It can be hard for most gamers to justify getting the yearly release of any sports title. This comes from the feel that new sports titles are simply roster updates with little else to show. This year’s release of NCAA Football 14 is different, but maybe not for the reasons you might think. On one hand, the NCAA Football series does not have player rosters per se, as the names of actual players are not used. On the other, we are on the brink of a new generation of consoles, so this may be the last great lineup of sports titles designed for the current generation of hardware.
Gameplay changes are immediately noticeable from the first time you snap the ball in formation. The new physics engine makes contact with other players on the field that much more life-like. Everything from clipping another player while running, to stumbling from some ground contact shows this title’s simulation qualities. The running game feels much more tight and responsive, and passing couldn’t feel more rewarding once the receiver gains control of the ball. The more you play it, the more in control of the action you’ll feel and the less like a videogame the experience will become.
Football fans will be happy to hear that Ultimate Team mode is no longer exclusive to the Madden NFL series. Thousands of former NCAA greats are available for building the team you wish your favorite school could have. There are both single player challenge and online modes to earn coins and packs to grow your collection. If the packs you earn, or even purchase, just won’t produce that one player you’ve been hoping for, the Auction House makes it easier to buy and sell players within the mode’s community.
If you’re somewhat new to football simulations, NCAA Football 14 now includes a training mode that provides a video and hands-on tutorial of some of the more advanced, but vital, moves and mechanics of the game. You can go through each of the tutorials for a quick refresher as many times as you wish, and even go back to prove your skills. Successfully completing a milestone a set number of times for any particular tutorial will earn you a medal. The real reward is for those who achieve the highest honor of a gold medal, which unlocks an exclusive player card for use in the Ultimate Team mode.
Visually, the game is simply stunning. You can’t help but feel like sports games can’t possibly look any better than this. The next generation of consoles may be able to add a little more polish and shine, but what is happening on the field can be mistaken for an actual college football game by anyone watching you play. The fans in the stands are probably the only thing hindering a true college football viewing experience. They move in such a robotic fashion and pattern that you are better off focusing your attention on the field, like you should be anyways.
The audio can get a little repetitive, with the theme songs and some situational melodies that can get on your nerves. That aside, school specific anthems are a real treat for any fan of a particular program. Player grunts and taunts really create the on-the-field ambiance, which is seamlessly tied together by the colorful commentary that is both dynamic and interesting. Even though, in testing, there were a few remarks that didn’t quite fit the situation, the observations of the announcers were mostly spot on.
On the PS3 version specifically, there are a couple of recurring glitches that do their best to break the experience of what could have been the last great hurrah. Immediately following touchdowns, the scorer will drop the football and the players will clear out. You are left with the football on-screen, but then it starts slowly moving or seemingly floating in a random direction and the camera will follow it. Unfortunately, the play clock for the point after is still running and you might not realize it until you hear the whistle blow and before you know it, you’ve been slapped with a penalty. At other random times, the crowd noise will simply drop out and the stadium will fall eerily silent. The players on field, announcers, and single fans yelling random quips are all that can be heard, making you feel like there are almost no fans in attendance. There are other minor problems, but they don’t really break the immersion and didn’t seem to occur as frequently as the above two, so hopefully a patch is in the works.
Overall, NCAA Football 14 is possibly the best version of the series available. Veterans will feel right at home, and newcomers have the help available to become a viable competitor. Glitches aside, all of the modes available combined with the quality of the experience makes this year’s release the best bang for the college football buck you could want.
NCAA Football 14 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.