Fall is here. It means many things to many people, but to me, it really only means three things. School starts again, the blockbuster video games are just around the corner, and football. AMERICAN football. Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, but that’s what it is, soccer. With the return of football comes the newest iteration, and at least for the time being the LAST iteration (but more on that later), of NCAA Football 2014.
Let me start by saying I absolutely LOVE the addition of the Infinity Physics engine to NCAA Football. It adds a degree of realism to the running game that was severely lacking in previous years. Joining the new physics is the Ultimate Team mode and a revamped scouting system. These two don’t make nearly as big of a splash, and are certainly not without major flaws.
Scouting in NCAA Football 2014 is entirely new from the previous installment. Out are the call option and sway interest conversations, and in is a pool system, where you allot each prospect on your board points, from zero (0) to five hundred (500). This streamlines the scouting system and gets you back to the action quicker, which is exactly what EA was trying to do. It grants a wider perspective of the recruiting system, one that represents the current college recruiting atmosphere well. Unfortunately, this wider view also takes away from the intimacy and individuality of the recruiting process. In 2013, you knew each of your targeted prospect’s likes and dislikes, and you could attempt to persuade individual recruits to look more favorably at your school. This created a sense of familiarity with the recruits, and a sense of accomplishment when you finally landed the recruit you worked so long and hard to get. It’s not impossible to feel connected to your recruits in 2014, but its all up to you, and the game mechanics will not do you any favors. All things considered, it’s a lateral shift in the recruiting system from last year to this year.
Ultimate Team mode in NCAA Football is a great idea, and a long time coming. Since current college players likenesses’ can’t be used, the team at EA decided to use former college players, including different years of past greats. But what fun is assembling a team of college greats if you can’t show them off? Not much fun I tell you, so in addition to playing against the CPU, you can play games against other Ultimate teams online, and the more you win, the more coins you earn, which allow you to get better players. One issue in that respect is the lack of game modes that you can play, which is compounded by the high overall rankings of the majority of CPU teams available to compete against. I confess that I haven’t played many games against other human players, but I’m finding it hard to earn coins by playing against just the cpu. This would be an easy fix for 2015, but therein lies another issue.
The Death of NCAA Football
The NCAA and EA are both currently involved in lawsuits by former college athletes who feel their likenesses were used without their permission. These players feel that the money both the NCAA and EA have made while exploiting their marketability whilst simultaneously conspiring to pay these athlete nothing is criminal. These lawsuits are more aimed at the NCAA, but EA is by no means free from guilt here. When the deal between EA and the NCAA expired this June, the NCAA decided smartly, but it’s not like they had any other choice, to not renew their partnership with EA in creating college sports games. Before you worry too much, EA has said they will still be making a college football game for 2014-2015, albiet without the NCAA, meaning it will be lacking the trademarks of the colleges represented by the NCAA (i.e. is all of them). This will be a new era in college sports video games, one I am not eager to see.
Back in the present, NCAA Football 2014 is a great game, with sound and fluid mechanics, and enough bells and whistles to shake a stick at. If this is the last NCAA sports game for a while, or ever, it certainly made a statement.
+ Smart, Dynamic running, with realistic momentum-based physics
+ Addition of Ultimate Team are very welcome
Real World Grade
+ A strong last stand by the NCAA Football series
– Ultimate Team is more flash than substance
= Dynasty mode is changed, but not improved