The NCAA Football franchise has experienced some growing pains on current-gen systems. There was a growing frustration from fans of the series that the game had gone stale and that there was no reason for them to purchase the game on a yearly basis.
EA Sports put a lot of work into NCAA Football 14 to make the game a better product and to change opinions of longtime fans who yearned for the days of NCAA Football 2005.
In my opinion ... EA Sports may have made the best NCAA Football game in history.
As soon as you turn the game on, you see a redesigned menu screen which is a major improvement over the seemingly crowded and hard to navigate old menu screen. Everything is right on the screen without having to move all around for other boxes and game modes. This was a very good move from EA.
Even before the actual game started, a noticeable change I noticed are the intros to the games itself. While many were excited for the inclusion of authentic college introductions (i.e. the Boomer Sooner drum or the rubbing of Howard's Rock at Clemson), the cut scenes were extremely long and tiresome, not to mention they took forever to load. This year, they condensed it into a brief, ESPN-style intro making your game feel like a major event and made it feel as if you were watching an actual ESPN television broadcast.
Once you get into gameplay, the first thing you notice is that the game plays a lot smoother. The players move with total fluidity and the action is more realistic as opposed to other years.
The Infinity Engine 2.0 was a major selling point to consumers for NCAA Football and you definitely see how that changes the gameplay in the demo. It's almost like a completely new game you're playing as opposed to last year's edition. From running backs who make amazing hard cuts in the open field to improved and amazing tackling animations, the game's engine definitely helped the game become a better game over the last few outings from NCAA Football.
The first team I selected when I began playing the game was the Oregon Ducks in order to try out the new option system. It was by far the smoothest the option game had ever gone for me. I think the read option plays were the most improved by far in the game. Those plays had a tendency to get stuffed in the backfield if your quarterback held on to the ball but this year, it seems that EA put a lot of work into making the option a bigger part of the game. The outcome is more options plays are more life-like and can go either way, total success or failure.
In way of game modes, the one I wanted to play in the full game was the Nike Skills Trainer mode. I played a few minutes of it during the demo but I really delved into this mode with the full game. Whether they're new to the series or a long time veteran, it helps players learn the new wrinkles EA Sports installed in NCAA Football 14. It is especially useful to learn the option techniques for those of us who have had trouble running the option for years. The mode is also an easy way to get players for your Ultimate Team ...
Which is also a great addition to the game. We have it in Madden and FIFA so why not have it in NCAA Football 14. In Ultimate Team mode, you can earn packs of cards and construct the ultimate fantasy team of NFL pros but NFL pros from their college undergrad days. Usually in modes such as this, the game starts you with some pretty terrible players but in the first pack I opened, the first player I received was Chris Johnson from his college days at East Carolina so I knew it was a good pack. Throw in Colin Kapernick inside that pack and I have my deadly duo on offense early on. This will be by far the most fun game mode you will delve into besides your dynasty.
Dynasty seems as if it stayed the same on the surface but EA fixed the recruiting aspect of dynasty. No longer will you have to sit and go through the tedious recruiting that was in NCAA Football games of the past. This year, recruiting is a lot more dynamic as players change their minds or, worse, cut you off as you try and get them to commit to your school. You still have points to use on certain recruits, but this year, you must be very picky as to who you will use your points on.
You are also able to achieve certain benchmarks with your coach during your dynasty that will help him achieve benchmarks and unlock certain attributes. This is especially useful if you start at the bottom of the coaching ladder and you want to build him up to the level of a Nick Saban or Les Miles. I mean, what fun is it to coach with an experienced coach when you could build your own legacy.
Road to Glory is basically the same mode with no changes. The developers admitted that the mode was pretty much untouched. Besides new stadiums and new menus, the mode is still OK but needs to be revamped next year.
The only major thing that needs to be changed is the audio within the game. The team of Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit is old and stale. A lot of the things said by both men are repeated from the last two years of games. I actually found myself wanting Lee Corso back in the game at times. In addition to commentary, crowd noise can be great and at other times, it is terrible. There's needs to be consistency for the crowd. Bad enough the crowd itself still does not look great, but it at least get the audio up to par.
NCAA Football 14 is a must buy game. The fact of the matter is EA Sports figured out how to make a superior game and this is that game. It's a completely different game and it feels as if this is galaxies beyond the last three editions of this game. This is a great way to end the game's run on the current-gen systems and should make everyone look forward to how they will build on the game with the next-gen systems coming soon.
Madden 25, you're on deck.