Gaming Today Reviews College Hoops 2K8
If you’ve already played NBA 2K8, you’ll have a really good idea of what to expect out of College Hoops this year – a solid basketball sim that suffers from a variety of quirks and bugs that hold it back from being great. While 2K8 does a tremendous job of giving you complete control over much of the game and providing the atmosphere of an actual game of college basketball, it ends up being a frustrating experience thanks to botched layups, horrendous voice work, and a cramped control style.
And I do mean horrendous voice work; while I’d normally jot down notes about a game as I play it for review, I ended up filling an entire page with idiotic quotes and miscues on the part of the commentators and the PA announcer. Whether it’s the PA announcer’s apparent need to stretch out words as much as possible – “innnnnnnntentionallllll foulllll” – or the commentators’ irritating voices, you’d be well-advised to change your sound settings to just what you would hear on the court. Otherwise, you’ll be subjected to completely incorrect calls (“they’re down 9” when they’re actually down 4) or repeating themselves three to four times consecutively when one team begins intentionally fouling the other. It’s downright terrible, and really is a disservice to the game.
Oh, and don’t let me forget the awful splicing job done when a team’s name is mentioned. It’s so readily apparent where voice clips were cut and pasted that it’s not even funny; it’s just sad.
Of course, those are relatively minor gripes with a basketball game, where the real importance is in how the game plays. As I mentioned earlier, it fundamentally plays a lot like NBA 2K8, and you can feel how similar the two are. For whatever reason – maybe to compensate for these being college players, not NBA stars – the number of alley-oops, ridiculous dunks and other annoyances you’ll run into with NBA 2K8 have been toned down dramatically so that the game plays much more realistically. The game is much more about the fundamentals; running plays, looking for the open man on offense, and playing solid defense.
One of the new features this year is the oddly named Maximum Passing. This enables you to choose what type of pass you throw to your teammate, which means you can lob the ball into your big man, lead someone coming off a screen, etc. It’s a terrific idea, but the way in which you pull it off – by holding a button and then hitting one of the face buttons to select a pass type – means you don’t have full control over which player you’ll pass to. As someone who employs icon passing religiously, this renders Maximum Passing worthless outside of fast breaks.
Other features are inherited directly from NBA 2K8, including the Range Meter (the cell phone reception bars you see by players feet indicating their shooting range) and lock-on D. The Range Meter is extremely helpful for when you don’t know if your man can shoot the ball, although at times it’ll show your player as having the range to make a long shot when they really don’t. It doesn’t pop up too often, but it can throw you off when it does happen.
Lock-on D is a mixed bag. Defense is notoriously bad in most sports games, basketball being one of them. The premise is that you can pull a shoulder trigger and “lock on” to the man you’re defending, letting the computer do most of the work in keeping your player in front of the offensive player. While it does help the otherwise sloppy feel you get when playing defense, it can be exploited where you have a slow center suddenly guarding a lightning-fast point guard as well as anyone. Ideally, though, it works out well but still doesn’t prevent those times where your AI counterparts will stand idly by while your opponent drives to the rim.
Legacy mode and the attachment you’ll develop to your players and your team makes up for the problems on the court. Starting out as a run-of-the-mill coach who takes over a sub-par team and working your way up to coaching the elite teams is an extremely satisfying journey. Seeing your team succeed and players develop as you thought they would while scouting them leaves you with a real sense of accomplishment.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is your desire for a college basketball game. 2K8 is certainly a competent one and worth your money if that’s what you’re looking for, but realize that what you’re getting into is far from a highly polished product. That, and you’ll be staring at an animatronic Greg Gumbel during the halftime show, which is absolutely horrifying.
The menus can be awkward to navigate, and the faux ESPN style recaps are just plain bad.
It’s not a bad looking game by any stretch. The animations look great (with a few exceptions), but the way that they actually flow doesn’t seem human-like. (The way they’re essentially stuck in an animation once it begins.) Plus, character models outside of the players (especially Greg Gumbel) are awful.
Maybe I’ve just gotten to a point where I automatically dislike any commentary in sports games, but this certainly seems like a lowpoint. It’s repetitive even in the short-term, lacks any real excitement, and team names are a horrible juxtaposition in the Mad Libs sentences they get placed in.
While it has its quirks, the actual basketball play is downright solid.
Sports games are inherently filled with replayability, and Legacy mode provides some terrific incentives to get you to keep coming back for more.
College Hoops 2K8 can be summed up pretty simply: it’s a very competent college basketball sim. It suffers from quite a lot of problems, but if you’re able to look past them, you’ll have a great time.