With March Madness in full swing, 2K Sports has made a smart move by releasing their perennial college basketball franchise for the PlayStation 3. Built on the same engine as 2K Sports’ award-winning NBA 2K series, College Hoops may seem like the same game with a different coat of paint to most gamers, however, there are more than a few differences between these two b-ball titles. College Basketball is all about the tournament; having your school fight its way into the final bracket and of course hearing your fans screaming behind you the entire way. Hoops 2K7 does this and does it extremely well, making this a must-own title for fans of college basketball.
As far as sports games are concerned, all of the usual modes and features are here. Whether you want to enjoy a quick pick up game or run your team through the gamut and try to make it to the Final Four there is certainly no lack of stuff to do. If you don’t feel the need to actually play the game, you can also take on the role of coach and simply call plays, decide defensive tendencies, and even enjoy the game from the coach’s vantage point.
The meat and potatoes of the single-player experience, though, is easily the legacy mode. Here you will have control over almost every single aspect of the college basketball life including, recruiting players and even scheduling your own games throughout the season. There are two ways to tackle this mode, the first being a simple career mode that requires you to coach some lesser known programs until you are offered a shot at the big leagues. The second consists of an open-ended environment that allows you to coach any team you want, but tackling the bigger schools will require some patience and a true understanding the game itself.
While the sheer amount of stuff to accomplish in legacy mode may be overwhelming at first, it does give the sim-heads plenty to play around with. 2K has also a new feature this year called “hoopcast” that allows you to simply sim games during your career at the press of a button. This new feature also allows you to keep a closer eye on the on-court action by setting tendencies and even subbing players during the game.
Another huge draw to the core game is the presentation. From the incredibly detailed visuals to the accurately modeled stadiums, 2K Sports has delivered one of the finest college basketball experiences ever created. This is capped off by a preseason show hosted by Greg Gumbel and Kevin Kellogg that breaks down the best players and teams in the country.
Throughout the season you will also be treated to a weekly show that highlights the best from the past seven days and for those of you lucky enough to make it into the postseason, you can look forward to their wrap-up and of course the Selection Sunday show. This brings back memories of watching Chris Berman recap all of my Oakland Raiders highlights from the glory days of 2K Football, which I am here to assure you is a great thing.
Probably the biggest thing that separates this game from its NBA counterpart is the sheer variety in the teams. Unlike the NBA where most of the teams are comparable outside of the superstar factions, the NCAA has a larger degree of skill between some of the conferences. The on-court action feels more streamlined than in the NBA version and you feel more like your players are part of an actual team as opposed to a one man show. Picking your defensive strategies and knowing when to charge the net are vital to achieving victory. All of this works amazingly well, especially when you work as a team; however, it is entirely possible to mount a comeback regardless of how your team is performing.
What really separates this offering from other titles in the genre is the great control scheme. Thanks to the already established NBA engine, all of the essentials are executed to near perfection. You can still shoot with the right analog stick, which to me feels more comfortable than pressing a single button and you can perform crossovers by holding down R2 and moving the left analog stick.
You can choose to shoot with the face buttons, but, personally, I prefer the motion of using the analog. Icon passing has also made a triumphant return and is much more intuitive than your standard ball swapping. You can lead players and perform much better inside the key when you learn to master this function. Switching between formations is as easy as pressing the d-pad and all around the game plays as good as it looks.
It’s safe to say that College Hoops 2K7 looks great. Especially when running on a good HDTV setup. While not quite as impressive as it’s NBA cousin, even though they share the same engine, the game looks and moves so good at times you could mistake it for a real game. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the player faces cannot be used and 2K has to resort to using the generic models on the court. What really stands out though, are the subtle details such as cheerleaders and mascots on the sidelines and of course the rabid fans in the stadium displaying team colors and signs.
The arenas are also nicely detailed with some impressive lighting and reflection effects, and they even have some of the real life coaches on the sidelines which do add some realism to the atmosphere. The biggest upgrade though is definitely the player animations. From the crossover dribbling, to some truly spectacular dunks, this game looks and feels like a real game. While some of the transitions are questionable, most of the action is so authentic you would be hard pressed to decipher it from an actual game.
To further accent the authenticity and take the game level to eleven, 2K Sports has incorporated some of the best sound in a sports game to date. With the inclusion of over 200 different fight songs, you really get a sense of school pride when playing at home. Couple this with the truly dynamic and energetic crowd and you have an all around experience that is hard to match. The crowds will also have specific chants for each team; and, if that isn’t enough, you can use the brand new chant creator to have them spell out words and phrases during home games. The only minor complaint is the commentary, while Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist do a nice job of calling the action, they do repeat themselves far too often. However, the sideline calling by Bonnie Bernstein is surprisingly informative and insightful.
If you are a fan of college basketball and just happen to own a PS3, then this game is a no-brainer. You will be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience on the console. Add this to the fact that EA decided not to show up to the game this year, and you really have no other option. Of course, when your only choice is this good, it’s really hard to complain. 2K Sports still manages to impress with each new iteration of their franchises, and this gives me lots of hope for their forthcoming football title due this August. If March Madness has you hooked, College Hoops 2K7 is exactly what you have been needing. So go buy it now!