By: Mike Valenti
As I opened my review copy of NCAA 14 I wondered just what to expect. I wasn’t sure what exactly this title would be. There wasn’t much in the way of information, videos, as the hype machine took the year off. In my mind that meant this thing was going to go one of two ways.
- This game is going to be fantastic and EA is quietly confident in their work this cycle.
- They mailed it in and are already in next gen mode for NCAA 15
Folks, I’m beyond shocked and pleased to tell you…it’s A. Without a doubt this game is a tremendous upgrade from last season and in my mind might be the definitive football title of this console generation.
NCAA 14 has been amped up this season. From player models to color display everything has been tightened up. Cynics will say it’s not “that” different” from last season…go ahead and test it guys. This game pops. The work was put in to make this the maximum output for a football title on current gen. It’s vibrant and at times stunning. Oh and did I mention player models…player models…player models. Something so simple that so many times this series botched ended up delivering in a big way and it shows. It looks the part.
Dozens of small touches add up to one big improvement. From improved on field chatter to mid cut scene effects being added NCAA 14 furthered itself nicely. On field action has never sounded better nor has the crowds. Is it perfect? No. We’ll always want more. But it’s better than it’s ever been. Do yourself a favor and go into volume control and turn crowd all the way to 100. It won’t take the place of being at a big night game live but it does a damn fine job turning your man cave into a vibrating bass rattling mess. Studio updates have been smoothed out as well as a nice halftime show featuring Reece Davis and David Pollack. The one negative and I harp on this every year is the play by play. I love Brad Nessler, I do, but something is missing here. The play to play calls lack the flow and pop you need to give customers in 2013. It’s not awful (see Madden Commentary) but it’s certainly not NBA 2k quality either.
This is where the rubber meets the road and NCAA 14 delivers in a big way. No one thing is going to jump out at you in bright lights and make you love it. Instead its dozens of little things that you’ve wanted/complained about for years that this game has finally (better late than never) delivered on. Players have weight and momentum, jukes that work, actual yards after catch (where 9 guys don’t chase you down in .0003 seconds), animations triggered properly and beautifully. I could go on for several pages but why bother? Nobody actually reads in 2013 and you get my point. It’s fantastic. One specific thing I want to point out is how intelligently the CPU plays compared to years past. Not only doing the right things at the right times but using the right people. Players play like their ratings suggests and are now put in positions to succeed. QB’s actually tuck and run instead of playing the role of John Navarre. Again, is it perfect? No. Newsflash, it’s a video game. It will never be perfect. But with NCAA 14 we’re 90% of the way there. The game forces you to think, to maneuver, to play to strengths and hide weaknesses. It’s an incredible upgrade from an AI standpoint and it transforms this title into something pretty special for the college football fan.
The one negative? Despite Infinity Engine 2.0 and some excellent physics being added we still are waiting for OL/DL interactions to be mastered. Is it a limitation of console? Probably. Is it frustrating as all hell? Absolutely. It’s better this year for sure but its tough to see real physics executed very well everywhere except in the trenches.
If you’re like me and my friends this is where it is at. Nothing better than connecting with college buddies or guys with three kids who you don’t see anymore to battle it out (and say some unholy things to each other) in online dynasty. NCAA 14 has transformed some of the most painful aspects of this mode (recruiting phone calls) and streamlined it for us busy folks. The new points systems allows for a quick, effective and…gasp…enjoyable recruitment of future digital studs for us folks with a life. New coaching skills add another layer to the already addictive mode allowing you to mold what you want your coach to be and what he actually brings to the table. A headset skill will be added in DLC for Michigan fans to take Hoke to next level. Dan Roushar “blind dart” play call skill will also be available on download in August. In all seriousness, this mode is where it’s at. Everything from menus to actually actions has been streamlined, tightened and damn near perfected.
I give this title my highest recommendation. In many ways this represents a massive I.O.U. from the NCAA team to the fans for several years of buggy, lazy and reprehensible letdowns. There clearly was a ton of work put into this year and it pays of in a title that as I said above, has a shot to be the definitive football game of this gen. You will log a ton of hours with this one. Deep, immersive and yes kids…fun. While Madden may get more of the press it’s going to be hard pressed to beat what NCAA 14 is bringing to the table.
9.5 out of 10