NCAA Football 06 Review

If you’re a football fan, then you just have to love college football. The NFL may provide a tougher and more glamorous form of the sport, but it can’t match the pageantry, loyalty, and unpredictability of college football. Any game that has any hope of capturing the feel of college football had better play upon these differences or it will come across as a clone of an NFL game, except with different uniforms and more teams. EA Sport’s NCAA Football series has done a remarkable job through the years of doing just that, but in the past it has also had to distinguish itself from competing college football games. Now we are in the first year of a new dark era of sports league game monopolies and it is fair to ask if this means that the NCAA Football franchise used this as an opportunity to rest on its laurels and serve up a retread of last year’s game. Thankfully the answer to this is a definitive “no”, and it is a nice surprise for sports fans that NCAA Football 06 delivers an entire new mode of play while also expanding on the existing modes from last year’s incarnation.

There’s no missing the game’s major new mode this year as the first time you run the game you’ll be dropped right into it. It’s as if EA wanted to reassure gamers that the exclusive license with the NCAA does not mean that there will be a lack of innovation and that they would not miss this addition to the game. In fact, EA liberally sprinkles “new” tags throughout the game’s menu system so you can be sure to see how hard at work they have been adding new features. Anyway, back to the major new mode, which is named “Race for the Heisman”. You begin the game as a potential college recruit attending a scouting camp filled with college scouts with scholarships in hand. You select a drill to run and in doing so select your position on the field – pick the passing drill and you’re a quarterback, the rushing drill and you’re going for running back, etc. Your performance in the drill will have an affect on your starting stats, and will also determine which schools offer you scholarships. Do well and top ten schools will be drooling over the prospect of signing you. Perform poorly and you can expect to only receive offers from the also-rans. In reality though this whole exercise is moot, as you can turn down the scholarships and choose to play for any school as a walk-on. As a walk-on you’ll still win the starting job at your position as a freshman, even if you’re replacing one of the top college seniors in the country. Once you’re on a team you’ll have the opportunity to customize the name and look of your player, which is a pretty cool feature as you’ll hear announcers call your name during games.

The Race for the Heisman mode is centered on your virtual dorm room. From here you can view your stats, check out any trophies that you have won, and view your team calendar. Additional touches have been added to bring you into the game a little more. There’s a campus newspaper with a weekly story related to your team’s performance, fan mail singing your praises, and even a picture of your girlfriend. As you rack up the stats and start to generate a little Heisman buzz you’ll find that your girlfriends become progressively better looking, a wonderful message about the importance of beauty and the need for you to upgrade your trophy girlfriend to match your success in life. Anyway, what this mode is really about is trying to secure the Heisman during your four year collegiate career and so you’ll be spending most of your time on the field playing games and then checking out the Heisman Buzz Index to see how close you are coming to grabbing the prize.