EA Sports will release NCAA Football 14 on Tuesday. This year's edition will boast several new features sprinkled through every aspect of the game.
Heading into the next generation of console gaming, it is important to make this version strong. The demo has been released since June 18 and details have been surfacing for even longer. Here's a look at the official release information:
Platform and Version
EA Season Ticket Early Release for Xbox 360 and PS3
Full Retail Release for Xbox 360 and PS3
I had the opportunity to talk to the game's producer, Ben Haumiller. In that interview several details such as roster editing and presentation specifics were discussed. The audio of that conversation can be heard below, while the video is gameplay from the game's demo.
Here's a detailed overview of the game's key enhancements.
Infinity Engine 2
Real-time physics and the Force Impact system make their debut in the NCAA series. It is the single biggest enhancement to the gameplay. The objective was not to emulate the exact impact the engine had in Madden 13. It was instead to capitalize on the realism real-time physics present—but with a college football twist.
The biggest sub-features in this innovation are as followed:
Moving further away from canned animations that take the controller out of the gamer's hands, EA Sports introduces this feature.
Stumble Recovery is exactly what it sounds like. Ball carriers can now attempt save themselves from hitting the ground after contact. By using the right stick, gamers can choose to try to regain their footing or leap for extra yards.
Force Impact Trucking and Hitting
Trucking and flicking the right stick to really lay the lumber is not new to EA Sports' football games. This year even more animations have been added to increase the realism and add eye candy.
The stiff arm also becomes a major tool for players on offense. This is another way to flatten or simply evade would-be tacklers.
The move is designed to take size and strength into consideration. Haumiller told me in our interview that power backs will deliver a real shot, while smaller backs may use it as way to create just a little more space.
Running Game Improvements
Making hard cuts with more realistic acceleration bursts are also part of the plan to enhance gameplay. Upgrading the run game is perhaps the most important aspect of differentiating college from the pro game.
Playbooks and Strategy
Options and the Option
One of the biggest differences between the college and pro game is in the playbooks. Though many NFL teams have begun to incorporate the option into their attack, it is still nothing compared to the way the play is used in college.
That's why EA Sports' attempt to revamp and improve the way gamers use the option in NCAA Football 14 is so important.
There are 30 new option types in the game this year. From the demo it was almost immediately apparent how different this aspect of the game plays. The additions were all good by my eyes and the retail version should only build on that experience.
Eyes and Ears on Presentation
Improving presentation was a major focus in NCAA Football 14. It begins with new streamlined menus that can be seen in the game's demo.
They are designed to make loading screens more interactive and to get gamers into the action quicker than ever before.
Chants, Fight Songs and Chatter
In an effort to better produce an authentic college football atmosphere, EA Sports implemented on-field player chatter, more fight songs and signature chants for raucous college crowds.
Recreating the pageantry of college football is about capturing all the sounds that make the experience unique. These improvements aim to bring these elements to the gaming experience.
New Commentary, Pregame and Halftime Show
I've longed for the NCAA and Madden series to incorporate a real halftime show. This year the NCAA franchise has done that by adding analysis from ESPN's Rece Davis and David Pollack. There's also a short pregame presentation and more unique commentary.
Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit return, but they will now have more game and season-specific information for gamers to add life to the commentary during games.
This is a much-needed improvement and it will be interesting to see what changes have been made.
The mode that blends trading card collecting, fantasy sports and video games has become extremely popular in EA Sports' other franchises, but this will be the first time the mode appears in the NCAA series.
Because collegiate players can't have their likenesses included in a video game, the approach here is a little different.
Instead of choosing from current players, gamers will obtain virtual card packs that include legends like Peyton Manning, Randy Moss and Barry Sanders. Any game that allows you to take control of Bo Jackson starts off winning in my book.
You'll be able to take on other gamers in head-to-head 10-game season modes. Single-game challenges will also be available. In my interview with Haumiller, he mentioned that while EA Sports has plenty of legends already signed, the publisher is still in negotiations to add more stars from the past.
Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier is reportedly "on the list." The possibly expanding list could make this version of Ultimate Team one of the best.
To add an RPG-like element to Dynasty Mode, Coach Skills were added to the mix. Coaches will earn XP through their team's in-game performances, from signing prospects and the other responsibilities under the coaches' umbrella.
