College Hoops 2K8 Review (Xbox 360)
Submitted on: Mar 19, 2012 by Bo McCready
College Hoops 2K8, though well-received, didn’t exactly rack up the accolades when it first came out almost five years ago. In fact, Operation Sports gave the game a measly seven on the old review scale -- nowhere near an score for what has been considered an all-time classic by the OS community. But since then, a devoted cult following has sprung up around the game. A large community of gamers continues to play College Hoops 2K8 religiously. For this piece, I revisited the game based on the current OS review standards and used rosters from the 2011-12 season to see how well the game holds up and how we might judge this much-beloved title if it came out today.
Critics of the sports gaming genre claim that many new games are little more than a roster update. Well, thanks to some talented and dedicated gamers, College Hoops 2K8 gets that roster update every year (and at no cost to gamers!). For this piece, I used Raiderfan’s most recent roster set.
The fact that high-quality rosters like Raiderfan’s exist speaks to one of the game’s strengths – customization. Individual players can be edited all the way down to their potential ratings. The create-a-school feature is solid as well. Add on the many unlockables, including jerseys and arenas, and there’s a lot to do in this one.
In the gameplay department, it’s hard to complain too much about balance issues – of which there are plenty – because the game’s sliders function so well. Unfortunately, the core gameplay is really showing its age, and that’s a problem sliders can’t fix. Driving to the hoop is awkward. Quite frankly, the game doesn’t play well on the default camera angle. It’s very difficult to find space to drive to the hoop on default settings, and without using an end-to-end camera, it’s next-to-impossible. The inside game is difficult to control and your players miss a surprising percentage of inside shots on default settings.
One feature worth mentioning is the “sixth man” momentum effects. When the home team is playing well, a little meter on the screen fills up to reflect their success. As the meter fills, the crowd grows increasingly raucous and home team players gain a boost in their ratings. The visiting team can halt this momentum by making their own great plays or calling a timeout. It’s a simple feature that’s executed very well. Games at neutral sites even include a meter for both teams, which shows nice attention to detail by the developers (Why is this not in NBA 2K?).
The gameplay isn’t terrible; it’s just unsatisfying, especially now that we’ve seen what is possible on current-gen consoles. For me, NBA 2K11 was the first game to really nail the interactions between a dominant point guard and his on-ball defender. After getting used to breaking down CPU defenses with speed or driving to the hoop and kicking the ball back out for a wide-open three, it’s tough to go back to a game where those things don’t really happen. In its time, College Hoops 2K8 had top-notch gameplay. But it can’t compare to recent titles.
Thankfully, the game’s version of a career mode, called Legacy Mode, is still stellar. Gamers have two options: Career and Open. The Career version has you starting out at a small school, building your reputation and ratings en route to better job offers. Meanwhile, Open Legacy Mode allows you to take over any program and max out your coach’s ratings right away. Whichever option you choose, you can swap teams between conferences, customize schedules and even add your team to a variety of in-season tournaments.
Legacy Mode remains one of the deepest and most fun career modes ever seen in a sports game. The key to the mode’s success lies in how well recruiting works. You can begin tracking players as high school freshmen, and maintaining contact through their first three years of high school pays dividends when you’re recruiting them as seniors. Player ratings are gradually revealed through contact and scouting actions. Recruiting doesn’t include any of the “pitches” we see in the NCAA Football series, but it still feels rich. Perhaps the coolest part is that lower-ranked recruits can still turn in to difference-makers. Features like player progression and morale work better than expected as well. Simply put, Legacy Mode stands the test of time.
Another cool Legacy Mode feature is the season preview, weekly wrap-up and Selection Sunday shows. The in-season shows aren’t complicated, but they add another layer of realism and immersion to the mode. The Selection Sunday show, though, is still awesome. There’s legitimate tension in watching the brackets revealed game-by-game. The show even identifies bubble teams before the brackets are revealed and finishes with a “who’s in/who’s out” breakdown of these teams. Again, immersion matters, and this feature is still a highlight.
Unfortunately, the simulation engine generates too many weird upsets. Sometimes, you don’t want to play a game against Radford or Western Kentucky when you can just sim past it and move on to a more interesting game. But I lost simulated games against both in my first season – before winning simulated games against multiple top-10 opponents. College basketball is unpredictable, but this game takes it a little too far. Then again, I'm sure Duke and Missouri would have something to say about this.
Overall, the graphics and gameplay of College Hoops 2K8 don’t hold up very well. In fact, I’m surprised at how little I enjoyed the actual basketball games. But Legacy Mode remains one of the best career modes in sports gaming history. If 2K slapped college uniforms on [I]NBA 2K11’s[/I] gameplay and attached to the College Hoops 2K8 Legacy Mode, the result might be the greatest sports game ever.
Graphics: Player models and faces that were goofy four years ago now look ghoulish. Animations are okay, although some player movements are clunky. The arenas, though, are beautifully rendered and incredibly detailed.
Sound: Although the commentary gets old quickly, the crowd noise is great. It’s rare that a college sports game captures the intensity of an NCAA crowd, but this one does.
Learning Curve: This game is challenging even on the default settings. But the controls are simple enough that anyone with a passing familiarity with basketball should figure things out in no time at all.
Replay Value: Immense. Legacy Mode is deep, engrossing, and fun. It’s not hard to see why so many people are still playing.