Even though we're still under brutal oppression from the summer sun and fall practice is still a month out, there are a few things around this time of year that help conjure the crackle of Autumn leaves and the taste of Franklin's BBQ at a tailgate. One such herald of pigskin promise is the annual release of EA Sports' latest NCAA Football title. Even if you're not a gamer, you've still probably gotten a taste of the annual rite wherein die-hard fans glory in the digital love (or rant about the perceived injustices) evinced in their squad's Power Rankings.
The theme for EA Sports' NCAA Football '14 is 'Keep is Real', so it's interesting to ponder just how real they've kept it in evaluating the 2013 Digital Longhorns.
And at first glance, it seems like the 2013 Digital Longhorns will be fielding one hell of a squad.
The statheads at EA appear to share both Phil Steele and Bill Connelly's optimism about Texas' 2013 prospects, as their Power Rankings indicate:
By way of comparison, here's what EA thought of the Longhorns' 2013 competition:
The common theme that jumps out to me, not only in these rankings but in Connelly and Steele's work as well, is one that you'd likely expect. When you're a single entity tasked with ranking 120+ D1 schools, there's no conceivable way to delve all that deeply into X's and O's and specific coaches' schematic acumen (or lack thereof). You go on perceived talent and experience, where a squad like 2013 Texas is going to play up in a big way and the TCU's of the world are going to get overlooked (if anyone thinks Gary Patterson is going to trot out a so-so defense this year, I'd like to get on the other side of that wager in a big way).
Elite coaches impose a strong results delta over perceived talent, and understanding where and how that happens can lead to profitable preseason wagering. When you're designing a video game, though, it's much more fair to rank on talent alone - after all, the player is the one picking the schemes and calling the shots. If you're holding the controller, can YOU use Jonathan Gray's quicks and Mike Davis' deep ball acumen well enough to justify Texas' 95 ranking? Can YOU wreak enough havoc with Jackson Jeffcoat, rack up enough tackles with Jordan Hicks and pick off enough passes with Quandre Diggs to live up to a 93-rated defense? (PRO TIP: Don't stunt).
The other half of the 'Keep It Real' equation is in the gameplay itself, and from my semi-gamer perspective it looks like they've got some cool things happening in this release:
Some fun things to watch for in the video:
- Trey Hopkins clears road for Jonathan Gray at 0:53
- Gray makes another appearance at 1:06, depicted in a very realistically rendered Cotton Bowl gaining a very unrealistic amount of yardage against OU.
- People Whose Primary Profession Is Not Being On Camera, Being On Camera at 0:58 and 1:26
As in any game, they couldn't include EVERYTHING, but a look at the Keep It Real features included in Football '14 - as well as some that were regrettably not included - can give gamers a good idea of what to expect from this release.
- Infinity Real-Time Physics Engine - This is what makes the gameplay look about as 'real' as anything that has hit a platform game to date - everything from stiffarms to blocks to full-on collisions look like they're happening between real humans with real mass, momentum and limbs that act in a human way
- Cut-Based Momentum - Runners have to plant their feet in order to change direction or accelerate - here's where JGray and Daje have a chance to recreate the kind of two gap bouncing, ankle-breaking cuts that we'll see on the field for real in the fall
- Force Impact Trucking - Sailor can dust off those B&B Trucking Company shirts, and you can use Joe Bergeron to vicious effect on a hapless NMSU safety
- Stumble Recovery - As far as I can tell, this refers to the way a guy uses his legs to regain balance after a collision, and not just Mack Brown's ability to get his team motivated the week AFTER OU. Although maybe they included both.
REGRETTABLY NOT INCLUDED
- Real-time, updated Fulmer Cup Standings
- Walk A Day in My Shoes - A mini-game that lets you spend 24 hours as Heisman Winner Johnny Manziel! Complete online coursework with the push of a button, attempt high-fives with
fellow highly-paid pro athletes while sitting courtside, and deal with dastardly College Station parking attendants and bouncers. Accrue over $100K of hilariously improper benefits 100 'Livin' the Life' points to win, but be careful - fall victim to too many Haters in your armpit of a college town or on Twitter and you'll have to declare for the Supplemental Draft!
Although it won't be included with the initial game launch, it's rumored that Texas will get some additional love from the EA programmers with a Special Edition suite of Mini-Games: The Longhorn Legends Keep it Real!
- Punch, kick and head-butt your way to victory as Diron Talbert wipes out an entire bar full of hippies.
- The excitement of GTA: Vice City comes to Austin as Mike Adams and Lovell Pinkney crash a car through a Guadalupe Street storefront.
- You ARE Ramonce Taylor as you set prices, negotiate with buyers and dodge the 5.0 in the award-winning mini-game, "A Fistful of Dollars, A Backpack of Bud"
- Get your Horns up for some home invasions! Rapidly press the B button to help Cedric Benson kick down a door to recover his stolen flatscreen. If kicking something else that starts with a B is more your scene, don't worry. Complete all the other mini-games to unlock Keep it Real Legends Robert Joseph and Andre Jones.
What do YOU think about NCAA Football '14 and how they're treating the Horns? We'll be selecting one or more commenters to help us out with a follow-up article next week, so share your thoughts and a BC byline could be yours!