There are 18 upgradeable skills with various levels that are spread across several aspects of the coach's influence on his team and program. These skills aren't simply related to the head coach, they also are in place for defensive and offensive coordinators.
This is designed to give your entire staff a unique identity and skill set. Here's an overview of the four skill categories and what aspects of the game they affect. There are three levels to each skill, only the first level is listed here:
(info from EASports.com)
- Antifreeze - Nothing gets to your kickers. Nothing.
Level 1: Ice the Kicker is ineffective 50% of the time.
- Road Warrior- Your quarterbacks shine on the road and don’t get rattled by Home Field Advantage.
Level 1: No controller vibration.
- Matchup- Find the best mismatch and then attack. All matchups are shown from the offensive point of view.
Level 1: Passing Matchups appear in Preplay Coach Cam. (Coach Cam + Right Stick to the right)
- Setup Artist- Successful run plays will set up the play action pass plays faster and vice-versa.
Level 1: Decreases the yardage needed for Setup Plays by 10 percent. Choose plays that are in the same formation type (pass or run).
- Clean Laundry- Play disciplined and avoid costly penalties. Caution: Increasing team aggressiveness will cancel this skill.
Level 1: CPU is 50 percent less likely to cause penalties.
- Light a Fire- Players can get HOT and COLD. Call a timeout to fire up your team when they need it. HOT players get performance bonuses.
Level 1: Call a timeout to get all COLD or lower players back up to NORMAL.
- Big Game- The bigger the game, the HOTTER your team starts. HOT players get performance bonuses.
Level 1: Your team starts off HOT in rivalry games.
- Coachstradamus- Learn which plays and play types your opponent calls so you can be a step ahead.
Level 1: You are shown your opponent's previously-called play. This can be seen in the upper-right of the play select menu.
- Clutch- Your team always seems to get HOT in high-pressure situations and perform better. HOT players get performance bonuses.
Level 1: You start the fourth quarter HOT if the score difference is 14 or less.
- Locksmith - Get back into locked-out recruiting battles. You can unlock up to five prospects in a year, but you must be in the prospect's top 10 and have offered a scholarship.
Level 1: Open one locked recruit per season. You need to be within 2000 points of the last place team to use this skill.
- Scouting- You have a knack for discovering some of the best high school talent in America. You can scout more efficiently and for less.
Level 1: Increased scouting efficiency allows you to uncover around 25% of a prospect’s true skills each week for 50 points.
- Royal Treatment- Your entire staff goes the extra mile to make sure prospects have great visits.
Level 1: you will receive a bonus of +250 points the week a recruit visits your school,
- The Opener- You have an early edge on your competition during recruiting.
Level 1: Increase your recruiting points total by +500 points in weeks 1-7.
- The Closer- You have an edge on your competition late in the season during recruiting.
Level 1: Increase your recruiting points total by +500 points in weeks 8 through 15.
- Letter of Intent- You really know how to close out the deal on signing day.
Level 1: You gain +1500 extra recruiting points for the offseason and a five percent chance you will steal a prospect from their top school.
- Pipelines- You specialize in getting to know high school coaches.
Level 1: You only need five players minimum, from a state, to declare it a Pipeline (six is default).
- Kitchen Sink- Your work ethic is second to none and it pays dividends on the recruiting trail. You can assign even more points to a prospect each week.
Level 1: Each recruit can have +50 extra points assigned to them each week.
- Insta-Commit- You've got the gift. Nobody makes a better first impression or closes a deal faster. You must be that prospect's top school.
Level 1: You gain a 5 percent chance of an instant commitment when you offer a scholarship.
- Up Tempo- Stay healthy, fatigue more slowly and prevent injuries. This skill is perfect for up-tempo teams.
Level 1: Players gain +2 to Injury and 10 percent increase in Stamina for games.
- Ball Security- Stress the importance of protecting the football.
Level 1: Players gain +1 to Carrying for games.
- Cannon- Be ahead in the arms race. Train your players to be better passers.
Level 1: QBs gain +1 to both Throw Power and Throw Accuracy for games.
- Air Traffic Control- Never underestimate the importance of solid receiving mechanics. Get your HB, FB, TE and WRs ready for games.
