The lights are on
Hey there folks. I'm chiming in with my due dose of opinion, and just want to give you the biggest and best bang for your buck as always. If my reviews help you in any way to make a decision on whether or not to purchase a game, or if they at least amuse or otherwise entertain you- then I've accomplished my set job parameters. I've decided to pull out NCAA 14 for today's review, and actually recall that I also reviewed last year's NCAA 13- if you're interested in comparing the two. I'll talk a little about the previous year's title as well as I go through the ins and outs of this ones', mainly to show you how it has taken a step down this year. As is common with the EA Sports titles, some years are better than others and the formula changes too frequently to pin any one feature down and realize that "this is it, this is what makes the games awesome!" As with many of the other hit or miss franchise titles under EA's belt, NCAA 14 is one of those so-called "off" years- shaping up worse in some ways than NCAA 13, and improving in a few others, slowly but surely. NCAA 13 wasn't even as well created as 11 or 12, which have undoubtedly been the better titles of the previous several years, but 14 is definitely a remarkable step down for the time being.
If NCAA 14 had decided to become NCAA Manager 14, or the parallel of the Madden NFL Manager games, then I wouldn't have been as displeased with it- mainly because it comes packaged with a better recruiting sim than football one. Many of the off-field gameplay options provide a more thrilling, strategic, and indulging experience than the actual gameday gameplay does, and that is kind of disheartening to know. This particular game utilizes the same engine as Madden NFL 13, as well as the previous NCAA title, and for that reason, hasn't been upgraded at all visibly in the graphics department of things. There are still some minor pitfalls and inconsistencies here and there, but of course, there always has been and most likely always will be. Some of the plays that involve your other linemen and your running backs or wide outs are well coordinated and thought out, whereas others don't work so well and ultimately you collide with your own men more often than not- resulting in buggy looks and impossible to avoid fumbles both technically and literally.
Whereas NCAA 13 took a step in a few right directions by fixing certain bugs and inconsistencies from the previous title and titles, NCAA 14 adds more problems than it solves- including poorly thought out AI and indecisive playmakers. It's good that some things have been rendered less harmful or even harmless instead of becoming more detrimental, but when you fail to realize that new concepts could and should have been added as well, then it is still chocked up as a loss on the season's schedule. Run and passblocking assignments are now handled smoother and more consistently and realistically, which is great news- when the AI can carry out their orders accordingly that is. For every step or two forwards however, NCAA 14 always seems to take one or two back- leveling things off, usually back where you started. As has always been a huge technical issue in the past, blockers and defenders often do not showcase accurate or acute awareness of balls coming towards them or inbound opposition. This leads to much more frustration and corny jokes than is probably healthy or worthwhile.
The gameplay itself is still in need of some major finetuning, and quite rough around the edges. However, that is not to say it isn't still a working, functioning piece of machinery than can be fun at the same time, even if it is mostly a one trick pony performing the same tricks as last year. The option plays work as well or better as they have in the past, which is a welcome advance, and the newer addition of "combos" is an interesting and satisfying gimmick to indulge in once and awhile as well. Nothing game changing, but all things considered- quite interesting to tinker with. NCAA 14 isn't a failure by any means, and it finds it hard to truly gain ground, but it doesn't settle too far into mediocrity without putting up a good fight and offering some new advancements to the stalwart formula. It's good to see anxiously awaited modes such as Ultimate Team and other dynastic and recruitment modes return or appear for the first time, and some changes in their formulas are welcomed as well- however, its almost a last hurrah and a farewell to this console generation than a valid and verified attempt at advancing the series in any way.
As previously mentioned, the newly anointed recruiting mode is a welcome addition, and is truly the only mode that can save this title from otherwise slipping completely into mediocrity. The strategic process of carefully recruiting and grooming potential candidates for collegiate and athletic stardom has been streamlined in many more ways than one, but it still rings truer than ever and remains an entertaining and fulfilling experience. Having several points systems in place seems like a fine way to balance coaching, teammates and camaraderie, skillsets, offseason workouts, and much more. It's closely related to Madden's superstar mode in more ways than one, but also maintains its own originality and sidesteps some of the pitfalls that its brother series has run into in the past. As a coach, you can choose a multitude of things to focus your views on- recruits and the recruiting process, on-field dynamics, and more. This makes it a process that feels more alive than before, and also more energetic than ever instead of simply being a boring old agenda. It's interesting to see how certain choices affect how potential recruiting prospects view your school, and how badly they would like to go to it- such as their campus visits, your skill as a team, and the contracted dynamics as well. It really livens up what would otherwise be the same dead experience as other years'.
For the parting remarks and notes, you can take just about any offline mode's recruitment process or dynasty online, and even vice versa to some extent. You can also create online dynasties only playable with yourself and limited to those others you would allow in to compete with your teams. However, there are several nuances with online dynasties, especially where advancement is concerned- so purchase a season ticket if you actually are serious about getting anything done. Just as a word of advice. Ultimately, NCAA 14 falls shy of the mark set by its predecessor, NCAA 13, but it is still a solid game, however flawed it may be.
Concept: Try to advance the series even more and regress instead of claiming progression and gains.
Graphics: The graphics look the exact same as NCAA 13's which isn't a bad thing by any means, but also isn't an upgrade.
Sound: The soundtrack is varied enough as ever and meets with no problems, however, the commentary, which has always been very hit or miss, is quite frequently focused on random aspects of gameplay instead of what would be considered important normally.
Playability: The controls work fine, but there are occasional inconsistencies and mixups here and there, as has become expected and the norm for the series.
Entertainment: It's still fun to plan out your dynasty or play it out on the field, despite the overbearing problems apparent at times.
Replay Value: Moderately High
Overall Score: 7.25
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