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NCAA Football 14 Review (X360)

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NCAA Football 14 Review (X360)
EA Sports
EA's NCAA Football franchise has made steady improvements the last few years and all of that effort really comes through here as NCAA Football 14 is unquestionably the best playing and most realistic college football game yet. The passing system and greatly improved defensive A.I. from the past couple of years are now paired with the fantastic physics introduced in Madden 13, and the results are the best on-field action the series has seen yet. The features and modes haven't seen as much improvement, but I'm going to take a stand here and say that isn't that important. The important thing here is that the on-field gameplay is awesome, which makes NCAA Football 14 worth a look for any sports fan.
Game Details

  • Kinect Sensor Optional
  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Tiburon
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Football
  • Pros: Play on the field is better than ever; running the option is awesome; new physics system is great; customization options; effective training mode
  • Cons: Ultimate Team is the only major new mode addition; commentary still bland; recruiting still boring

Features-wise, NCAA Football 14 is much like last year's entry. Dynasty, a season mode, Road to Glory, and the Heisman Challenge mode are all present and accounted for, but there are some quirks. The Heisman Challenge features the same players as last year, which is sort of odd and disappointing, but you can get more with DLC. Also, recruiting in Dynasty Mode consists of a simple pool of points that you spend on things to attract players, which is about as dry and boring as you can get. I've never really found recruiting all that interesting in the past, but this year it is just lame.

There is also a couple of new things like a training mode that teaches you how to play the game, which is actually surprisingly good and you'll definitely need it if you haven't played a football game in a couple of years. The Ultimate Team collectible card game also appears in NCAA 14 for the first time, where you collect cards of previous star college players and build a team.

The game also features a nice suite of customization options so you can set everything up just the way you want. You can create custom teams and players, adjust depth charts, and more. You can also realign conferences any way you want, change bowl affiliations (including the BCS), and mold the college football landscape however you like. I also really like the wealth of difficulty sliders and gameplay options that let you tweak the A.I. or set up "house rules" on how often (or if) penalties are called. You can make NCAA Football 14 as realistic or as fantastical as you like. The game gives you tools to have fun with and then gets out of the way, which is something I'm a huge fan of.

Gameplay

EA Sports
The gameplay out on the field is where NCAA Football 14 really shines, which is the most important part. The passing system from last year, where multi-step drops or pump fakes are baked into the plays, pass trajectories play a huge role, and you have to rely on receiver route running and awareness, is back with some tweaks and is even better. Likewise, the vastly improved defensive A.I. is even better and you really have to play smart and actually follow plays as they are drawn up to be successful. An improved version of the physics introduced in Madden 13 has been applied to NCAA Football 14 (which means your players don't trip over each other nearly as much as they did in Madden), and the result is that the blocking and line play is more realistic and interesting to watch than ever before because everything is based on physics instead of animations. This year's version of the Infinity physics engine also takes into account mass, speed, and momentum into tackles as well as stiff arms from ball carriers. Where your stiff arm lands on a tackler, their mass, your speed, the angle of everything, etc. all have an impact on the result of the play. That is awesome.

Another nice gameplay addition is that the option offense has been fully implemented and is remarkably fun to use. Running the option in past games, for me at least, was always too risky because it was usually just a "run this play to fumble"-type play. In NCAA 14 you can pitch and shovel pass and do all sorts of last-second shenanigans with a defender breathing down your neck without too much worry. Things just work. And boy is it fun when you run it well.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is also quite nice overall in NCAA Football 14. The menus use nice big "Metro"-style blocks and are very easy to use. The on-field action looks great with nice animation, great looking grass, and nicely detailed stadiums. Not every stadium is fully updated to how they currently are, however, and not every team has all of their new uniforms, but for the most part the little details like this are spot on. Also, I'm not sure if it is a new feature, but I particularly liked how crappy games with no-name teams usually play to mostly empty stadiums, which is a lot more realistic than the sellout crowds that typically appear in every other sports game.

The sound is mostly solid. The on-field sound effects are well done, and the school fight songs are mostly present and accounted for. The commentary is still pretty bland and lifeless, but we've come to expect that at this point.

I didn't have any big performance hitches this year like slowdown, glacially slow menus, or audio glitches like I have had in years past. I also didn't experience too many penalties, or too many fumbles, or too many dropped passes or the other janky things that have plagued EA's football titles off and on over the years. This is probably the smoothest NCAA game in quite a while.

Bottom Line

EA Sports
In the end, NCAA Football 14 is a great playing game that no sports fan should pass up. It plays fantastically well, packs tons of features, and has nice presentation all around. Is it dramatically different from last year? As far as modes go, no, not really. But it plays better. If you want the best playing college football game yet, NCAA Football 14 is the one to buy.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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