Geek Citadel Reviews: NCAA Football 14

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NCAA Football has always been seen as the back up dancer that doesn’t quite stand out. The last three installments of NCAA Football have made some people think however and the game has grown in popularity. Last year we didn’t see much improvement in the title, but this year EA has added some new features, a new mode and given it a completely new engine to run on.

One of the first things you will notice when loading the game is the new “sleek” menu screen. It will remind you of the “metro” design that Microsoft is using with Windows 8 and their gaming systems. It’s not a bad looking menu and is actually responsive, but that is not why we are playing the game…to look at menus all day. We play it to talk about all the cool things we can do…like put our face in the game! That leads me to talking about the addition of “Game Face” to the franchise this year. If you have never used or encountered “Game Face”, let me tell you about it. “Game Face” is a feature that was introduced in another EA Sports title named “Tiger Woods PGA Tour”, where you can put your face on your player. This is done by taking a picture of your face and uploading it to their website and choosing the option in-game. The downside to new things like this being introduced is that there are always some type of issue with the initial coding. While I was able to use this feature for my Road To Glory player, it didn’t recognize the right skin tone as it does in Madden, FIFA and other games that use this feature. The other downside is that it’s ONLY available for use in Road To Glory and you can’t use it to create a new coach in Dynasty Mode.

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Speaking of modes, two new modes were added to the game this year, Ultimate Team and Nike Skills Trainer. Ultimate Team is a card based game mode that lets the player collect different current and past college players and build their team to compete against others or do solo challenges. Much like if you played this mode in Madden 13 and before. It’s a fun addition to the game, no matter how weird it is to see Barry Sanders in a Virginia Tech uniform. The Nike Skills Trainer mode is your tutorial mode that teaches you some of the basics of the game, but also shows off some of the new things you can do as well. Good for people who have never touched an NCAA Football Game or haven’t played in quite some time.

Dynasty mode underwent a little change in the form of recruitment. Dynasty mode introduced “Power Recruiting” this year. Meaning you no longer have to spend a lot of time going through different pitches to unlock different responses. That part is already done for you, you now spend points on your recruits and complete in-game goals set by their visit to your campus to bring them in. You only have 6000 points when you start off and can only spend a max of 500 points on a single player. The more points your spend on a player, the better your chances are at recruiting him. Sounds easy doesn’t it, but it’s not that easy. This new way of recruiting will make your think a little more than just spending points. When you schedule visits, it can get a bit more strategic as well. Have a running back or quarterback visit the same week as a linemen to get a boost in recruiting the player. On the other hand, if you schedule two running backs to visit the same week, it could hurt your chances with the player. I like this changes because I absolutely HATED spending so much time trying to unlock pitches that would improve my chances to get a player to commit to my school. This is much simpler and easier to manage while still presenting a challenge to the player.

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The other change to Dynasty mode is the RPG elements added for Coaches. The more goals you complete during a game, the more XP you get to upgrade certain abilities on your coach. For instance, if you are an offensive coordinator. You can upgrade skills that will give boosts to your players on the field. Same with Defensive Coordinator but it really gets good when you are Head Coach. The ability to get commitments faster can be unlocked as a head coach and so many other things. The great thing about this feature in Dynasty Mode is that if you are Head Coach, you can also help out your assistants by upgrading their skills throughout the season as well. You also can choose what level your start out as no matter what coaching position your start out in.

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I know, I’ve spent way too much time talking about Dynasty Mode, so we’ll talk about the new Infinity Engine 2! This is an updated version of the engine used for Madden 13 that makes it appearance in NCAA Football 14! With this engine, cuts and trucks and jukes and all of those things that make football…football are suppose to look and play a lot better than in previous games. It does a great job of improving the game play from past games where you see the difference between the cuts that are made by Running Backs, Quarter Backs and Wideouts. While we saw a little of this in the last game, defenders react to the play like they are suppose to. No more “psychic” DBs that know what route the wideout is running and jumps it before you throw the ball that direction. Also blocking has been improved a lot since last game as well and the blocking A.I. has been upgraded to play smarter than just stick to their assignments. You will see them help out on a double team to suppress a threat, or simply block and open new holes for you to run through. These are little things that you can’t help but notice while playing. While I do feel they improved blocking and some of the passing and receiving mechanics, there are moments when it seems like the A.I. lapses or a simple button press doesn’t register.

I have to also give props to EA on the presentation for NCAA Football 14. It’s one of the best and they capture the feel of watching these games on ESPN like no other. Brad and Kirk are still there calling the action, but they give a little more insight as to what is going on during the game. There is also Reese Davis who give you an update during the game on whats happening around the league. These things along with the many different chants, player chatter and different atmospheres really bring you into the game and makes you feel apart of the action. The downside to it is that audio at times will mess up. This could be an issue only on the PS3 version or both. The audio issues I experienced happened after importing my game face in road to glory and the only way to get sound back to normal was to restart the game. Again, this might be a PlayStation 3 issue and may not show up on the Xbox 360, if it does I would say to inform EA about it and also inform me about it.

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NCAA Football 14 is actually a big improvement from the past games, the gameplay is still as fun and fast paced but it brings in more realism to your cuts and power moves. I love the improvements made to dynasty mode and the addition of Game Face to the Franchise. However, the game can still improve itself graphically and fix some of the small bugs that are in this game when it comes to sound and controls. They could also bring the Game Face feature to Dynasty Mode through an update or by waiting till NCAA Football 15. This game brings a lot and if you are a college football fan or a fan of the franchise period, you should definitely pick up this game. I think you should pick up this game, even if you aren’t a fan of the series!

*This review is based on a copy of the game provided by EA Sports