- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2005

More and more games these days try to create a first-person perspective. Think about it: From the vantage point of a solider you can snipe an enemy from 200 yards in any number of games, or you can place yourself in the driver’s seat anywhere from the streets of D.C. to the Daytona International Speedway.

Such is the conceit of NCAA Football 2006, this year’s version of EA Sports’ college football title. The game, which was released last week, reduces the sport to an individual level, allowing you to create a player (presumably yourself), go through a drill (the minigames include an Oklahoma drill) at a combine to showcase your talents and sign with or walk on to a Division I-A team. The mode, called Race for the Heisman, then throws you right into a starting role as a freshman.

From there, you have one goal: to win the trophy. The game frames Race for the Heisman as a dorm room, where you can gauge your Heisman hype on a meter, read newspaper clippings and fan mail, check out stats or simply admire a picture of your girlfriend. You also can go through some drills to improve your abilities during the season, an option not available elsewhere in the game.

For the most part, the mode works similarly to any other multiple season mode — maybe too much so for what’s being touted as the new centerpiece of the game. It lasts three or four seasons, depending on whether you leave early for the NFL Draft (yes, you can transfer yourself to Madden again). After the fourth season, you can choose to become a college coach and continue as a dynasty. Missing here, however, is the ability to recruit other players to the school, and its absence, while understandable, is a big hole.

If you want to recruit blue-chip prospects for your favorite school, your only option is the dynasty, which hasn’t changed all that much from 2005. While in previous editions you only could recruit during the offseason, NCAA 2006 allows you to sign a limited number of players to letters of intent during the season. You must divide your time among the various prospects, trying to keep their interest long enough to invite them for a campus visit before reeling them in.

As far as other improvements over past years, most of them simply involve fine-tuning what already was a superior game. The game plays just a bit better; the decreased number of dropped balls by both receivers and defenders from past years is one example. Each team now has impact players who can elevate their games and change momentum. The pregame in-studio banter by ESPN’s Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso is a nice touch, though the play-by-play and commentary hasn’t been updated much from the past two years. Best yet, the graphics, already solid, noticeably have been updated, particularly the player models.

What does all this mean for EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2006? A great game only has gotten better. The Race for the Heisman mode is a nice idea, but it truly doesn’t add much to the title. Someday, you might be able to put yourself in a football game via virtual reality or something similar, but it’s a stretch to focus on an individual player in a console title for now. Still, if you have enjoyed the NCAA Football title in the past, you won’t be disappointed this year.

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