Need proof that you need to try a game for yourself before you take somebody else's word for it? Look no further than EA Sports NCAA Football 14. The reviews from around the Internet are seemingly quite varied.
Perhaps gamers have to at least know the reviewer's standards and expectations before putting too much stock in their review—good or bad.
I'll get my own opinion out of the way early on in this article. I found NCAA 14 to be the best thus far in the series. I reviewed it and gave it a higher score this year than I did last year.
First and foremost, the gameplay is much crisper than in years past. The use of the Infinity engine took the tackling and collision detection to the next level.
With last year's version not using real-time physics, it is hard to imagine not acknowledging that in this year's version.
Secondly, the controls for your ball-carrier are far more intuitive and plain fun this year. Cutting, juking, spinning, trucking and stiff-arming an opponent has been given new life in NCAA 14. The college football experience is further driven home as well.
The inclusion and improved execution of college-style playbooks and strategies make a big difference in the experience.
The player's on-field reactions are cleaner and it improves the entire gameplay package.
Graphically, there is almost no improvement; it is only fair to acknowledge that. However, this close to the release of next-gen consoles, it seems impractical to expect to see visuals that vastly exceed last year's product.
We can scream: more, more, more all we want, but some things just aren't realistic.
Lastly, the recruiting and coaching XP systems were a welcomed addition to the game, in my opinion. They added or maintained depth, but streamlined the process. That's my take, but not everyone agrees with me.
For example, Greg Miller of IGN called the game a "second stringer." He scored it a 7.4 out of 10. In the opening line of his review, he writes:
NCAA Football 14 doesn’t have that spark that makes a game great. The gameplay is better, the load times are shorter, and the physics engine that made Madden NFL 13 is here. But the graphics look dated, the players seem more generic than ever, and the announcers stiffly call matchups.
While I do agree that the commentary regarding player-specific dialogue could be better, I also acknowledge that is difficult when the commentary team is handcuffed by not being able to reference player names.
Miller closes his review with:
NCAA Football is hitting the glass ceiling of this console cycle. The gameplay itself is better and more refined each time the game is released, but when it’s surrounded by dated visuals, dated audio, dated modes, what’s a fan to do? There’s a good football game here, but it’s far from an impressive package.
In recognizing that this series—and every other series on this generation of consoles—has hit "the ceiling" it seems unfair to penalize a game for visuals on a platform where improvement isn't possible.
It would be like blasting an Android-based game because it doesn't compare to a console game. Generally, gamers adjust their expectations according to the platform they're playing the game on.
At this point of the console cycle, gamers have to do this with new releases on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
One reviewer whose opinion seemed to match mine was Kotaku's Owen Good. In the site's no-nonsense approach to reviews, Good's answer to the bottom-line question: "should you play this game," was "yes."
"For a game that badly needed more than a fresh coat of paint, NCAA 14 came through in the end."
"At times, NCAA Football 14 can make you fight for every yard, but it still earned every inch of attention I gave it."
This series did need to freshen things up, and Good and I obviously feel that was accomplished.
Gamespot writer and editor Tom McShea only rated NCAA 14 a six out of 10. He says:
"When you're immersed in a high-stakes game, it's easy to forget that you've seen this all before and enjoy the violent chess match that's unfolding."
In my Herman Edwards voice: "Is that not why you play the game?"
McShea's primary gripe is that the game doesn't introduce any new concepts. The difference between sports games and other video games is that the developers are tied to the sport. The sport has rules, concepts and themes that must be maintained.
While new modes and such are nice, developers must be careful not to sacrifice the purity of the sport in an effort to give us something new. The results could be something less than a true simulation and that would be bad.
Perhaps Robert Kollars of Operation Sports and I are most in line with our assessments on the game. He scored it an eight out of 10. His summary says:
If you think that NCAA Football 14 is just a tweaked version of last year’s title, you would be wrong.
While it may feel familiar, there have been a lot of improvements throughout the whole title that add up to a much better experience both on the field and off.
The game is not perfect, and still has some issues, but NCAA Football 14 is the best in the series to date, and one that college fans have been waiting to experience. If you are a college pigskin fan, this is a must-buy.
I feel like Dres from Black Sheep "you can get with this, or you can get with that." Ultimately, like the 1990's MC famously said, "the choice is yours."
Follow me and Franchiseplay, my sports video game alter ego.