With 2K Sports relinquishing the rights to create an NCAA basketball game, it’s now up to EA Sports to entertain the college basketball gamers. As usual, the guys at EA has pounced on this opportunity and has already given us details on the new direction the series is going.
Next-Level Authenticity—Introducing true-to-life styles of play for every Division I team, including authentic team ratings and scouting reports from the creators of the annual Blue Ribbon™ College Basketball Yearbook.
I think it’s a great idea for the guys at EA to form a partnership with the makers of the college hoops bible and I’d love to see this more in sports games. Rather than have the game developers themselves decide what a player or team’s ratings should be, just hand that job over to the known experts so there is no room for bias or perceived inconsistency. This feature, if implemented properly, would bring the authenticity of each D1 team to NCAA Basketball 09 and that’s a key component for college basketball. Unlike the NBA, where Pau Gasol for lunch money trades can happen overnight or Larry Brown can move to his fourth team by the end of the week, the college basketball scene is much more stable. The rosters, style of play, and coaching staff pretty much stay constant throughout a college hoops season.
Execute Your Gameplan—Choose pre-game strategies that reinforce your style of play and then keep an eye on the all-new Game Tempo Meter to make adjustments on the fly.
The Game Tempo Meter replaces the Momentum Meter from March Madness 08, and while it seems similar it is not. The Game Tempo Meter is a coaching tool which basically tells you and your team what type of strategy you should carry out. If you’re running with cover boy Kevin Love’s alma mater, UCLA, you want to keep that meter somewhere around the middle since the Bruins are balanced offensively.
NCAA Basketball 09 is the beginning of a "new" franchise for EA Sports.
Set The Tempo—Use all 94 feet to push the ball or apply full court pressure to force turnovers to speed the game up, walk the ball up the floor and initiate a half-court set or use a balanced attack to take advantage of what your opponent gives you. Set the tempo and play your game to put yourself in a position to come out on top.
Since EA Sports tends to put out games with plenty of focus on the offensive side of the court, it’s great to see the developers not short-changing defense in the equation of the game tempo. Hopefully there is a variety of defensive sets, plays, and traps that can be run to either speed up the game or make your opponents use the clock. If there is, then I look forward to hounding any team that crosses my path with those Memphis Tigers. However, my hope is that none of these game styles are way more effective than others. Balance needs to be emphasized in this feature, as reward should be given to those who know when to apply a certain tactic.
New Game Engine—Over 1,000 new animation sequences deliver a more responsive, intelligent experience. Apply pressure defense with new full-court presses and traps. Plus, quicker players now get up and down the floor faster and make better decisions running lanes and driving to the rim.
I am excited about the new engine. As a basketball junkie, nothing excites me more than seeing tons of animations mimicking the real deal. The quirky passing animations that have plagued EA Sports basketball games in recent memory I hope are a thing of the past come release time. Court spacing should also be improved, with emphasis being placed on the running lanes being filled. As far as attacking the rack goes, expect to see more of the same layup packages that were in Live 09.
College basketball is more parts atmosphere and rivalry than it's pro counterpart.
• Quick Strike Ankle Breakers—Force your defender to step up and guess what you’ll do next. Trigger the turbo button and use the right analog stick for bold, responsive ball-handling moves to fake out your defender and create scoring opportunities.
• Lockdown Control—New risk reward system to lock in your check on defense. Get in tight on a strong shooting guard to take away his shot, or play back to keep a quick point guard from blowing by you.
• Signature Playcalling—Introducing an accessible in game play-calling system that pushes on-court visualization to guide you through the play.
• Pick and Roll Control—New two-man game mechanic enables you to control both the ball handler and screener simultaneously. Set screens and run two man plays, with on-screen instructions to guide you.
I anticipate very little difference between Live 09 and NCAA Basketball 09 in this department.
Real-Time Coaching Feedback System—Your school’s coach is with you every step of the way. Listen to real NCAA® Coaches on the sidelines providing real time feedback, helping you play at your ideal tempo.
A bit skeptical on how this feature is going to be carried out in the game. Would the coaches always give advice based on their team’s identity rather than the specific in-game situation? If so, that could be a problem if your team is down big in the second half and Coach Hewitt of Georgia Tech is still telling you to run the clock. Avoiding that issue, it would be great for real hoop fans to have in-game tips from the sidelines. Your star player also being able to get Billy Donovan’s advice on going pro would be great stuff too, but that might be asking a bit too much.
• New Tournaments: Participate in major tournaments like the Pre and Post season NIT, EA SPORTS Maui Invitational or new ones like the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Anaheim Classic and Old Spice Classic.
• Deeper Dynasty Mode: Featuring a new recruiting database, a Dynasty Yearbook to review previous seasons and create-a-coach that enables you to set the playing style of your school.
• Online Everywhere—Wait and watch for rival users to log on and then challenge them to a spirited match-up in new Rival Challenge Mode. Plus, edit and share roster files through EA Locker 3.0
More modes and depth for offline players, while online everywhere should give the online group more heated matchups to play in. Although this won't be happening this year, the matching of games based on each player’s favorite team does make an online association mode for basketball games seem a lot more feasible doesn’t it? I certainly hope to see that in the future, but for now if you’re a college hoops fan then mark November 17 on your calendar to see how these features pan out.