NCAA Football 14 Initial Impressions

by
Posted July 8th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

ncaa14oreusc

Coming off two very weak efforts EA Sports needed to reestablish the NCAA Football franchise as something other than an also-ran to Madden. What used to be an innovative series has been anything but in recent years – and when trying for new features they’ve failed miserably with the implementation and their assessment of what consumers truly desired out of the product.

While NCAA Football 14 doesn’t break any new ground actual effort is immediately recognized in areas that have desperately needed it. The challenge from the CPU – which can now execute all manner of plays – along with the physics engine and incredibly responsive player control makes the game fun again.

Debuting in NCAA this year is the “Infinity” engine physics that were first found in Madden NFL 13. The physics have been refined limiting the number of goofy looking pileups and players tripping over one another. There is still some of that but they’re more easily overlooked. The benefit to gameplay though far outweighs those occasional oddities. Each play feels much more dynamic and the outcomes appear far more realistic.

The CPU AI is one of the biggest advancements made with NCAA Football 14. The CPU runs a wide variety of plays well – ones that it had always failed at in the past – and operates more true to the styles of each individual school. I’ve been absolutely gashed on the ground by an up-tempo pro style running team and had trouble stopping a team that primarily ran the triple option. The CPU QB just makes much better decisions. Users are also able to utilize a number of plays that had never worked in the past and that really opens things up to more creativity and variety.

Blocking improvements drive the success seen in the running game. Though there are instances where a blocker will break off prematurely to go after someone on the next level those haven’t been too frequent. Whether at the line of scrimmage or downfield the blockers can be trusted much more. That, along with the exceptional player control, makes running the ball immensely enjoyable. Controlling the ball-carrier with the left stick is really all one needs to cut or make guys miss – but the right stick also offers up a number of combo moves.

A few other gameplay related notes: running the read-option is an absolute blast, there has been encouraging push by defensive tackles to create interior pressure, the presence of an actual pocket for the QB is great to see, and the new Coordinator camera angle is a nice option to have – I just can’t commit to it since it isn’t in Madden. My main takeaway gameplay wise is that I’m able to play the game the way I have always wanted to, go heavy in the run game and utilize movement in the passing game, and the competent CPU presents a unique challenge in every game.

While gameplay has seen dramatic advancement one area that notably lags behind is the presentation and atmosphere. This has been a weakness of the series that has yet to near an acceptable level. Commentary is more stale than ever, post-play scenes are better but still don’t completely mesh with the idea of TV presentation, and the atmosphere just doesn’t live up to what is expected from game day. It doesn’t even come across as well as it can on TV let alone for those who experience it in person.

ncaa14utsaf

As far as Dynasty mode goes I’m not deep enough in to analyze the effects of the changes but so far like the simplified process in recruiting. Getting rid of what some will still feel was depth – truly it was artificial depth that made things tedious and few fully understood – was a good move. The skill trees for coaches is intriguing (tying in goals and point accumulation) as are the scouting effects and planning of campus visits while custom playbooks being brought in was a crucial move. The in-game Dynasty related presentation such as the new halftime show to go with the studio updates and bottom line ticker all add to the feel that the games are important and part of a bigger world.

The streamlined menu navigation and quicker loading times may be overlooked by some but it is a vast improvement over what has been arguably the most sluggish sports game this generation in those areas. No longer am I dreading firing up the game and moving through the menus.

Another valuable addition worth mentioning is the Nike Skills Trainer. EA has managed to create a tutorial that not only teaches well but is challenging to complete and has some rewards at the end in the form of Ultimate Team cards. I managed to get a feel for things like the Triple and Shovel Options that I never bothered to try and figure out in the past and now may choose to integrate in my gameplans and custom playbook.

