For many college football fans, EA Sports’ NCAA Football title has come to represent something of a disunion when it comes to gaming. The lone college football franchise grew stagnant with last year’s release, which offered little in the way of updated gameplay and design. The same old running and blocking problems plagued NCAA Football 13, and the continuing disarray on the defensive side of the ball was enough to push a lot of devoted gamers to the brink of breakup with the title.
EA Sports would have to deliver something new with NCAA Football 14 in order to retain its audience, and if the game’s demo is any indication, then it appears as though college football fans may finally receive the game they have desired for so long.
The demo, which was made available in the United States on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 last week, gave gamers their first look at new gameplay features and improvements. The first thing those familiar with the series will notice is the new Infinity Engine 2.0. It’s ostensibly the same physics engine that was introduced into the Madden series a year ago. Individual player movement and impacts now bear a more lifelike feel, essentially ushering the franchise into the real-time physics era.
This year’s instalment also includes the new Force Impact System, which aims to overhaul the running game. Weight and speed will now be accounted for when players attempt to make sudden movements, juke, and change direction. The ball carrier will have to lay off the gas pedal to make sharp directional shifts on the field, which is compensated for with the reintroduction of a manual speed burst option. Blocking AI has been completely overhauled as well. The result offers prospective gamers the ability to mimic the high octane spread offense of schools like Oregon with an effectiveness that has previously escaped the franchise.
On top of the plethora of tweaks and updates to actual gameplay, NCAA Football 14 also boasts some changes to in-game and menu design. Menu screens have taken a page from the book of Madden as well, moving to the mosaic style seen in Madden 13. Player models and field graphics recieved a much needed color boost, too. A brighter gameplay color palette is on display in the demo version, although stadium designs, and more specifically crowds, appear to have taken a step back. Sidelines, unfortunately, still appear to masquerade crashtest dummies as football players observing the action.
Save for the new physics engine, perhaps the most welcomed addition to the title is the long overdue inclusion of multiple camera angles. Past incarnations of the game only allowed gamers the ability to pullback and view their entire team during pre-snap. New coordinator, zoomed, and wide angles open up the play and offer a little more assistance in reading opposing defenses and offenses.
Aside from what hands-on experience with the demo version tells us, a host of new features designed to improve the game’s dynasty mode aim to streamline recruiting and player development activities. Power Recruiting eliminates the phone call portion of the pursuit by substituting it with a points allocation system. Coach Skills offer the ability to build your team any way you see fit, allowing the head coach to upgrade deficient areas or remain focused on existing strengths.
Other new features for the NCAA Football franchise include Ultimate Team, A single season mode, and a skills trainer mode.
Add it all up and it appears as though NCAA Football 14 is set to be anointed the franchise’s crowning achievement. It comes just in time to bid farewell to the current generation of consoles, which is far too late, but bodes well for the future. With a year of battle testing the Infinity Engine and camera angles in the Madden series, combined with an extensive overhaul to menus and presentation, EA Sports should finally deliver the college football product to help fans fill the void between Saturdays.
NCAA Football 14 hits shelves on July 9