Level Up! NCAA 14 Review (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Thursday, August 08, 2013
Source: Mania.com

NCAA 14 will be the final installment of the long-running college football series…at least as we know it.  As of 2013 the NCAA has ended its agreement with EA Sports to license the NCAA name and logo.  Now this doesn’t mean an end to EA producing college football games, it just means they can’t call in “NCAA”. Individual schools license their own names and logos, but there’s no doubt that this could have some serious implications for EA Sports so we better enjoy this last game while we can.  The game features Michigan QB/RB Denard Robinson on the cover, and while a lot of Alabama and Texas A&M fans complained that Robinson wasn’t the best player, Robinson won the fan vote…proving Michigan fans are the GREATEST fans in the world…so there!
My complaint about yearly sports games has always been that they are TOTALLY unnecessary.  It would be quite simple for EA to produce a new Roster disc release instead of an entirely new game, especially when, as in the case of NCAA 14, there are no significant changes to gameplay or graphics.  This doesn’t make it a bad game, far from it.  But it does make it sort of a been there, done that experience. 
Now that’s not to say the game doesn’t come with some new features as it does.  First let’s talk about the off field changes.  The old recruiting system has been overhauled.  Instead of calling players and offering various incentives and assigning coaches to visit potential recruits, the game now gives you points to assign to each targeted player.  The more points you assign the better chance you have of gaining that player’s interest in your program.  It’s a streamlined process but at the same time it takes away the personal feel to the recruiting.  The recruiting process was always one of my favorite elements to the game and now it feels almost sterile or at least plain.
NCAA 14 takes a cue from many action games by adding RPG elements.  As you win games and meet goals your head coach and Defensive/offensive coordinators earn experience points.  These points can earn you various upgrades for your team in a skill tree such as making your QB perform better on the road, improving the accuracy of your kicker, and improving the tackling ability of your team, etc…I have mixed feelings about this new XP system.  On one hand you can look at this as a successful coach having a positive overall impact on his team.  But at the same time can a coach really make your kicker that much better?  For a game that aims for realism do upgrades fit?  And what if you happen to be coaching one of the NCAA’s bottom feeder teams, isn’t earning a batch full of upgrades completely unrealistic?  At any rate, the Nike Skills system adds a nice way to practice various drills to improve your game from a control point of view, and that is a nice inclusion.
Visuals?  Not much has changed.  The game still looks good but hasn’t changed drastically over the past few years outside of some new physics and animations. The base game still looks the same.  I would have loved to seen EA try to do more to capture the flavor of being at a big-time college football game.  The crowd animations are flat and uninspired.  As I took the field playing as Michigan for the first time, the announcers talked about the great tradition of Michigan players coming out of the tunnel and jumping up to touch the Michigan banner as the band plays “Hail to the Victors”…only instead of Michigan’s famous fight song the players came out to some modern country rock song.  What the Hell??
Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit return as your announcers and it might be time for a new team.  More than ever their canned commentary sounds tired and there is numerous times where their tones and inflections just do not accurately reflect the action on the field.  I do still love the opening music though and it immediately whisks me off to a Saturday afternoon in the Fall, sitting on my recliner with a sandwich, ready to watch my team play.
Don’t get me wrong…NCAA 14 is still one of the best sports game around but I think it might be time for a full make-over as opposed to a yearly refresh.

Mania Grade: B-
Publisher: EA Sports
Rating: E (Everyone)
Platform: PlayStation 3