Authenticity remains a problem with NCAA Football 14. It’s astonishing how many uniforms are missing and stadium renovations not reflected. The new Husky Stadium isn’t even in the game which makes playing as Washington far less appealing for me. I’ve actually hunted for different teams to use solely because of that and it’s a bummer. For the most part only fans of the teams are likely to notice such specific omissions but there are a hell of a lot of fans of teams who are missing something. These are not things that sprung up as last second surprises but rather have been ignored, dismissed, or overlooked. EA will have difficulty hooking consumers for the long term when they fail to pay the proper attention to the specifics of each program.

Some issues spotted in early play include safeties stopping their drop back and coming forward when they shouldn’t – allowing for deep routes to be wide open. This seems to occur primarily when multiple receivers are going deep (hail mary and four verticals as examples). There are some reports of turnovers in the end zone resulting in a touchdown or ball placement on the wrong 20. The CPU almost never (I’ve yet to see it happen with 40+ games started) chooses to receive when they win the coin toss. Also somehow it’s 2013 and there still are no surprise onside kicks despite that being a legitimate strategy coaches have at their disposal and attempt from time to time.

Despite the deficiencies the bottom line is that the fun factor is back with NCAA Football 14 thanks to the gameplay enhancements and changes in Dynasty. Two troubled iterations are now in the rear view mirror and this one has at least stepped back into adequate territory and may resonate far better than that with many. Look for the full Hits and Misses review late this week or early next after additional time is spent Dynasty, online play, and the new Ultimate Team mode.

  • Brinden McGowan

    the read option is a little OP.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      There’s been games where I had a lot of success with it and others where I haven’t. Depends on how the opposition is attacking the run. Fatigue also seems to become a factor later in games. I have to see how things go online though.

    • bigturboweenie

      U obviously didn’t watch much college football last year. Offenses were overpowered period, including read option. Baylor, oregon, w. Virginia, Oklahoma and Oklahoma st were pulling amazing offensive stats. Just look up the scores and stats.

    • Jeremy J.

      I feel that may be the case, overall. But I’m gonna tinker with the sliders a bit and see if I can get it to be a bit more balanced.

    • SMH

      Anybody else struggling with passing to the sidelines on streaks? I have a guy wide open on the sideline and I try to push the ball out towards the sideline but it hardly moves and I get picked almost every time.. why did they take that pass trajectory away?

  • Jordan Ray

    I completely agree with your comments on the missing details for teams. I know for a fact that the NCAA team came to TCU earlier in the year so it makes it hard to believe that they whiffed on uniform fonts. They also failed to include our traditions of the Frog Horn and “TCU….FROGS!” chant that make gamedays so enjoyable and are extremely hard to miss.

    It may seem like nitpicking for fans of other teams but, when its your team, it just doesn’t feel the same. I’m glad they got the majority of our uniforms this year right and included our new stadium. It’s just a little disconcerting that they actually visited TCU and still managed to omit our few core traditions.

    All in all, really enjoy the gameplay though and am excited for the NCAA Football series to continue to grow and develop.

  • Lucas Murphy

    I know everyone bashes on NCAA 13 but compared to Madden 13 the running and gameplay is much better. Maybe Madden should have skipped the Infinity engine for 13. That being said I have played the demo for 14 and its amazing. They will never get the game 100% perfect because when they do what motivation would you have to buy the new one released the next year. Im excited to see what improvements the next generation will bring. Were far from the days of Madden 04 where you could throw a hail mary touchdown with 4 DBs guarding your WR.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      Madden 25 plays an awful lot like NCAA 14. But yeah it’s a big improvement over what was in 13.

    • Iown You

      Perfection isn’t what we’re asking for though. We’re asking for sim.

      NCAA 14 is the best EA Football game all generation. I don’t think it beats APF 2K8 in the gameplay department because passing rhythm is not as solid, and I still think the rapid tap is the most effective way to simulate running steps and tackle-breaking. But I’d say that if APF is #1 then NCAA 14 is #2. In prior years, I wouldn’t have even put an EA Football game at #10.

  • Jacob Dougherty

    I sometimes come to instances where no matter what I do, zone, man, blitz, you name it, the CPU get downfield passing without a problem. This is good in a way offering challenge and chemistry that’s in real college football, but it’s frustrating when you’re barely on top trying to lock the game late in the fourth.

