College Hoops 2K7 REVIEW

College Hoops 2K7 Review (Xbox 360)

I must admit that I’m not a huge college basketball fan. I watch a lot of games and go to a few Georgetown and Maryland games a year, but I’ve always preferred the NBA. That said, every year the basketball game that I play the most every year is 2K’s College Hoops series. For the past four years, it’s been the game that has come closest to representing real basketball. I’m ashamed to say it, but I was actually upset when last year’s XBOX 360 release was pushed back to March because that meant I wasn’t going to be able to play the game during the real season. Well, its winter again, and the College Hoops series is back with another strong effort.

Graphically, this game is on par with the past 2K basketball games, but this still remains a weak part of this series. The body models are decent, but some of the heads on the models are too big. Also, while I know that the NCAA prevents game developers from creating players that resemble the real-life players, there are far too many players that look nothing like their real life counterpart. I understand that it’s a fine line but it’s not a NCAA violation to create a player that has the same skin tone as the real player. Thankfully, all of this can be edited with the player editor. This year’s game has the most complete editor I’ve seen in a basketball game. If you have the time, you can replicate the face of your favorite player.

The arenas are another area where College Hoops 2K7 needs work. While many of the major arenas like Indiana’s Assembly Hall are spot-on, there are some rather nagging issues with some of the other major arenas like Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and UNC’s Dean Smith Center. Both arenas resemble their real-life counterparts, but they have certain flaws; like seating arrangements and random open spaces that are painfully obvious to big fans of those teams or anyone who has ever been to or seen the arenas. For example, in the 2K version of the Dean Smith Center, there are huge empty spaces between the one row of court-side seats and the rest of the seats in the arena. Anyone who has ever watched a UNC game on TV knows these empty spaces don't exists in real life. One other thing that concerns me is that even though NBA 2K7 and College Hoops 2K7 are similar games, it appears that there are things that both teams could share with each other that aren’t being shared. For example, the Verizon Center in College Hoops 2K7 is closer to the real arena then the one in NBA2K7. While the arenas' issues are admittedly small, it’s a shame that more hasn’t been done to make the arenas as authentic as they should be.

2K did the right thing and decided to stick with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery as its play-by-play team, but there are some issues. I enjoy both announcers in real-life and their talent also comes across in this game. Still its seems as if 2K may not have had much studio time with Verne, as there are a few major players' names that he did not record. The biggest name missing is the #1 freshman in the country, Greg Oden. What is even stranger is that some of the lesser known freshmens' names are spoken, like Maryland’s Grieves Vasquez. On a better note, the crowd noise and crowd chants are some of the best I’ve ever heard in a sports game. It is impossible to not get excited when the home crowd shouts “THREE” when you shoot from beyond the arc. The chant creator is a new feature, and while it can potentially add something to the atmosphere, I found it to be fluff. I was unable to find a way to assign a chant to an individual team and it appears that every chant you create is used by every team. This feature is good for generic chants, like “Lets Go, Team”, but is useless for team-specific chants.

When it comes to gameplay, College Hoops 2K7 is very similar to last year’s game - and that’s a good thing. As has been the case in previous versions of College Hoops, each team plays like the real-life squad. Notre Dame shoots a ton of three-pointers, Florida focuses on getting the ball to Joakim Noah, and Wisconsin’s offense is slow and deliberate. The game also features a ton of player and coaching attributes that can be customized to make the game play however you want it to. I’m a big fan of sliders and games that allow the user as much control as possible, and College Hoops 2K7 is great in that area. This freedom is much-needed in certain areas of the game. One such area is the substitution logic. I don’t know what’s going on at 2K headquarters this year, but the substitution logic in both 2K basketball games has been downright screwy. The logic in College Hoops 2K7 isn’t as bad as its NBA counterpart, but it’s a bit unrealistic. In the real NCAA, there are very few teams that play all twelve players on its roster in a game. In College Hoops 2K7, the CPU plays every player on its roster in every game. Most teams have an eight-to-ten man rotation, and it’s frustrating to see the 12th man on each team play significant minutes. Thankfully, you can adjust each team’s bench usage slider to force them to shorten the bench. Still when something as small as substitution logic is the biggest problem in a game, that’s a pretty good thing.

