Simplicity. It is the best word to describe NCAA Football 14. Everything from the user interface to the game’s featured mode is meant for focus to be on actually playing the football game. NCAA Football 14, from a technical perspective, is the best version of this generation. With the inclusion of the Infinity Engine 2.0, the game feels heavier as players have weight and momentum. Even with this, the game does have issues that have arisen, but plenty of aspects that have not worked in the past will work this time around.
With the Infinity Engine 2.0, the player physics are greatly improved. There is less clipping, and things such as tackles and blocking look and work better. Tackles are determined by the new Force Impact System, which takes speed, momentum, and mass into equation. No longer is the hit stick required, but it allows for bone jarring hits. It is nice to actually wrap up a ball carrier and bring them down. However, there are some issues with the new engine. Players will strangely bounce off at times, and it doesn't look well. Also, after a reception or a toss, the player will sometimes go in the wrong direction, or there is a stutter before running.
While the improvements help add a complete package to this generation’s college football title, some of the same old issues occur. Even though the blocking is improved, defenders will still magically come off blocks to make a tackle. Also, there is a new stumbling animation involved, but can never seem to recover the player. Combos can be used with the right stick to help avoid tackles, but most of the time the A.I. will make a stop. But even with all this, it is nice to run screen plays, play actions, and option plays without knowing that they will be stopped all the time.
NCAA Football 14 has added a tutorial mode called Nike Skill Trainer. The mode features challenges that can unlock cards for the Ultimate Team mode. The most important aspect to this is understanding the read-option system. Another cool part of this is the Oklahoma drills. Not since the 16-bit days have players been able to play an important part of football practices. The Nike Skill Trainer is a nice addition for new players and veterans for a better understanding of how the game is played.
To go along with the gameplay, the presentation has seen an upgrade. For a more simple and streamlined entrance to your game, there are montages that look like they are pulled straight from an ESPN broadcast. The stat overlays in the game are a bit more diversed, but bugs exist with some of these stats. A new halftime show has been added that features David Pollock and is a nice touch. If you are lucky enough to own an Xbox 360 Arcade system, you will not get to see the halftime or post game show. Even the loading screen shows off some stats that give you a better idea of your opponent. Lastly, the Studio Updates have been toned down, but Rece Davis sounds more natural. Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit return as the commentators, and while I feel they are still the right fit, the dialogue is still stale.
To continue with the simplicity aspect, the menu music has been reduced to two songs. There’s been excellent and diverse menu music the past few years, but it’s a shame to see this happen. The two songs you hear at every stadium has been added to help add to the modern stadium atmosphere. “Seven Nation Army” and the “Kernkraft 400” chants are played during your games. In addition, new player dialogue and even grunts help add to the enhanced atmosphere. You can also overhear PA announcers at times, which is a nice touch.
Graphically, the game remains roughly unchanged. Colors are improved and pop out more vibrantly. The game still runs smooth and some replays are gorgeous. The Infinity Engine helps with the lessened clipping. There is also a stamina meter under the player icons in the game. Overall, the game still looks really well as NCAA Football 14 has reached the peak of this generation. The menu resembles Windows 8, and is much quicker while navigating.
The same game modes exist in NCAA Football 14. Road to Glory returns, but is exactly the same as it has been in the previous years. The new Coordinator Cam adds a new look to use, but this mode needs an overhaul. Ultimate Team allows for online play and features offline challenges. The cards are former college players with some legends involved, including Bo Jackson. It can be a nice change of pace if you’re looking for a break from your Dynasty.
The big overhaul has been implemented in Dynasty. Following the road of Madden to a degree, an RPG aspect has been added. Earning XP allows upgrades for your coach and coordinators. Rather it be recruiting, player enhancements, or gameplay assistance, it can help your team reach the top. Recruiting has been simplified with a points allocation system. Navigating through recruiting menus can take some time to adjust to, but ultimately ends up a nice touch. While the phone calls and personal aspect of recruiting are gone, things such as player preferences, visits, and scouting are still in the game to help along the way. The balancing act of points allocation can become addictive throughout the season, but ultimately lacks the immersion and depth of previous years.
Online Dynasty returns if you are fortunate enough to have a big group of serious friends to do this with. The experience online remains the same as it has from day one. There is a delay in the gameplay online, and this can be a bit more annoying with the momentum involved with the engine. The game will bog down at times depending on the connection. It’s hard to believe that the delay remains an issue to this day, and will hopefully be addressed with the next generation.
While NCAA 14 might be the best addition of this generation, it feels a bit too late. The Infinity Engine as only incorporated last year in Madden, but it is disappointing that took so long. Everything has come together with the gameplay, but some of the same issues that have plagued the series still occur. Fans of the series will appreciate the changes, but outsiders will see this as another yearly sports game. At the same time, the simplification of recruiting relieves the immersion that was enjoyed in previous versions.
+ Infinity Engine allows for the best gameplay the series has seen.
+ Coach Skills Tree adds an RPG element to Dynasty.
+ Nike Skill Trainer is a fun tutorial mode that newbies and veterans can enjoy.
- Simplification of recruiting removes the personal aspect and immersion of Dynasty.
- Road to Glory is untouched.
- Online gameplay is a dated experience.