Tuesday, EA Sports released the demo for NCAA Football 14. I look forward to this every year because it signals that it is almost time for college football to start back up (a little over two months from now). I reviewed Madden NFL 12 and Madden NFL 13 (twice, PS3 and Wii U), but here’s the thing… I’m not an NFL fan. I enjoy Madden, obviously from the score I give it, but when it comes to watching football I just don’t care for professional ball. I enjoy college football much more; the atmosphere is better, the players show more heart and passion, and it’s generally just a lot more exciting to me. It doesn’t hurt that I’m from, and still live in, Alabama. To that end, as much as I enjoy Madden, I do enjoy NCAA Football a lot more because it has the teams I care about and is the version of the sport I like most.
NCAA Football ’14 incorporates the Infinity Engine that debuted in Madden NFL ’13. If you’ve read my review of that game, you’ll know that I am a fan of the physics based engine. It certainly has its issues, mostly to hilarious results, but it made tackling much more enjoyable than the awkward warping that plagued the games for so long. Naturally, I’m excited to see what they’re calling Infinity Engine 2.0 make its way into NCAA Football ’14. So far, at least from the demo, it has not disappointed.
This demo provides three match-ups featuring six teams:
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, from the Georgia Dome)
Oregon vs. Texas A&M (at Kyle Field)
Ohio State vs. Michigan (at Michigan Stadium)
The games are full games with three minute quarters. That’s long enough to get a feel for the game and the changes made. It’s certainly fine for demo purposes, but I always like to play one dynasty using either five or six minute quarters, and another dynasty that I only play once a week (Saturday morning before any games that I care to watch start) that is the full 15 minutes). In these three minute quarter games, I’ve had some low scoring games and some that were high scoring and took three overtimes to win (I won as Ohio State 48-42 in the third OT).
In addition, they’ve also added a great new feature that is available in the demo called the Nike Skills Trainer. I imagine this will be a big part of the Road to Glory mode, but it is a thorough tutorial. It tells you how to do a lot of important things, and then challenges you to do it successfully enough times to earn medals (bronze, silver, and gold). Here’s the complete list of drills:
Shovel Option (love it)
Total Control Passing
Offensive Hot Routes
Defensive Hot Routes
And yes, I personally found these tutorials and drills to be helpful, namely the Ball Hawk. Thanks to that drill, I can finally take control of a defensive player and intercept a pass. I’ve been able to do this in previous games only with sheer luck. Thanks to the drill, I’ve been able to get several user picks during games. Besides being helpful, these drills add some nice replayability to the demo while we have to wait the next few weeks for the game to be released (and yes, this is a demo that I’ll probably play daily).
The gameplay itself is largely the same; if you’ve played an NCAA game before you’ll be right at home here. I don’t have a problem with that because it’s football, and there’s only so much that can be done with it, and because the game plays well. Where it improves, outside of the physics, is the running game, the passing game, and yes defense too. Running the ball feels better, and hitting the holes and then regaining your footing when you stumble feels good. And the option is really good this year, and I can already tell it’ll be the first year I actually make use of running any. Really loving the shovel pass too.
From what I’ve seen, the defenders aren’t nearly as bad at automatically breaking away from whichever receiver they’re covering to head towards the receiver you’ve thrown to either. It’s still there depending on the play, but I have caught the defense in a position where they had one guy to cover two receivers, and once I was able to read who he was committing to, I was able to throw to the other guy wide open without the defender auto-breaking. This was on a Four Verticals pass, and that pass does seem to be a bit overpowered (kinda like any pass involving a slant route).
As usual, Varisty difficulty is too easy, so most folks should stick to All-American. I’ve tried all of the difficulties, and really I find All-American to be the best all-around in terms of challenge, fair chance, and realism. Heisman, as usual, makes the CPU feel a bit too over-powered. Sure, you can change the sliders and all that, but just stick with All-American and make any changes you need too there. Of course this year they have added the ability to set a difficulty for offense and defense; so you can have All-American offense and Heisman defense.
All in all, NCAA Football 14 seems to be a nice step up from previous versions thanks to all the new plays, animations, features, and of course the inclusion of Infinity Engine 2.0. If you have bought NCAA 11 or 12 and haven’t bought one since, you should definitely pick this year’s version up. With yearly sports games I know a lot of folks don’t find it necessary to upgrade every year for largely the same game. I think if you bought 13 you should probably pick up this year’s version too because the Infinity Engine really does add a new layer to the game with the physics versus the warping of previous versions.
I’ve played dozens and dozens of games since Tuesday here on the demo, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. The demo is barebones; I haven’t seen any replays for example (except for on a call review), and there is no halftime stuff. Commentary is once again the week point of the game… it’s the same bland commentary that the game has every year. Sad thing is, the commentators are good (well Kirk anyway), so there really is no reason for the commentary to be bad in 2013. I’d like to see that improved, along with general presentation, come this new generation.
As always, the score attached to these DEMOED review/impressions don’t mean anything, but this is a demo that gets the full four stars because of how much fun I’ve had with it. Even with three minute quarters, I’ve had some pretty thrilling and epic games that either came down to the wire, overtime, or simply a lucky break (I was beating Oregon by a point in about 50 seconds and they were first and goal on the eight. On third down, they tried running to the middle, and the guy fumbled the ball and I recovered to go on to kneel and win by a point on All-American). If you enjoy football games, you should have already downloaded and played this demo. If not, do so now. Also, share the demo with a friend and unlock a card pack for Ultimate Team Mode in the full game.
Personally, I’m excited for the games release and starting up a dynasty (online and off). NCAA Football 14 releases July 9th, and you can pre-order the game from Amazon now where you’ll get the Ultimate Team PAC 12 conference pack (this is a pack of cards featuring 12 PAC 12 players and a bonus extension).