Nebraska's spread-option attack promises to put up points this fall. Husker fans can get a head start with the new features in “NCAA Football 14.”
Publisher EA Sports amped up the attention on spread-option offenses in the offseason. The playbooks were expanded and the animations were streamlined to give the popular attack a slick feel. The game also highlights the defenders to read before the play, and a new Nike Skills Trainer mode allows players to perfect their abilities.
While the option plays have been smoothed out, you still have to read and react quickly. It's the ultimate exercise in taking what the defense gives you.
In this year's edition of the annual college football video game, the NU offense registers a 91 on a scale of 1 to Alabama. (Seriously. The defending national champion Crimson Tide are ranked 99 on offense and defense.) Nebraska's young defense clocks in at an 85.
Simulations of the 2013 season liked the Huskers' chances. Most times through, NU was 12-0 or 11-1 and playing in the Big Ten championship game. But EA Sports also liked to hand the Huskers a fourth conference championship game loss in five years, this time to Ohio State.
EA incorporated the Infinity Engine 2 into this year's game. “Madden 13” implemented this physics system a year ago.
The difference is clear. Tackling looks and feels more realistic. Blocking has improved, especially with receivers downfield. This helps when Taylor Martinez keeps the ball on an option play.
EA also fixed problems with the engine. Running the ball is smoother, and your running back won't get stuck if you run into the back of an offensive lineman. It's easier to make a cut, spin move or juke.
In the past, defensive backs would sometimes move through a wide receiver's arms (or body) to make an interception, particularly on the higher difficulty settings. The new physics system appears to have alleviated that issue.
Graphically, there's not really much new. This generation of consoles appears to have reached its ceiling. The changes have been barely noticeable for a few years.
The Dynasty mode has some big alterations. The coaching part features a role playing game-style system, where you can improve game management or recruiting skills. It feels very unnecessary.
Fans of the old recruiting system aren't going to be pleased either, as the old phone call system has been scrapped in favor of a points system. It's simpler to use, but also eliminates most of the challenge.
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Give us your review on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
The 2013 Season mode is a new addition that basically eliminates the recruiting and coach element from Dynasty. People who just want to play the games will love it, but you can play only one season in that mode.
Another new way to play is Ultimate Team. The mode is new to the “NCAA Football” franchise, but it's not new to EA Sports games. “Madden” and “FIFA” have had the mode for years, but it's always seemed a bit convoluted.
Essentially, you build a team with virtual trading cards. In the “NCAA Football” version, you use cards of former college stars, stadiums, playbooks and uniforms to complete challenges and play against others online.
You can get new packs of cards with the virtual currency gained by completing challenges. But some packs require real money. That's never nice to see after you've already put down $60 for a game.
The game presentation takes another step up this year, highlighted by more statistic-based graphics and a halftime show featuring ESPN personalities Rece Davis and David Pollack.
There's some new in-game commentary from Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler, but Herbstreit's been repeating himself in the series for several years now. A bigger (or complete) overhaul would have been nice.
“NCAA Football 14” is still a better game than last year's. It's also the last under that name.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that it will not renew its licensing contract with EA Sports, which expires in June 2014. The governing body's name and logo will no longer appear in the series.
The NCAA and EA Sports are facing a lawsuit regarding the use of player likenesses in the games. Ex-Husker QB Sam Keller is among the plaintiffs.
I referenced Taylor Martinez earlier, but that's only because I saw a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior quarterback who wears No. 3 for Nebraska. Forgive me for overlooking the fact that his name had been replaced by “QB #3” on the depth chart.
But the end of the NCAA's participation doesn't mean the end of the series. EA Sports released a statement saying the publisher will continue to make a college football game, just without the NCAA's name on it. The company contracts with the Collegiate Licensing Company to use team uniforms, stadiums and fight songs, etc.
So fear not, football fans. EA Sports can release a “College Football 15” next year, so long as the universities continue to partner with the company. That would be an appropriate name to accompany the new College Football Playoff. Next year's game should also take a big leap with the move to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
It would be a cruel fate to have the series end before a playoff is implemented. We're still stuck with the BCS in real life and in this year's game, even if you advance your dynasty to the 2014 season.
But if you're like me, you're just desperate for football season to get here. “NCAA Football 14” fulfills my football thirst like the series always does with its yearly July release.