Level 1: Players gain +1 Catching +2 Spectacular Catch and +2 Catch in Traffic for games.
- Daylight- Everyone has to carry the rock sometime. Condition your players to be able to run with the ball at game time.
Level 1: Players gain +1 Break Tackle, +2 Spin Move and +3 Elusiveness for games.
- Bulldozer- Your O-Line knows how to open up the gaps and control the line of scrimmage. Your run blocking is stellar.
Level 1: Your offensive line gains +2 Impact Blocking for games.
- Great Wall- The best offense is behind a great wall. You develop good pass blocking technique.
Level 1: Your offensive line gains +1 Pass Blocking for games.
- Mathlete- You believe football is a game of brains.
Level 1: Players gain +1 Awareness for games.
- Athlete- Physical conditioning is the core to any star player.
Level 1: Players gain +2 Agility, +1 Strength and +1 Acceleration for games.
- Road Closed- Your players get off their blocks quickly to stop the run.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +1 Block Shedding for games.
- Recharge- Stay healthy, fatigue slower and prevent injuries. Perfect against up-tempo teams.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +2 Injury for games and 10 percent increase to Stamina.
- Charge- Your tenacious pass rush causes fits for the opposition.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +1 Power Moves and +1 Finesse Moves for games.
- No Fly Zone- Your players are very disciplined with their zone coverage assignments.
Level 1: Your OLB, MLB, CB, SS, and FS gain +1 Zone Coverage for games.
- Shutdown- Lock on a WR and shut him down.
Level 1: Your CB, SS, and FS gain +1 Man Coverage and +2 Press Coverage for games.
- Tackling- Nobody gets away from your defenders.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +1 Tackle, +1 Pursuit and +1 Hit Power for games.
- Ball Burglar- You play a very aggressive style of defense, always going after the ball.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +1 Catching, +2 Spectacular Catch, +2 Catch in Traffic for games.
- Pure Instinct- You believe that defense runs on instincts.
Level 1: Players gain +1 Awareness for games and +2 Play Recognition for games.
- Athlete- You know the best way to channel and focus raw talent.
Level 1: Your defensive players gain +1 Speed, +2 Agility, +2 Acceleration and +1 Strength for games.
The actual recruiting process has changed this year in NCAA 14. The new functionality is called "Power Recruiting" and it will replace the old phone call system. Now gamers will allocate a certain amount of points to use on each recruit.
The object here was to streamline the recruiting process which was quite lengthy in previous versions.
Coaches will now have a designated amount of points to spend each week. Bonus points can be earned based on pitch grades, establishing new or taking advantage of existing pipelines. There are even bonuses for matching a QB and WR together on the same visit.
These bonuses can even disappear if your program's performance begins to fall off. You could even see a dip in available points if you bring in two running backs to campus for a visit together.
Some prospects will have "Deal Breaker" settings which translate to prerequisites for a program to even recruit them. If your program doesn't meet the prospect's standards, you won't be allowed to court them.
Perhaps best of all, the entire recruiting process is done in one stage. You can allocate your points to heavily pursue one prospect, or spread them out amongst a number of prep players.
How much NCAA 14 have you played so far?
Dynamic Commentary and Dynasty Specific Presentation
Not only have Nessler and Herbstreit had new lines added for play now commentary, the broadcast team will now tailor their comments to match your specific Dynasty mode experience.
Key players will be highlighted before your games begin. Nessler and Herbstreit will monitor those players' performance throughout the game. Davis will also still offer studio updates on other games in your Dynasty mode.
Gamers will also be able to set neutral sites for games such as Cowboys Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, Soldier Field and more.
In the event you don't have time or an interest to tangle with recruiting players, coaching improvements and the other bells and whistles included in Dynasty Mode, gamers can find the other elements of playing through a campaign in NCAA 14 with the season mode.
Simply pick your favorite team and see how far you can take them in the 2013 season.
Nike Skills Trainer
There are a good number of new gameplay tweaks to master and the Nike Skills Trainer is a good way to get a handle on the features.
Some of the things available to practice are not new to the game, but learning how to incorporate old moves like acceleration burst with the new cut-back abilities is something that may take a few reps to master.
The Nike Skills Trainer can help you do that without needing to learn on the job, so to speak.
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