EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise is a football juggernaut, but NCAA Football is no slouch. Over the years, the developers at EA Tiburon turned this series into a gridiron giant, with features that create virtual battles against collegiate titans like LSU and Alabama.
With NCAA Football 14, a new engine makes tackling much smoother. Not only that, but Dynasty Mode went through plenty of changes. Before the game arrives July 9, let's look at two of the most fundamental features that will test veterans and newcomers alike.
Coaching Skills powers up your experience while you're on the sidelines. With it, you're able to customize skills in order to get a leg up on the opposing team. Using an integration menu broken across a number of fields, you can level up in a number of ways, thus improving your skills in key areas while learning what else needs to be maintained over the course of the season.
The skill tree is split up into two main branches: Game Management and Recruiting. With Game Management, you'll take advantage of on-field boosts across various categories, such as influencing player abilities, recognizing patterns from the other team's playbook and keeping your players calm and focused while still having enough discipline to tell them when they screw up.
One example of this skill is Coachstradamus, which allows you to see the previous play called by your opponent. If you upgrade this particular skill over time, you'll earn an additional 10 percent chance of seeing what play comes next. This could make all the difference in executing a blitz to perfection or blowing it while a receiver gets wide open for a Hail Mary pass; upgrade it again to level three and you could increase it up to 25 percent.
Dynamic ratings also play a tremendous part with Coaching Skills. During Rivalry Games, your team has a "Hot" ranking that boosts their skills to another level. If you continue upgrading this particular skill they'll carry these perks into championship games. Go even further and the team will become "very hot” and stomp the competition. You can max out up to nine categories depending on how well you perform and where you choose to distribute those skill points.
Recruiting has its own set of skills, where you can recruit the right players for your team. The game provides points you can assign to your team, enabling strengths across nine additional categories and eventually becoming a recruiting pro. This ties into the next feature.
Power recruiting also utilizes a point system, with coaches given 5,000 points a week during the active season to distribute amongst players, with each one having a cap of about 500. You'll scatter these in a number of areas, including scouting and offering scholarships so you attract the right players to your team. It helps to have a certain balance, as going too much into one area without considering the other could have disastrous consequences.
When the off-season begins, Power Recruiting continues onward with 10,000 points and the player cap removed. You can pool these points into a single category if you feel like going after the "big fish," or a role player you think would be a great fit. The recruiting skills you acquire within your coaching skills can also have an influence on who you attract, depending on which ones you choose. The EA Sports blog suggests the following:
"Kitchen Sink" – you have a huge work ethic, and prospective players can see it from a mile away. Utilizing this skill allows you to throw even more points their way.
"Letter of Intent" – you show a high level of confidence when it comes to signing day, which can make all the difference in catching the key player you're gunning for
With scouting, you'll receive feedback on particular players, with advice on whether they're worth going after or not. Gains and losses will be kept track of through an easy-to-use numbers system, which also showcases the bonus points you earn through such smaller categories as Stadium Atmosphere, Program Tradition and more. The higher the grade, the better your points stack up.
In addition, recruiting battles between schools can break out if a particular player meets their needs, and the numbers can easily go back and forth. However, if you have the proper skills assigned, you stand the better chance of landing the player. It's all about balance and how much you're willing to spend.
Not every deal will be a success. Bidding for players may result in one of two outcomes. Either you'll earn a bonus for successfully swaying a prospect onto your team, or you'll face a Deal Breaker, where you'll be assigned a bad grade, losing points in the process and missing out on signing your potential star. Fortunately, you have the ability to try and raise your grades and get right back into the bidding pool, depending how you managed your skills. It's a tricky process.
NCAA Football 14 arrives in stores July 9 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.