  • Jacob Dougherty

    Also when can we expect the Real-Name rosters this year?

    • lihety

      never ea dont have the rights

      • Jacob Dougherty

        When is pastapadre doing the real name rosters for us through roster share?

  • Keith.

    Still too early to tell where the overall Metacritic scores are going to fall, but so far, it looks like it’s heading for mediocre territory or below:

    Game Informer: 78
    Official XBox Magazine: 75
    IGN: 74
    EGM: 65
    Destructoid: 65
    Gamespot: 60

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-3/ncaa-football-14/critic-reviews

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/ncaa-football-14/critic-reviews

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      The last two years of NCAA should have been lower no doubt about that. This year probably should be higher. Doesn’t surprise me that the more mainstream sites, which don’t actively cover sports games, basically review it the same every year.

      • Keith.

        And it won’t surprise me to see the highest scores come from the websites with the coziest relationships to Tiburon, like they do every year. In the end, they’ll probably balance each other out and land in the 7.0-7.5 range, while sales take another dip.

    • Roy Baker

      Reminds me of how those SAME folks used to do the PS2/Xbox Maddens and NCAAs right before 360/PS3 came out. Just call it “the same” and be done with it.

      Fact: the major game outlets like IGN, GI and ESPECIALLY Gamespot could give a damn about a sports game.

      • Keith.

        So it’s a fact because you say so?

        Let’s review the tape:

        NBA2k13:

        IGN: 91
        Gamespot: 90
        GI: 88

        http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/nba-2k13/critic-reviews

        The Show 13:

        IGN: 88
        GI: 88
        Gamespot: 85

        http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-3/mlb-13-the-show/critic-reviews

        Looks to me like all of those websites know how to give a good review to a sports game that deserves one.

        • Jesus

          yeah but Keith remember those are the same people who have been giving madden great ratings the past 8 years.like ign last year giving Madden 13 a 9, when we all know it didn’t deserve it.

        • Skihawks

          Only one review matters: Mine. The game is fun again. Most reviews I read are bitching about stuff that has nothing to do with gameplay. Sidelines? Really?

          From the sites where consumer feedback is posted I have seen very few negative comments

          I know your gut burns to want EA to fail. Play it and post your opinion, not someone else’s.

          • Keith.

            I’m glad you’re enjoying the game, and am not going to try and take that away from you.

            I played the demo and watched Pasta’s videos of the retail copy. If I’m complaining because I still miss having such things as in-game saves, realistic penalties and ball physics, a playable broadcast TV camera (if not a custom camera), a chain gang on the sidelines, etc., why would you want to take that from me? In past years, I’ve been pretty vocal with my complaints regarding the piss-poor OL/DL interaction, and at least this year they worked on that some (which benefits you).

            As for OS, we must be reading different threads. I’ve read plenty of posts from guys who are passing after having spent time with the season ticket. The common refrain there seems to be, “it’s better than last year, but still not worth anything close to $60.”

            As for my opinion, Tiburon doesn’t need any more attaboys, they’ve got enough Game Changers (over 50 at last count) for that. The last 9 years have shown what they need is a good kick in the ass.

          • Sam

            We like to take that from you because you’re annoying.

      • alex

        The reviewer on IGN, Greg Miller, actually does play NCAA and Madden a lot and knows the differences of the games year to year. I’ve seen other sites not understand that certain features which they say are new to the game have been in it for 5 years and such, but IGN tends to get these things right. GI and Gamespot are two of those that have people who don’t play these games consistently, review them.

        • Jay

          Miller is a self professed cheesier. He reminds us each year how he misses the fact that he can’t drop back 30 yards and throw his passes with pinpoint accuracy. He doesn’t want a sim football game. He wants to drink with his buddies and play with his Mizzou Tigers ,NFL Blitz style. He should NEVER be allowed to review sim football games again.

