Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NCAA Football 14 Preview

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

Every year hardcore sports gamers are faced with a monstrous dilemma: Do I buy the new Madden or the new NCAA Football?

I usually rotate on and off, and seeing as I just bought NCAA last season, it would make sense for me to buy Madden this year. But, I've cheated and gone two years in a row for a particular game before, so I spent a little time researching the new NCAA 14 video game (Coming out July 9th) to see if it had enough new features to make it worth buying.

Here is a quick preview.

Team Rankings

One of the most exciting things about NCAA Football is simply seeing where your alma mater ranks in the games "team ratings." So, for those that are curious, here are your top-5 (top-7 actually) college football teams according to the NCAA 14 video game ratings:

1. Alabama (99)
2. Ohio State (95)
t-3. Clemson (93)
t-3. LSU (93)
t-3.  Notre Dame (93)
t-3. Texas (93)
t-3. Virginia Tech (93)

For the sake of being complete, here are all the teams that Earned an "A' Grade.

Alabama: 99
Clemson: 93
Florida: 90
FSU: 91
Georgia: 91
LSU: 93
Louisville: 90
Miami: 90
Michigan: 91
MSU: 91
North Carolina: 91
Notre Dame: 93
Ohio State: 95
Oklahoma: 91
Oklahoma State: 91
Oregon: 95
South Carolina: 90
Stanford: 91
Texas: 93
Texas A&M: 91
USC: 91
Virginia Tech: 93
Washington: 91

And how about a few superlatives. Note that Alabama is 99 across the board.

Top offense (Other than Alabama): Oregon (Also a 99)
Top Defense (Other than Alabama): Virginia Tech (95)

Overrated teams: USC (91), Miami (90), Auburn (88), Iowa (88), Purdue (84)

The game is supposed to have new "coach skill" ratings, so how the hell can a team coached by Lane Kiffin get an A? The Hurricanes seem to always be rated highly in these games, but the results haven't been there on the field the past few years. Auburn was atrocious last season, and Iowa was even worse. Finally, my alma mater checks in with a respectable 84, though I have no idea why.

Underrated teams: Boise State (86), Kansas State (86), West Virginia (84), TCU (84), Pitt (77)

I would take Boise, K-State, West Virginia and TCU over any of the teams ranked above. I know they all lost key players, but dang. As for Pitt, I just can't believe they're ranked that low. I mean, they can't be THAT bad, can they?

Worst Team: UMass (61)

Well, they did just join the FBS last season, so cut the Minutemen some slack.

New Features

The Ultimate Team: This feature will allow players to use over 1,400 former college football players (They just began pulling Aaron Hernandez out last week) in building their "ultimate team." It looks like you will have to buy "packs" of players (That resemble trading cards) in order to put your team together. You can then take this team and play against the CPU in solo challenges, or online in Head-to-Head season modes.

It looks like you will have to play online a ton to win enough "coins" to unlock the best players, but I'll be curious to see exactly how this is implemented.

Coach Skills: As I said earlier, the game is adding the ability to "level up" your coach, but it looks like this only applies to dynasty mode. This comes off as EA adding something just for the sake of adding something, because they've been pretty vague about what the new "skills" will be, other than the equivalent of brownie points in the the game's recruiting section.

Revamped Recruiting: Speaking of the recruiting section, this year's game will be totally different in that regard. Instead of having to call each individual recruit and find out which recruiting pitches are important to them, you will now simply allocate a certain number of "points" toward each recruit.

I have mixed feelings about this since, while the old recruiting system was time consuming, it did involve a good amount of strategy, and added the "college coach" feel of the game. It would have been nice if they would've left the old system in place and made this an option, but what can ya do.

Neutral Site Games: The game always allowed you to pick bowl games in exhibition mode, but now regular season neutral site games like the Cowboys Kickoff Classic in Dallas and Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta are available. Those are fine and dandy, but I would love to see the ability to play lesser known neutral site games, like when Northwestern plays at Wrigley Field.

New Broadcast Elements: The game will now feature of halftime show with Rece Davis and David Pollack (ugh), and a "live clock" that will display relevant stats as the game unfolds. Call me crazy, but didn't the game already have that?

New Gameplay Features: NCAA 14 will feature the so-called "real physics" of the Infinity Engine 2. These "real physics" debuted in last year's Madden and did add a level of realism, but they weren't the game changer many thought they would be. Still, the engine does force virtual players to (mostly) adhere to the laws of physics, and it's nice that the game play has caught up to Madden.

They have also added little things like a new array of juke moves and the ability to accelerate through a running lane. Again, call me crazy, but I thought you could already do that…

New Music and Crowd Chants:
Dear God, it's bad enough I have to hear everybody at real games humming along to "Seven Nation Army" and that Zombie Nation song, but now I have to hear it in my video games? Well, as tired as those chants are, it will make the game more authentic.

Playoffs? Don't Talk About Playoffs!

The one MAJOR downside to this game is that there will be no playoff for the national championship in dynasty mode. EA announced that, since they still didn't have all the details on how the college football playoff will be implemented, they had no choice but to make you play in the BCS National Championship game, even if you coach multiple years in dynasty mode.

This is a major bummer, as it would have been a really cool feature to play the first year for the BCS title, then have dynasty mode switch gears to a national playoff in your second season. This really makes me want to wait until next year to buy another one of these games.


Most of these improvements (New juke moves, coach ratings, shorter recruiting, Madden physics) seem like throw aways or things that should have already been in the game, and they almost make you wonder if EA really put much creative effort into changing it. Still, the NCAA Football games are awesome, and if you don't have one from last year, this certainly wouldn't be a bad buy.

For myself, I'll wait and see what's up with Madden before I make any decisions.

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