NCAA Football 2006 Preview
We hit the ground running in NCAA Football 2006's "race for the Heisman" mode.
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Lots of high school athletes have dreams of playing football at the college level, and many make good on those dreams by taking their games to the next stage at institutes of higher learning across the country. Only a select few, however, rise above the masses to make names for themselves as pro athletes. And only one college football athlete per year earns the distinction of winning the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding college football player of the year. The yearlong chase for that esteemed honor is at the heart of NCAA Football 2006's newest gameplay mode, dubbed "race for the Heisman."
Essentially, NCAA 2006's race for the Heisman mode puts you in control of the collegiate career of an up-and-coming football star who's fresh out of high school and looking to make it into a big-time program. Upon your first booting up NCAA 2006, you'll drop directly into the race for the Heisman mode, where you'll find yourself in a high school camp, looking to impress the coaches on hand who are there to watch your performance. It should be noted that you have the option to skip out of this mode so you can go directly to the more traditional game modes you've become accustomed to in the NCAA Football series, if you so desire.
Should you continue your race for the Heisman, however, you'll first pick a position at which you wish to chase down the trophy, though offensive positions, such as quarterback or running back, will offer up much better shots at giving you a Heisman acceptance speech opportunity at the end of the year than their defensive counterparts. This isn't to say that it's impossible for your cornerback to emerge, Charles Woodson style, to Heisman greatness, but the odds are definitely stacked against you. As a defensive player, your main goal will be in making a name for yourself at your school by winning some of the defensive positional trophies and by obtaining a top spot in the NFL draft. Finally, (and unfortunately) you won't be able to make your race for the Heisman as a lineman on either side of the ball.
Once you've got your position worked out, you'll proceed directly to the spring drills, where your abilities will be evaluated by coaches. These drills are essentially skills challenges that will test your knowledge and adeptness with the game's controls, in addition to giving you opportunities to earn points that will determine the caliber of schools that actively recruit you. As a quarterback, for example, you'll be looking to dissect defenses in the game's skeleton pass system, which removes defensive linemen and linebackers from the field and effectively lets you find open receivers, without having to worry about the added pressure of a pass rush. Complete all your passes in the passing drill and you'll likely have some very interested coaches on hand looking for your John Hancock on a letter of intent. Even if you don't perform very well during the drills, however, you'll still be able to automatically walk onto a team roster, though the squad likely won't be of the caliber you're hoping for. If you want to hook up with a USC or a Florida State, you'd be best served by making as many plays as possible in spring practice.
Once you're on campus, NCAA 2006's race for the Heisman mode will introduce you to what nearly every college freshman becomes extremely familiar with: the dorm room. Just like most frosh dorms, this one will be probably a bit too small and a bit too messy. All the amenities will be there, however, so you'll have a computer for checking your team and individual statistics, a magazine stack (just in case your face shows up in the weekly sports rags), a calendar and game schedule so you can keep track of important dates, launch practice sessions and upcoming games, and a trophy case where you can bask in the metallic glory of your achievements. There will even be perks such as fan letters, written by the slightly crazed but usually well-meaning college football freaks who follow your career, and a picture of your girlfriend. While EA was a bit vague on the details of how the girlfriend portraits will work--Will the picture be automatically generated? Will you be able to import a picture from your PlayStation 2 memory card or Xbox hard drive?--it's safe to assume that as your career blossoms in the school of your choice, so too will the picture of beauty inside the frame.
Even though your dorm room may not start out looking like much, fear not, because exquisite performance on the field has its perks. As you make a name for yourself, you'll be able to upgrade your dorm room--think leather sofas and other goodies--to something more befitting of a Division I-A football star.
So you've made a team, and you've got a pimped-out dorm room. So now the work begins. But how does one go about winning the Heisman Trophy? Excellence on the field is the best way to start. Your created player will be a starter right away, and as he sees snaps, his stats will increase. Other ways to gauge your progress toward the award will be the aforementioned trophy room and your ever-growing stacks of fan mail. Luckily, the kinds of obstacles that can impede your progress toward Heisman gold, such as academic ineligibility or injury, won't be in your way in NCAA Football 2006. The chance for injury especially, while still present in the race for the Heisman mode, will be dramatically lessened. Because of this, it's possible to win multiple Heismans in this mode, provided you've got the skills.
Of course, the Heisman Trophy is only a means to an end...a very lucrative end in the NFL. Just as in previous versions of NCAA, you'll still be able to transfer draft classes from NCAA into the upcoming Madden NFL game, but you'll also have the option of transferring only your specific race-for-the-Heisman character into Madden to continue his athletic career among the true football elite. Obviously, as a Heisman finalist or winner, his stock will be way up on NFL Draft weekend. But will he blossom like a Roger Staubach or a Barry Sanders? Or will he go the route of Gino Torretta and Rashaan Salaam by ending up as an NFL bust? Only time will tell. If you're looking to stay in the college game, you have the option of bypassing the NFL altogether and moving your created player directly into the coaching ranks in NCAA 2006, taking the reigns of a small team and building up the program from there.
By placing the emphasis on the actual college player and on individual performance, NCAA 2006's race for the Heisman mode looks to be a strong alternative to those who aren't interested in building dynasties and recruiting fullbacks from Idaho, yet still want to control the action on the field. We'll have more on the race for the Heisman mode, as well as NCAA Football 2006's other gameplay modes, in the coming weeks.