basketball game certainly has its share of thrills. If a team hits its stride,
just about anything can be accomplished on a given night, even having a small
school knock off a powerhouse.
2K Sports keeps
that in mind with some wonderful additions to College Hoops 2K8, but lest you
think this game is a rim-rocker, there are a few missteps on the way to the
basket that might prevent it from taking home the national championship.
dwelling on the ‘less-than-good’ aspects, the spotlight should shine on the
terrific additions the 360 title brings to the fore. In the 2007 iteration, more
attention was paid to the influence of the crowd, including the ability to
create chants to help give your team a little more charge. That aspect has drawn
some new focus this season and as a result, there is the 6th man
meter. The more your team pulls off strong plays, like a dunk or a steal or
buries a three-pointer, the louder the ‘6th man’ will get, and that
will affect the other team. You can be down by 12 points and start a run, with
the crowd getting louder with each point you score in whittling at the
opposition’s lead. Conversely, the louder the crowd, the more likely your
opponent is to make mistakes, whether it be in terms of errant passes, or making
poor shot choices. This definitely adds a thrill to the game.
And if that
were not enough, considering the strength of the 2007 title, 2K8 has tweaked
some of the game mechanics, including passing the ball. It is called Maximum
Passing and it allows players to select the target of the pass, but also to
determine what type of pass to make. Instead of the standard chest pass, you can
now lob, bounce pass or lead pass, all actuated by the left bumper on the
controller. The right bumper will pop up player icons, so you can select which
player you wish to pass to, but be forewarned, the icons can jump quickly
page from the NBA title, College Hoops brings in the Lock-on D element. However,
this is handled unevenly. The idea is to match-up and stay in front of a player,
prohibiting that player from a quick step move that blows by the defender.
However, the feature needs help as even a slow 7-footer can successfully stay
step-for-step with a speedy point guard when you lock on (left trigger).
feature seems to be mini-game oriented with little use outside of accomplishing
the 14 drills. The All-American Training Challenge is designed to build up
player’s game skills, but does not have anything to do with overall player
effectiveness inside the game. You can still miss very easy shots. And some of
the referee calls – or non-calls, as it were – were simply odd. There was an
obvious backcourt violation that was missed. And on a made basket, the team
supposed to be in-bounding the ball didn’t; it simply picked up the ball under
the basket and passed it up the floor.
There is a
coaching mode that will allow you to see and call the game from the coach’s
eyes. It is a nice feature and the d-pad allows you to call plays on the fly,
even in other game modes. However, this does not always function quite like it
should. On several occasions the defensive call was either for a 2-3 or 3-2 zone
and a pair of defensive players ended up occupying the same spot on the floor,
or trying to. But even as the game starts to pull off some quirks, it quickly
rebounds with some game flow elements that are very well done, like coaching
adjustments at the half in a game.
When you reach
halftime the home coach is afforded the opportunity to tweak the team philosophy
for the second half. You can alter game strategies such as fast-break
transitions or crashing the boards. This really gives the sense that the player
is in charge of the game, which is a good thing considering that the AI is
really pretty solid. Late in the game, with the controlled team trailing, the
players will automatically foul without being specifically directed to do so. It
is a tactic often employed to slow the clock, but to see the game smart enough
to go into that mode without the flick of a button was very nice.
mode was featured in 2K7, the ABL has been added to this year’s game, enabling
coaches to play with the approximately 1,500 high school players from around the
nation to get a handle on whom to recruit. The ABL schedule can be played or
downside, the game seems to have a bit of a problem in the Create mode,
especially the create a school function. Creating a player is easy. Not only do
you get to play with a wide range of numbers affecting his game, but you can
drop him onto the roster of your choice. However, in creating a school, there is
no easy way to insert that school into a league. Yes, you can micro-manage the
team in creating your own playbook, and selecting players (cloning, actually)
from the represented players throughout the NCAA (no actual players, but rather
players with made up names that do sort of emulate tendencies of some players on
the real college teams), but actually using that team seems to be a feature well
hidden in the game, if there are all – at least when it comes to the Legacy
mode. Sure, you can pull up the team and have it play one of its rivals in Quick
Play, but even there things were a little off. The team logo was there, as was
the team name in the pop-up windows. However, the uniform colors were not what
was selected and on the in-game arena scoreboard, the team was named Notre Dame
(which was not the name given to the school).
When it comes
to the game’s graphics, the dev team has done some solid work in terms of player
animation. Ripping away rebounds looks authentic, though the jump shot animation
has a bit of a hitch in the release point that seems to be in front of the
forehead at times. Still, the settings and players look good. The audio is also
very well done.
2K8 does have a
strong online component as well, with the Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 allowing
Xbox Live players to mirror the NCAA tourney matchups for a chance to win a trip
to the Final Four. There are also a bevy of tournaments online to challenge
2K8 is a game where the pluses vastly outweigh the negatives. The 6th
man feature, coaching adjustments, play designer all are welcomed additions to a
very good title. Is this the best college basketball game of the year? That
question won’t be answered until EA Sports March Madness 08 releases in two
weeks, but 2K’s title is a very strong contender and it will take a major effort
to unseat it from a run at the national title.
There are some
oddities, like a team that just hits a dry-spell for no apparent reason and
can’t even make a simple lay-up, and there is a bit of a learning curve to fully
appreciate the nuances of the game. The user interface can appear to be more
painful than it actually is, but the game AI is very good.
From the courtside
cameras, the game looks terrific. The players tend to lose something when seen
up close, but the animations are solid.
The ambience, from
the crowd to the arena announcer, is there and the play-by-play is handled well
by the trio of Verne Lundquist, Bill Rafferty and Tracy Wolfson.
Some more attention
could have been given to the ‘create’ modes, but the additions made to this
year’s release are very solid.
Online tourneys will
challenge those who have the thirst of strong competition.
A very good game
that should have fans of the college game excited. The 2K team has upped the
ante when it comes to game mechanics and that makes College Hoops 2K8 an
enjoyable and challenging experience.