          • alex

            I was merely saying that he at least plays the games every year and knows the differences between the yearly iterations.

        • Skihawks

          So that makes him an expert? Just about every person that visits sports gaming sites has played Madden and NCAA over multiple years.

          The only issue I have with reviews is they are typically based on expectations, especially annually released titles. If the reviewer expects huge graphical upgrades and a huge facelift in presentation, they will be disappointed in NCAA. However, you take away the minimal advances in presentation (although some are a nice addition) the gameplay is where it’s at. Finally, a game where getting beat feels good. A game where I have not yet felt cheated.

          I am not going to question reviewers integrity because I feel they are being true to their opinion. The question is what is their opinion based on? Is it based on sitting down with an open mind or is it playing the game with certain expectations that may differ from what some readers expectations are?

          Personally, I feel the game is much better than the reviews it has received as I also feel the game was overrated in reviews the past two years.

    • Tazdevil20

      I will say that the gameplay is MUCH improved and the game is fun to play again. The blocking, running game and line play are a lot better. That being said, it’s 2013 and APF still crushes this game when it comes to authenticity on the field. They are still missing the penalties, the player movement is still a bit twitchy at times (although MUCH better than past EA football games) and there is still very little defense. Outside of the gameplay, it’s LIGHT YEARS behind football from the original xbox. The presentation does nothing to immerse you. You can immediately tell that you are playing a video game and not part of an actual ESPN broadcast. They have been touting new audio technology for 2+ years now and I have yet to see it show up in an EA football game. It’s embarrassing. While this team is making an effort and I can appreciate that, I really believe that the actual programmers who work on Tiburon football are just not very good. They struggle with things that should be stupid simple and have been part of sports games for the better part of a decade now. IT’s sad that we had to wait this long to be able to throw over defenders, have a legitimate pocket form and be able to have realistic blocking logic. Better late than never. I wouldn’t spend 65.00 on this game, but for 30 bucks I’d certainly play it. I hope that going into next gen this team can really wow me. Going this long without a quality football title has been beyond depressing. In any event, I don’t agree with giving this game a 6.0. There have been far worse versions that got 8’s and 9’s. I do agree with Keith that in the past, these review sites kissed EA’s ass and gave Madden and NCAA inflated ratings which were laughable. If you go from playing NBA 2k or The Show to playing Tiburon football it’s like hooking up your NES and playing 10 yard fight. It’s a HUGE disparity in quality. They have a long way to go, but it is definitely much improved and the gameplay has gotten much better.

      • dhall

        What?! “You can immediately tell that you are playing a video game and not part of an actual ESPN Broadcast.” Umm, isn’t that the fucking point? If I want to play a video game, it should LOOK like a video game, if I want to watch ESPN, it should LOOK like ESPN. So, if I pop in NCAA Football 14 I should expect ESPN?! What? Are you a fucking moron? You want it so bad to look life-like and have a heavy resemblence…WATCH FUCKING ESPN! Jesus…

        • Jesus

          You’re an idiot. they have the ESPN rights for a reason, to use them.

        • Jesus

          You want to see the ESPN package done right? Play NFL or NBA 2k5.

        • Tazdevil20

          Had I believed that you had even a shred of the intellectual capacity required to understand anything I would write to you, I would engage in a discussion here. However, you are too far below the threshold for that to be remotely possible. Good day.

        • lindro88

          Why get so angry about someone’s opinion of a video game? Get a grip dhall…

    • Jeremy J.

      Operation Sports and PastaPadre’s reviews are the only ones that’ll matter. OS gave it an 8 (I believe) which is pretty solid for a series that has had a rough generation. The verdict from Pasta is yet to be determined.

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    Only cause it’s not something I personally noted – but yeah that would fall in the authenticity department.

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    Especially when they’ve specifically talked about being in attendance at some of the games with the hottest atmosphere in college football. They either don’t want to, or just can’t find a way to, translate that to the video game experience.

