STAFF REVIEW of NCAA Football 06 (Xbox)

Sunday, July 17, 2005.
by SilverOak

NCAA Football 06 Box art ?American football makes rugby look like a Tupperware party.? Sue Lawley, 1985

I love football. Let me qualify that statement a little by saying I love college football. In my humble opinion, college ball has maintained the spirit of the game without becoming a younger version of the prostitutes that seem to dominate the professional side of the game.

With that said, what does this have to do with anything you may ask? Well, one of my favorite video games of all time recently released their newest version of the franchise and boy does it make me long for the first snap of the pigskin when the seasons begin their change.

EA Sports? ?NCAA ?06 Football:Race For the Heisman? was released this last week and the development folks have certainly done their job in making a game to trump the outstanding but semi-flawed 2005 version. For all you aerial generals out there, the passing game has been made easier than in ?05. I for one don?t think catching a ball should be easy, but it shouldn?t border on an act of supreme intervention to make a reception either!

?Watching football is like watching pornography. There's plenty of action, and I can't take my eyes off it, but when it's over, I wonder why the hell I spent an afternoon doing it.? ~Luke Salisbury

As the game title hints, one of the new game modes is ?Race for the Heisman? in which you assume the role of a high school stud player. Popping the disc in for the first time starts this mode so it would behoove you to have some idea as to what position you wish to try and excel in during your college career. Tryouts are being held and your showing on the field will have everything to say about your chances to land a scholarship or try and walk on at the school of your choice. Don?t start choking just yet though! Even though your performance may not be too memorable, if you have to walk on, you?ll still be given the starting nod at your chosen position. Kind of a funny quirk, but hey, maybe you just had a bad day at football camp!

As any other player, you?ll have your own dorm room from which you can check your and your team's stats, read fan mail, and whatever else you do by yourself. Do well on the field and your room begins to be more ?livable? with decorations and toys that I guess are given by thankful alumni.

Do really, really well and you could find yourself in New York at the Downtown Athletic Club accepting pats on the back for winning the much coveted award. If you don?t feel like leaving your life hanging, you can export your player to Madden ?06 and continue in your professional career.

For those familiar with this franchise, you?ll have no trouble recognizing the game or its controls. Dynasty Mode and Live Mode make their familiar presence known, but along with the previously mentioned Heisman mode, there are some other great new features including ?in season recruiting? and ?spring drills?. All are really great additions and should be well received??no pun intended.

Passing has indeed been made easier, but I can already hear the complaining starting up from more defensively minded folks that they are at a distinct disadvantage?and frankly, they may be right. With the proper amount of practice drills, you can learn the routes of receivers in your teams playbook and become lethal knowing when they should break open from the DB.

The new ?breakaway controls? don?t make things any easier for the defense as skilled players can make their runner juke and zip around like a Barry Sanders/Walter Payton hybrid freak! EA changed the control button for sprint from ?B? to ?A? and now all of your fancy juke moves need to be made by using the right analog stick. Really not that big of an adjustment, but for someone like me who played 16 seasons in ?05, I am getting nailed plenty of times when I should be getting away simply because I can?t always remember which button to hit.

One equalizer for the defense is that they too have the breakaway skills. Timing a move just right will allow a defender to really punish a ball carrier and maybe cause a fumble, or just do your own twist and cause a blocker to miss you allowing a great saving tackle.

The match up stick and stadium pulse are back again this year after debuting last year. Using the match up stick for me is second nature as I?m always looking for that opposing player who may not feel too comfortable or is just generally a weak player. Take advantage of a mismatch and a big gain is almost always the result.

The stadium pulse has been redone to more closely imitate the crazier places to play. There were times on the road in ?05 when I felt the controller was going to shake out of my hands! If it had that effect on me, we all know what effect it had on the teams players. In ?06, the crowd noise will be far less likely to shake up your players and that?s fine with me.

?Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen. Soccer is a gentleman's game played by beasts. Football is a beastly game played by beasts.? ~Henry Blaha, 1972

As soon as I launched into my first game in ?06, the quality of ?06?s graphics were made apparent. It?s not like the quantum jump we?re all expecting when we enter the world of 360, but it is still quite noticeable. Replay scenes seem much tighter and come complete with new camera angles. Grass on the field (a common benchmark it seems) looks more like the wavy field of green in ?05. Heck, I even think I saw some guys eye color once! Stadium scenes have been made even better this year with more detail being added. However?.. a personal note to EA Sports?Texas A&M does not have female cheerleaders! We have ?Yell Leaders? and all are male. We have a proud school down here that is rich with traditions?please fix that before you release ?07!

I for one cannot wait until EA can take advantage of Xbox?s hardware in 360 and stop making a ported PS2 version for our console.

? Speed, strength, and the inability to register pain immediately.? ~Reggie Williams, when asked his greatest strengths as a football player

The boys from ESPN are back in the booth to handle the somewhat repetitive and annoying play by play. I played with them (namely Corso) talking for the first few games, but I quickly found the menu to mute their voices before I went much further. An improvement is the songs that are on the soundtrack. Much more hip and current but still no ability for us to customize our own sountracks. Hey EA! What are these huge hard drives for then? Let us play to our own musical tastes ok?

?Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become.? ~Mary McGrory

All things considered, EA has released a game that betters its predecessor while releasing new bells and whistles. I would like to see the defensive side of the ball get the ability to go after thrown balls more aggressively, but it?s pretty well balanced overall. Good job EA?.keep up the great work!

Overall: 9.4 / 10
Gameplay: 9.6 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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