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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Tiburon

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2005

 

 

- Still the best college football title, regardless of owning the exclusive license or not
- Race for the Heisman mode is a great addition that will have you completely immersed in the quest to capture the trophy
- Graphics on the Xbox best among all console versions -Rosters (including historic ones) for practically every college football program, no matter what the level, in the country
- Great online play setup

 

 

- Black and white button controls on Xbox controller make for some uncomfortable
- Pumping up the crowd with the crowd meter at home contests more of a novelty act than a useful, game-altering advantage
- Long passing game takes a lot of time to develop

 

 

Review: NCAA 2004 (Gamecube)

Review: NCAA 2003 (Xbox)

 

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NCAA Football 06

Score: 9.1 / 10

 

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With back-to-back national football championships and a serious threat for a three-peat this upcoming season, USC is unquestionably the best college gridiron program in the country. They're so good, that they could probably win 10 games in the NFL this year. But as good a run as USC is currently enjoying, that's nothing compared to the dominance of the college football gaming genre that Electronic Arts has had with their NCAA Football franchise. Even though EA secured the exclusive rights to publish NCAA football games, they really didn't need to: There is no better college football game on the market today and when there was competition, EA's NCAA Football easily vanquished any and all opponents it faced on store shelves.

NCAA Football 06 is no exception, and instead of simply sitting on their exclusive license and not offering any new features EA did the exact opposite by coming out not only with a great playing, features packed title, but adding another one of the famous immersive modes, Race for the Heisman. If you had fun creating a player in previous NCAA Football games, it doesn't compare to the Race for the Heisman mode that's in NCAA Football 06. And if you actually play well enough to be honored

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with a Heisman Trophy selection, you can import your now-legendary doppelganger into Madden NFL 06.

In Race for the Heisman mode, you start by trying out in drills (at a position you select beforehand) under the watchful eyes of college football coaches. Depending on how well you do in those drills, you'll be offered a scholarship. If you don't like any of the schools

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willing to hand off a scholarship, you can go to the school of your choice as a walk-on.

From there, you go through a typical college preseason (without the wild frat parties and even wilder football groupies) and proceed to hit the field in a four-year quest for the Heisman individually and a national championship for your team. Of course, you have the best shot at the Heisman if you're a quarterback or running back, or even a wide receiver, and if you rack up awesome numbers throwing, running, or catching the pigskin, you'll give yourself a shot at that legendary hardware and enhance your opportunity to enter the NFL as a first-round draft choice (in Madden NFL 06) and the shot at fame and glory as a NFL superstar.

It's a great mode that involves you in the game more than any other college football game that's come before NCAA Football 06. And it's not the only new feature added. There's the inclusion of the Impact Stick that can help you pull off jukes and hits that can make the difference between a five-yard run and a 50-yard touchdown. Along with the Impact Stick is the Impact Players, who are stars on the field on both sides of the ball that can use their "impact" as a top-flight player to alter the game in their respective teams favor.

Who Impact Players are on your team can change from game-to-game depending on their previous game's performance, but they generally tend to be a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive lineman, or cornerback and stay in the impact zone (which you can see by the pulsing white circle under their cleats) for most of the season. In short, if you've got an Impact Player or two, use them to your advantage. Conversely, keep a keen eye on an opponent's Impact Players while playing defense or stay clear of them while you're playing offense.

 

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Another addition is all-year recruiting, and mini-games that serve as a practice mode. Also, more teams and their rosters, including historic teams, are available for nearly every single college football program, no matter what the level, playing today.

Controlling the action on the field is generally problem-free as is usual for an EA sports title, but the Xbox version doesn't quite control as well as the PS2 version, mostly in part to the not-well-placed black and white buttons on the Xbox controller being used. Especially the black button that controls the option pitches of the QB. Overall, the game doesn't function as well on the Xbox controller as it does on the PS2's, although not by much. Regardless, gameplay remains tight once again, especially on the offensive side. The passing game definitely requires some practice, particularly long passes, which require a deft touch on the throw. Even after you learn how to toss the ball with the proper touch, opposing defensive backs play the deep ball tough. They make you earn every long toss you complete.

While it's certainly not visually stunning, NCAA Football 06 is a good-looking game, more so in the highly-detailed stadium environments than the player models, with the Xbox version noticeably better-looking than the PS2 edition. It's the stadiums and the frenzied college crowds that make each college game a special occasion, and EA recognizes the need for creating virtual stadiums that match the real-life stadiums as close as possible.

Helping bring the stadiums to life is not only the visuals but the sounds of the stadiums, including the college bands playing fight songs and the rumbling roar of the crowd that gets louder and louder at home games with the pump-up-the-crowd control. By pressing the "pump-up" button, the crowd gets more raucous and the stadium (and the game screen) literally starts to shake, rattle and rumble. It's supposed to fire up the home team and disrupt the visitors, but it is really hard to see any difference in the results of plays with a rowdy crowd versus a sitting-on-their-hands gathering.

If you can resist the temptation of playing the Dynasty and Race for the Heisman mode for just a while, get online via Xbox Live and experience a great online football game. Although it's tough if you play someone online that uses the option play a lot (and racking up a lot of yards unless you can shut it down), for the most part, there's smooth-running online gameplay requiring solid football strategy for consistent winning.

Even when NCAA Football had competition, it easily came out on top and with the good controls and plethora of the famous EA immersive modes, it was destined for greatness even before the addition of the Race for the Heisman mode. There's no doubt that NCAA Football 06 lives up to the pre-release hype and keeps the dynasty going by staying on top and garnering yet another title as the best college football game around.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(August 23, 2005)

 

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