    • a5ehren

      I think the current hardware just can’t do it. If you look at the next-gen promos for FIFA 14, you see a dramatic improvement in crowd quality. I’d wager NCAA 16 (because it takes awhile for this stuff to filter down) for PS4 will be pretty good in that department.

  • bigturboweenie

    I have to agree with pasta on the presentation aspect. Outdated unis and stadiums, no new equipment, grey facemasks, and the only sounds that made me smile were the white stripe and kernkraft sounds. It’s like these guys don’t have enough staff members. If someone works specifically in the art department, why was it that nothing was upgraded (oh wow so they heightened the colors), so for nine months, as gameplay guys focused on these great features, why did the art dept sit around and twiddle their thumbs. Last year two years, it felt like the opposite. 2012 was a huge focus on graphics, but gameplay dept. sat around and did nothing. CAN WE GET A COMPLETE GAME PLEASE?

  • Pleb1ram

    Are the controls customizable at all? For me, the hit stick is a real bummer. I fell in love with hit stick for Madden and it is a reflex reaction for me to flick “UP” on my right stick. But for some reason the NCAA demo has the hit stick as a “DOWN” motion on the right stick. So is this something I can change in the full version? Or am I gonna have to train my brain to deal with a completely backwards hit stick motion?

    • Kevin Gesterling

      There is a one button option, but I didn’t see any way to customize it. I had a review copy and it’s the exact same as what you got. I don’t remember if there was more than one setting, I never looked.

  • Greg

    How can they not get the College atmosphere right? Seems like that would be an easy fix. Just amp the crowd up more.

  • Joey Sauce

    Great article Pasta; Operation Sports needs to start taking a page out of your book as far as reviews go. There are ways to constructively criticize a game without completely discouraging people from buying it with unnecessary negativity.

    • Keith.

      “Unnecessary negativity from OS?” Wow — never saw anyone say that before. OS is the place where mods are so friendly with Tiburon that they go on to land gigs on the Tiburon development staff. Have you seen any of the complaints regarding NCAA’s audio the last 2 years? Did you know a former OS mod was hired to work on NCAA’s audio 2 years or so ago. Under the circumstances, I’d argue OS needs more negativity towards Tiburon’s football games, not less. Ever since Ian and his buddies started the Tiburon-OS connection a few years ago, that’s been a big part of the problem as far as I’m concerned.

      • Nerdsmasher69

        Like most people, Joey is reacting from reading just a tiny percentage of opinions.

        BTW NCAA 14 is very good imo. I agree with Pasta’s review. It’s very accurate.

    • Iown You

      I never understood that thinking. If I want to buy something, someone else’s opinion is never going to stop me from doing it.

      • rinodino

        a lot of people are sheep

  • msc123123

    UT might be a little pricey. I’ve been watching videos trying to collect data and it seems like when you win you earn about 1200-1300 coins in a close game. The cheapest pack costs 2500 and it looks like starting contracts are 25 games. That looks like you can probably field a solid roster but to have a great one its going to cost you real money.

  • kdarnell233

    Went to go buy it, my GameStop was closed and Walmart didnt have it. It was 12:30

    • bigturboweenie

      Its not the 10th.

    • a5ehren

      NCAA doesn’t sell enough to warrant a midnight launch.

      • kdarnell233

        I got it at midnight last year and the year before

  • Jumpman45

    I think you have great points. They finally got Florida’s end-zone and stadium text the right color and font, but i want to see the White gator helmet with the blue F, if you have LSU’s jerseys from 6 years ago why not UF. Thanks for your time pasta

  • Wally West

    Still purchasing the game. However, I agree with you that game play improvements have finally been made but things are still lacking. The game lack that wow factor as IGN ( which I usually don’t agree with). The presentation went a step down this year and the new engine improves game play but makes some mistakes here and there. I really hope its not just me but defenders slowing completely down when you switch, dive tackles motion slow down when the defender is well in range, and DB’s not jumping if you press the jump button? Even with all that, I still feel like this is a better game than the last three years worth. I hope EA gets it right with the next gen.