One thing that many fans may become frustrated with is the number of missed lay-ups, but I like it. This is college basketball. The field goal percentages are much lower than the pros and the large majority of players are less than NBA quality. College players miss lay-ups in real life, and I like that they miss them in this game. College Hoops 2K7 is also one of the few basketball games where you can play 20 minute halves and generate realistic scoring and shot totals. Another great addition to the series is the addition of individual jump-shots. Accurate jump-shots aren’t assigned to each player out of the box, but die-hard fans should be able find a jump-shot that fits their favorite players.

The on-court aspect of the game isn’t perfect though, and there are a few glitches. One of the biggest is that the game calls many fouls that occur during a shot as blocking fouls and fails to grant the player free throws. This situation occurred at least twice a game in each game I played. While it definitely isn’t a game-killing glitch, it would be really frustrating if this glitch occurred during an important stretch of the game and cost the user a win. It’s also kind of amazing that 2K’s QA department missed this, when I (and several people on the OS message boards) discovered this glitch in the very first game I played. Also, I found the part of the controller setup to be a little clunky. Instead of leaving it the way it has been in previous versions, 2K mapped the drop step to the shoot button instead of giving the move its own separate button. The user must tap the shoot button this year in order to drop step, and I found myself accidentally shooting a few times when I just wanted to drop step.

One of my biggest disappointments and one of the things I wish College Hoops would have borrowed from NBA 2K7 is the play-calling and substitution interface. Last year’s game took a step in the right direction by adding an on-court substitution interface. This was one of the first games that allowed the user to make substitutions during dead balls and without pausing the game. NBA 2K7 took it a step forward by letting the user make subs during play and during dead balls. NBA 2K7 also expanded the on-court play-calling by permitting eight quick play sets, four generic plays and four team specific plays. I assumed that since the two games are similar and borrow a lot of ideas from each other, that the play-calling and substitution interface would be similar. I was wrong. The substitution interface is the same as last year ,and play-calling only allows four plays. Still, the current interface isn’t the worst one I've ever seen, and it doesn’t take away much from the game.

When your Legacy mode is one of the best in the business, anything you add to it will just be icing in the cake. This year, College Hoops 2K added a lot of small things, but added together, they all add up to a significant improvement. Last year’s game already had the best presentation I'd ever seen in a basketball game, and 2K did the smart thing by just adding to it. Not only are the Season Preview and Tournament Selection shows still in the game, but 2K added a weekly "College Hoops Tonight" show. As I worked through my Legacy mode, I found myself looking forward to the end of the week just so I could see which games they choose to profile and what schools the top recruits signed with. Another great addition is the Records feature. Now you can document the stat leaders in your Legacy, and the stats are so detailed that they are organized by school, coach, game and the NCAA.

Legacy mode is not perfect though, and there are some glitches. The biggest issue I have is with the polls. It seems as if the polls do not take into account the strength of schedule when determining rankings. There were a number of times I found undefeated teams from smaller conferences ranked higher than one- or two-loss teams from bigger conferences. Now, that would be acceptable if the teams had similar strength of schedules, but a one-loss Kansas team that just lost to top-ranked Florida should be ranked higher than a undefeated Old Dominion team that has played nothing but cupcakes.

Online functionality is perhaps the weakest part of this year’s version. 2K Sports is becoming well known for two things: great online setup and online glitches that make playing the game online frustrating. College Hoops 2K7 is no different. As usual with a 2K game, you can set up tournaments and leagues online and the setup is rather straightforward. The problem is that random glitches, such as players appearing on the wrong teams and frame-rate issues can sometimes make you want to stick with the off-line modes. These glitches aren’t that frequent, but they occur enough to be a significant nuisance.

When you add it all up, College Hoops 2K7 still plays a great game of basketball, and many of the glitches are fixable through slider tweaks. It is frustrating, though, that many of the bugs found in this game should have been fixed before release, and hopefully, it’s is not a sign that 2K is starting to backslide after years of releasing great basketball games. The next few years are going to be very interesting for this series. It appears that 2K has done all they can with this basketball engine, and if they stick with it in future versions, many will feel that it’s more of the same. I personally love the engine and feel it’s the closest to real basketball that I’ve ever seen in a game. It will be interesting to see if 2K decides to create a new engine and run the risk that it won’t replicate basketball as well as the current one does. But that’s the future, and right now, College Hoops 2K7 is the most realistic and enjoyable basketball game on the market.

College Hoops 2K7 Score
out of 10