Posted: Monday July 24, 2006 12:45PM; Updated: Monday July 24, 2006 4:02PM
The two things that make this game essential to a college football fan are the Dynasty and Campus Legend modes. Dynasty Mode is the closest you'll ever come to being a college head coach. You begin as the coach at your school of choice and then take responsibility for everything from recruiting to playcalling. Campus Legend allows you to begin as a player who just finished high school. You visit a combine to show off for the coaches, and then, based on your results in certain skill tests (40-yard dash, pass-catching) get scholarship offers at a variety of colleges. Once you enroll, you pick a major and juggle practicing with studying and attending campus social events (frat parties) in order to build your legend. Since Reggie Bush is on the cover of the game, I assume that by the time you're a senior, if you're a Heisman contender you get upgraded from the simple dorm room that freshmen are in to something more exotic.
I am probably one of the few people who actually take the time to do the tutorial sections on video games, and NCAA Football 07 was no exception. (I figure I'd rather spend five minutes watching a video than reading a manual.) Even if you're generally averse to the tutorials, I highly recommend NCAA Football 07's, if only because it's the first time I've ever heard Lee Corso sound so sharp. As the video wound down, I was ready to suit up and play for him. (Meanwhile, Brad Nessler needs to slip someone at EA a 20 and ask him or her to take a little more time working on his virtual visage. His face in the game resembles an Easter Island monolith after a night of club-hopping.)
The most jaw-dropping moment for me had nothing to do with the graphics. I was backed up near my own goal line and had called conservative run plays on first and second downs, setting up a manageable third and one. I came out in a stacked I formation and blasted my fullback straight ahead; he sprawled across the line for a first down. As my players stood and dusted themselves off, analyst Kirk Herbstreit astutely pointed out that the defense should have stacked the line, because it was obvious from my formation that all I was trying to do on the play was get just enough yardage for a first down.
I felt like I was in a Phillip K. Dick novel. Well, yes, Kirk, of course that's what I was doing. But it's the first time I can remember the computer reading my mind. Or maybe I've just played the game so much that I now think like the computer and know what will and will not work against it.
The game nails the general feeling of college football, putting a lot of stock in momentum and crowd noise and bands blaring away at your fight song. When I was in school at the University of Georgia, the Big Man on Campus was Garrison Hearst. These days, in my virtual world, it's a brilliant freshman running back named Lang Whitaker. Sure, he's only a freshman, but man, does the kid have potential.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 9.0
Intuitive and fast, NCAA 07 is the best college football game ever. Still, some of the replays can be a little sloppy, and the learning curve while playing defense can be frustrating.
Gets the job done. It looks a lot like a blockier Madden, but it works just fine. Still waiting for more complete facial personalization, so I can create a character as exacting as Johnny Drama did while playing the Godfather game on Entourage.
Once you understand the basics of the game, your options are pretty much unlimited. Want to begin at a powerhouse and try to maintain that high level? Want to build your own dynasty? It's all in the game.