  • jz

    Is Toysrus really giving a $25 gift card. Can anyone confirm this? Since there add says free guide and nothing about the gift card?

    • dinfamous7210

      It’s true; I got mines half an hour ago

      • Mike Davis

        can u use the gift card on ncaa14 or no?

        • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

          No wouldn’t be eligible to put towards the current purchase.

          • Mike Davis

            thanks pasta guess i’ll wait for madden

  • Kyle Mathis

    are u working on ur rosters? and if so when is a good estimated date they will be done pasta?

  • Tyler Celuck

    when do you think rosters will be up for my online dynasty!!

  • MC1

    Pasta, any idea when NC14 will available on the Playstation Store?

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      I don’t think there’s an exact time. Should by by this evening.

  • Justin

    Anybody having the facemask issue where a lot of teams that don’t actually have white facemasks have white facemasks in the game

  • Alex Conrath

    There’s NO defense. Man D is broken and the AI on Zone is clueless. Also, run D should be upped. The AI’s pursuit on run D is pathetic. Overall good game, no D. EA needs to fix this via tune updates! Thanks.

  • kdarnell233

    Defense is so hard in this game….

  • Matt

    Does anyone notice (either on a pitch or option pitch) the running back stopping, then starting to run…. its really annoying

  • Details

    XBOX 360 Rosters
    Gamertag: DawgPoundMBA
    Top 30 schools done. Only names (no rating or equipment changes). More to come soon! Enjoy!

  • kdarnell233

    I’ve been noticing a ton of FCS wins, I’ve seen atleast 1 over a ranked team too. I’m only in week 3

  • Running through mude

    Sometimes there seems to be a glitch like the running back is stuck in mud when you hand the ball off to him. This is really annoying because you can see a hole but you will be stuck until the defense gets to you.

  • DJ Beerthug

    Question…. this is my first year playing NCAA on ps3, as for the past several years I’ve played it on 360. The game seems to be much more “clunky” and slow compared to ’13 on 360….. am I imagining this, or is this just how the ps3 version is?

    Thanks!!

  • bill

    So far the ai for playcalling is dumb as hell too. They NEED to fix that. Basically dont do a cover two when they are throwing a hail mary.

  • Chris

    Why can’t you ever grade Online Dynasty? It’s been awful and full of errors? Why don’t you ever discuss?

  • Jason Lewon

    I love the new blocking scheme, I also noticed the safety issue, the running game is great it feels balanced RTG is still the same which was pointed out on the podcast which i love btw (I was laying the early release)

  • Jeprox

    Can you import RTG to Madden 25 this year?

  • Adam

    Pasta, any idea when we can expect to see the uniform store updated with the new jerseys that are supposed to be included?

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      I’ve asked but gotten no response. Last year it was mid-September but that was because they were adding the actual capability to do it in a patch. I had figured then we’d get them this week but not feeling good about it given they won’t address when to expect it.

  • jastone837

    i downloaded the season pass digital copy and played two games… i didn’t complete a single successful kick… no extra points, field goals, and kickoffs went about 20 yards… kick meter wouldn’t respond going forward, only backward…deleted it and refused to try again.. that makes the game unplayable… and no… my controller wasn’t the problem because i played black ops before and after with no problems at all…. such a shame that a simple thing like kick meter response couldn’t work.. i would have lived with customizing the kicking controls to make it a button press… but nope… didn’t include it… another terrible effort from EA

  • Jeprox

    Is there anyone here know if there is an option to import RTG to Madden 25 this year?

  • Hawks

    With the exception of the occasional “magical drive” where the CPU is destined to score, I didn’t really have any problems with the CPU pulling BS until week 13. My 93 QB threw 5 interceptions in the 1st half, the 67 SS, 76 CB, 78 CB and 73 FS were able to cover A LOT of ground on wide open receivers. Additionally in 14 you can rarely break a long run for a td.

Sponsors
Categories
Featured Video