College sports fans rejoice. It’s college basketball season again and that can only mean one thing. My Syracuse Orangeman jersey is coming out of storage and College Hoops 2K8 from 2k sports is available. Am I excited? Well… Kind of. For me the college basketball games always just seemed a little less fun than all those NBA games out there.
The die hard college hoops fans out there are probably thinking how could I possibly even compare NBA and college hoops games. They are two different animals; apples and oranges. In real life maybe, in the virtual realm of video games not so much. Just different arenas, different jerseys and no names, but we’ll get to that later.
The game itself is actually quite good. The graphics are smooth and clean, and are every bit as sharp as next gen gamers have come to expect. I found myself watching the pregame warm-up for a couple minutes, and I immediately appreciated the realism of it all. The digital fans looked more like a real crowd than I have ever seen. Usually the fans are constantly doing the same thing or doing everything in some unnatural looking unison, but not these fans. They really seemed to have a life of their own. Same goes for the players during cut scenes. During the warm-up some players would shoot, others lay up, some would miss, most would score. It did not feel like a preprogrammed act, it looked and felt real.
The game has all the typical features of sports games nowadays: Legacy mode, Coach mode, tournament options as well as some mini games. The in game options are all there as well, with the ability to control everything from substitutions to how hard you want your team to go for rebounds. A nice new feature for 08 is the ability to create your own play, which comes in very handy if you are not satisfied with your teams playbook. The controls are good, new additions like the maximum pass ability let you choose how your player passes the ball: chest, bounce, lob etc. Lock on D is another helpful feature for those of us, like myself, who are defensively challenged. Everything I wanted was there.
The most commonly overlooked aspect of a game is whether or not it is fun to play. Today’s games are so visually stunning that it is easy for designers to forget that they are, first and foremost, supposed to be fun. Case and point, I would rather play Pac Man than Superman Returns for 360. Fortunately, for college hoops fans, 2K’s offering this year is both fun to play and easy on the eyes.
When it comes to Sports titles the experienced gamer knows that there are really only two viable options: 2K or EA. Each company brings different strengths and weaknesses to the table and at the end of the day it is a matter of personal preference as to which game you will enjoy more. I found that the 2K titles are slightly more arcade-like while EA games are generally more life like.
College Hoops 2K8 follows this trend and is definitely a closer relative of NBA jam than EA’s NBA basketball offering. I don’t want to give the impression that this is an arcade game but sometimes it can feel that way. Fast breaks are fast and mastering defense will only take you so far, offense is definitely the priority. The addition of features like the “sixth man meter”, which when filled gives your team a boost, add to the fun but take away from the realism. In the end it is up to you to decide what type of game play you prefer.
My only gripe with this game, and really it is with every college sports game, is the lack of real player names. I understand the NCAA’s position but I don’t understand why the issue cannot be resolved. It is a lot more fun to play as Paul Harris (Syracuse guard) than it is to play as #11 SG. Unless you know virtually every player by number it can be hard to see who has the ball, which after the third failed 3 point attempt with my center thinking he was my point guard, can become quite frustrating. They do allow you to enter the names manually, but to do the entire league would probably take until 09.
All in all, College Hoops 2K8 is a great game that is fun to play. It has deep controls, awesome graphics and cool extras. I had a blast playing with my buddies, but if I was not a serious college basketball fan I would probably pass on this one. However, if you just have to represent your school (GO CUSE!) you can’t go wrong with this title.
Graphics: 4.5 / 5.0
Gameplay 4.5 / 5.0
Sound 4.0 / 5.0
Replay value 4.5 / 5.0