reviews\ Nov 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm

NCAA Basketball 10 - 360 - Review

Historically, basketball has had two leaders in the game industry: NBA Live and NBA2K. The two famed franchises have gone back and forth for the past 10 years. Others have tried to encroach on their territory, but none of them have been able to take away the crown.

NCAA Basketball 10 is the first game that could actually change that. Considering who’s behind the title – EA, the same developer/publisher that makes NBA Live – this shouldn’t be too surprising. Still, who would have thought that it was actually capable of competing with EA’s revered basketball series? NBA Live 10 is a great game, no question, but if you haven’t picked it up yet, there are a couple reasons you might want to choose NCAA Basketball 10 instead.


In the area of controls and gameplay mechanics, it has been hard – and at one time impossible, perhaps – for developers to top what NBA 2K achieved on the Xbox 360 in 2005. Even now NBA 2K’s controls stand out, despite the fact that they haven’t changed much in the past couple of years. But NCAA Basketball 10, whose controls and mechanics are nearly identical to NBA Live 10, has finally taken 2K Sports down a notch.

Most incredibly, the controls are deep without sacrificing any of the user-friendly elements. The physics are sharp and realistic without being cheap or over/under exaggerated. It’s a great balance that’ll have you landing baskets when you time your shots appropriately and measure your distance from the net accurately.

Players may not catch the subtle nuances that make shooting at a basket exciting, or realize the work that went into making the simple actions – even those as minute as passing the ball – work extremely well. But they will catch onto the general feel of the controls, which is amazing, to say the least. The graphics might deserve some of the credit, since you can’t make a great sports game if the players aren’t responding well to your every touch. But it goes beyond that.

NCAA Basketball 10 improves on the AI with a change that gamers have always wanted but is something that developers have struggled to create: opponents that aren’t cheap. Game after game and mistake after mistake, the AI had plenty of opportunities to, as they say in Fight Club, turn my team into a wad of cookie dough. But while my opponents often fought hard to gain the upper hand, they rarely did it unfairly. Plus, the AI isn’t infallible – it is perfectly capable of dropping the ball, missing a pass, or taking a shot at the wrong time. AI opponents miss rebounds, cause unnecessary fouls, and do everything else that a flawed team would do. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not exactly an innovative leap forward. Expert players might even say it makes the game too easy. But I like and very much appreciate the adjustment. Other sports games could learn a lot from this development.


Thus far, almost everything you’ve read about NCAA Basketball 10 can be found in NBA Live 10. Even the awesome menu presentation, which pushes and pulls the screen through various 2D images (it does it so well that the effect appears three-dimensional), comes straight from NBA Live 10. NCAA Basketball 10’s menus are cooler, flashier, and cater more heavily to specific teams. But still, a borrowed feature is a borrowed feature.

The one thing that helps NCAA Basketball 10 stand out is its use of the college teams and the college atmosphere. In a brilliant move that enhances the presentation and diminishes most of the boredom brought on by long load times, the developers included a real-time practice feature that drops you into an outdoor court while the game loads. Run around, pick up any ball you see, shoot a few hoops, take in the sights, and before you know it the game will be done loading. Then, if you quit the game, NCAA Basketball 10 immediately jumps back to the outdoor court with a scene-swapping transition that’s worthy of a movie.

EA gave each team the triple-A treatment with mascots, arenas and a large (and loud) group of polygonal fans. You’ll notice a bit of repetition from the commentary, especially when you or your opponent is repetitive. (For some reason the game doesn’t properly register the difference between the first and second fouls of a particular player, if the fouls are back-to-back.) But overall the commentary and TV-style camera angles are successful.

With regard to the different versions of the game, developers have been trying to design their sports titles to perform equally well across Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. NCAA Basketball 10 lives up to that goal with gameplay, controls and graphics that are virtually identical on both platforms. The PS3 version forces you to download a chunk of game data before you can start playing, but its load times didn’t seem to be any faster than the 360 version. Of course, the load screen isn’t an issue here, but some players are bound to wonder why the PS3’s built-in hard drive doesn’t make its version load faster.

Whichever console you choose to play on, NCAA Basketball 10’s graphics are gorgeous. The player models aren’t as good as those featured in NBA 2K10 (that’s one area 2K Sports seems to have no trouble staying on top of), but the animations are amazingly lifelike and are frequently spontaneous. In the background you’ll spot cheerleaders, cameramen, fans, refs and others moving around with a fair amount of fluidity. These background character models aren’t as good as the players themselves – sadly, our consoles aren’t powerful enough to push THAT many polygons – but when thrown together in a large crowd, everything looks very good.

Review Scoring Details for NCAA Basketball 10

Gameplay: 8.2
Excellent controls, mechanics and ball physics designed for a sports game that is very easy to grasp.

Graphics: 8.5
One of the best-looking sports games of the year.

Sound: 7.0
The commentary is solid, but the music and sound effects are too bland to get anyone but the most extreme college basketball fans excited.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Easy to learn, fairly hard to master.

Concept: 7.5
Top-notch b-ball gameplay coupled with new Motion Offenses that let you initiate plays manually while on the court. "Top-notch," however, does not equal "brand-new."

Multiplayer: 7.9
NCAA Basketball 10 generates a fun multiplayer experience, but with only two players allowed online (and only four offline), this part of the game feels dated.

Overall: 8.2
Most of NCAA Basketball 10's greatness comes from NBA Live 10, which means owners of that game would be better off renting this one. But if you haven't sunk your teeth into Live yet and prefer the college world, you won't be disappointed by NCAA Basketball 10.


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