fantasy football like game where you collect players, stadiums, jerseys, etc.. to build your, well, Ultimate Team.

Inking deals with former athletes to add them, as professionals, really gives the game some credibility. Seeing those former college players back in their alum mater's colors is really cool and makes the game a sort of history lesson for NFL fans.

One issue I have noticed on UT is when you are bidding on players. Say you have 1000 coins, bid 800 on a player, when you are outbid the game doesn't give you your 800 back fast enough to get back into the bidding. Rather it tells you that the 200 coins you have left aren't enough, when in fact you should have all 1000 back. Quite frustrating.

The biggest gameplay addition is the Infinity Engine, which feels amazing now that EA has had another year to play with it after the launch of Madden 13. It is the reason you will play many game. Everything feels new and different. Each scenario and play has many variables involved, speed, size and strength. Each hit is different, each catch too. But not every interaction is perfect. Sometimes the forgetable AI put our defenders my defenders way out of position on big plays. With all of that, EA is smart to put Madden out a few weeks later, this game shows its flaws quickly.

Another gameplay addition, or rather focus is that of improvements to the read and option part of play calling and execution. This time around there a tag placed on the defensive player that you will react against and read to run the play correctly, just being a real QB.

Presentation wise, they added a up-tempo player intro, thats all. The broadcast is still blah, stadium noise is still toned down. The pageantry of the college game is muffled. That is really all that this game has to set it apart from Madden, the colors, chants, passion for your team, its all still really missing from the presentation. I know its difficult to do with unlicensed athletes and "QB #7" but mention stand outs more in the play by play, don't have players disappear from the sidelines. More emotion from the sidelines would be great too.

Its still a strong game but will never pass the hype of Madden. Maybe it is never meant to, maybe its a weaker appetizer that keeps your interest long enough and then disappoints you enough to make you drop another $60 on Madden a few weeks later. Amateur athletes may make the game harder to market. With all of the hub-bub about CLC and the NCAA name being used or not used in future NCAA games, we are concerned to see how that plays out but there was no effect on this release. Maybe this is the last of NCAA Football from EA. Maybe thats ok too. Oh and maybe add some FCS teams... that might help, right?

+ Ultimate Team has arrived
+ Options are fun to run now, not scary as hell
+ Infinity Engine is nice

- Presentation is blah