"NCAA Football 2006: First Look
Behold, everything we know about the official football videogame of the NCAA.
by IGN Staff
April 22, 2005 - The struggle to differentiate EA's NCAA Football series from the wildly successful Madden NFL franchise made a huge leap with last year's NCAA Football 2005 thanks to the stadium pulse feature, matchup stick and enhanced dynasty mode. So after a breakthrough year like that, the pressure is clearly on the developers at EA Tiburon to come up with another new bag of tricks to keep the college game on its own unique path of football.
The past couple of years for each franchise have been interesting because the two games have introduced new features that would be exclusive to one or the other but that fans would want to see in both titles. But that's exactly what the developers don't want to do. The whole point is to bring out those special elements of the college game that will make NCAA its own unique experience even with the popular Madden game engine doing much of the heavy lifting. For the 2006 edition, NCAA football is lead by the all new Race for the Heisman mode, the Impact Player system and In-Season recruiting; the features that could make this college football game, the most collegiate yet.
New Stuff on Game Day
One of the biggest changes in gameplay is the new Impact Player system. Each team in the game will have 2-3 players that have the ability to be "The Man" for their respective schools on any given day. The impact player has a special glowing icon under their feet during gameplay and you'll always see their special marker and where they line up in the play call menus. Your impact players will basically get a one-play ratings boost when a game situation comes up that could take full advantage of their skills. A power-back will get In The Zone on 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter if you've been using him and keeping him confident throughout the game. A cornerback or free safety may get In The Zone on a crucial 3rd down. When a player is In The Zone and he's involved in the next play the camera will zoom in and pan around to give close-ups in bullet time during the play as your impact player breaks tackles, makes devastating hits or other amazing moves. The Impact Cam is most impressive when your running back is in the zone and he's cutting and smashing his way down the field on a big play. A good NCAA player will be able to setup his next juke move during the slowed-down action of the Impact Camera.
There are also a couple of new control schemes that NCAA veterans will notice right off the bat. There's no more bringing up passing windows/icons and then dropping them again when you want to scramble with your QB. Instead the windows are up all the time and you simply use the X button on PS2 or A button on Xbox to make your passer sprint around. The receiver previously mapped to the X and A buttons are now on the triangle and Y buttons, respectively. This way you can roll your QB out with a quickness on a waggle play and deliver the pass with the push of a button just like you're used to and without fumbling around with the controller unnecessarily.
Also the right analog stick controls jukes now in NCAA 2006. Finally flicking left and right will cause your player to put a juke move in those directions and down on the stick will give you the beloved back-juke. The back-juke could be the biggest improvement to the game since this move will allow your player to stop, jump back and let a defender charging in from the side fly right by matador-style. Since most tackles come from side angles in football, learning the timing of the back juke could be huge. Other touches include automatic celebrations on big touchdown plays instead of inputting a code to pull off the tricky Heisman pose, for example. However for those of you who really want to show off and guarantee that you pull off a specific celebration, you'll still be able to input a combo as you cross the goal line.
One of the biggest control enhancements to make it over to NCAA from last year's Madden is the Hit Stick. There's no playmaker control scheme to go with it, but when you're on defense you'll be able to deliver a big bone-crunching hit on the ball carrier when you flick the right analog stick with proper timing. As we saw with Madden, if you miss the timing you'll miss the play completely and give up major yardage. This way you'll be using the right analog stick regularly on both offense and defense.
The presentation of NCAA Football 2006 is going to improve this year with an ESPN GameDay-like studio set up at the big nationally televised game. Even though EA's deal with ESPN doesn't kick in until next year, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Brad Nessler playing Chris Fowler's role has been a staple of the series for years. Now you'll get to see character models of those three and see them deliver from their studio at the stadium. Corso will even make his pick now and throw on the helmet of the team he's favoring in the game and the whole thing will come complete with reactions from his co-announcers. With certain major programs and when the opportunity presents itself, Corso will don the mascot mask of the school he's picking. You may see the nutty Corso wearing a big Gator head or one of several species of Wildcat or Bulldog before certain games.
Getting New Young Players
NCAA Football 2006's Dynasty mode has been improved with a ton of changes in the area of recruiting. New talent is the lifeblood of any college football program and NCAA has gotten better at representing this every year. During the offseason you can set up pipeline states where recruiting is going to be remarkably easier for you. All you have to do is build your championship caliber program, recruit heavily from a specific state and continue to do well with those players. The national recruiting map has changed so that pipeline states will be highlighted and you'll even know how many players you already have from that state when you go there looking for more. One of the new weapons you'll have in your recruiting arsenal is pitching players on your school's academic strength along with the other categories like strength of program, playing time, etc.
When you find a prospect that you're super excited about you'll be able to spend recruiting points in a few different ways now. You can pay to see what a recruits specific ratings are rather than judging them on their 40 yard dash times and grade point average. It'll be expensive but now you can see if the guy has 89 or 85 speed and know exactly what you're getting. Also you don't have to go through the sometime tedious process of selecting individual phone calls and visits from assistants and head coach on a blue chip prospect. If you've got a player you like you can select the "send the house" option and you'll quickly max out all of your recruiting options on that player for that week. The recruiting point cost will be the same so keep an eye on your total reserves but it should make things quicker.
EA's hooked up with rivals.com to include a realistic in-season recruiting system in this year's game. During the season you'll be able to assign a percentage of your recruiting points to a handful of hot prospects. From what we can tell you're not actually spending points like you do in the offseason but merely trying to help and make things easier for yourself when the real recruiting season starts. The big deal with in-season recruiting is scheduling a campus visit for your prospects. To make the biggest impact you'll want to invite a recruit to your campus for a home game against your biggest rival on national television and win the game. Obviously even if you can't make every part of that equation happen you'll still be able to impress the recruit if you get most of it done. Once he experiences this, chances are you'll be that much closer to getting a verbal commitment from the recruit. With this in your pocket you'll be all setup and ready to go after him on the inside track once the real offseason recruiting begins.
NCAA Football 2006 is sporting slightly different player models to reflect the fact that these are college and not pro players. They're all a little bit skinnier and not amazing athletes like 85% of the NFL players you're going to see in Madden for example. There are a few new animations thrown in as well, many of them will be recognizable from the Madden franchise too.
As college football becomes the exclusive videogame property of Electronic Arts, NCAA Football 2006 is the first step in what will be the future of the genre. IGN will have plenty more on NCAA Football 2006 in the weeks and months to come. "