Reviewed: January 12, 2006
Released: November 22, 2005
Well, this is my first time playing a college basketball game, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m pretty much a pro sports kinda guy when it comes to games, and my initial reaction after the first few games of College Hoops 2K6 was that this was nothing more than their NBA game with dumber A.I. and intentionally missed shots. Then I decided to expand my horizons and invited some buds over who follow the college scene more aggressively than I do, and they set me straight.
Until playing this game I wasn’t used to missing more shots than I attempted or seeing three…four…FIVE offensive rebounds before the ball finally fell through the net. It’s odd. Working in a sports bar I see more than my fair share of college hoops, but I just never made the distinction that these guys are that much less-skilled than their NBA counterparts.
Again, having never really played previous iterations of this game I was forced to rely on the input of my friends assisting me with this review, so thanks to Steve, Nick, and Brett for their input.
Nick was quick to point out the lack of ESPN flavor in this year’s game. I don’t think it really hurts the overall presentation, but it might take some of the polish off it. Jay Bilas and Mike Patrick flew the coop along with the ESPN license, and this year we get Clark Kellogg and Greg Gumble who turn in authentic performances for all the coverage outside the game as well as the new Selection Sunday.
Brett was pretty excited about Selection Sunday. Apparently this is the first time it has appeared in a college basketball game and I guess it’s a pretty big deal in the real world, so this actually helps root the game in reality. The rest of the NCAA experience is fleshed out with excellent preseason coverage that carries over into the season play.
Those who have already been playing NBA 2K6 will feel right at home on the collegiate courts. The same excellent features like the shot stick and the strip-n-rip defense are all here and work just as good as we’d expect. These new analog inputs give you amazing freedom to shape your shots or creatively poke at the ball and steal it away.
Stealing is huge in College Hoops 2K6, more so than any NBA game I have ever played. That goes for turnovers as well. After coming off weeks of NBA gaming I made the mistake of trying to make half-court passes and the game ended up looking like volleyball without the net. The opposing team is uncannily aware of these passes and will intercept the longer ones nearly half the time, or so it seemed.
Actually making a shot in this game requires a lot more effort. Not only do you have to fight your way to the hoop, you often have to finesse that shot into the basket amidst severe double-teaming efforts. And don’t be surprised to see a lot more offensive rebounds from the computer A.I.
Steve is the resident EA gamer (but we’re still friends anyway) and was quick to offer up some comparisons to NCAA March Madness 06, or more to the point, the fact that there was no comparisons. Even with the loss of the ESPN license 2K Sports has managed to create a game that looks and plays better and comes with a more polished presentation and feature list.
Everyone was in agreement about the presentation in College Hoops 2K6 that flows like beer at a frat party. The crowd is dressed in school colors and chant and cheer and wave. Reasonably cute cheerleaders dance on the sidelines and the mascots do their own routines to pump up the school spirit. This is the next best thing to actually being at the game.
The Legacy mode really doesn’t have an NBA parallel. You can either let the computer recruit for you or head off to training camps for high school players or recruit from the list of junior transfers. It can be especially rewarding if you do manage to add that all-star player to your team.
Season mode is pretty much like an NBA game but you have to massage the egos of your players even more than the pros it seems. Keep somebody on the bench too long and he might transfer to another team. You get to meet with your team ten times each season to “adjust” their attitude and hopefully make them play better. Lose too many games and you might be looking for a new team to coach.
Those looking for instant gratification can jump into a Quick Game or if you want to try for the Championship without all that season play you can just dive into the Pontiac Tournament and play out all the conference tournaments and final game. Nick did some comparisons between the artificial seeding of the Pontiac Tournament and the results from an actual season, and we both agree that you will have a much more realistic tournament if you actually play the season and let those results populate the bracket.
NCAA doesn’t allow real players to be used so you can either opt for jersey numbers or randomly generated names. Despite how you refer to your players, their models and animations are extremely well done, although I’m seeing a lot of “familiar” motions from the NBA game. No, they aren’t borrowing signature moves from all-stars, but the generic running and dribbling are obviously reused.
Even though real players cannot be included in the game that doesn’t prohibit the coaches from participating and a majority of them do. At least 80% of the NCAA coaches can be found on the sidelines assuming you are into the other teams enough to recognize them. The same goes for team mascots.
You have unprecedented freedom to tweak your team, change the mascot, dress the cheerleaders (not as fun as it sounds), pick colors for home and away uniforms, and even decorate the court with custom lines and backboard designs.
Despite the loss of the ESPN license College Hoops 2K6 manages to create an engaging presentation with plenty of broadcast flavor. Even the menus are attractive and easy to navigate.
The actual play-by-play commentary is pretty simple, mostly due to the lack of any real players. When everyone is referred to by their jersey number the game just seems artificial and generic, but that’s not a problem with the game, only the NCAA. Despite the content, Vern Lundquist gives the broadcast booth just the right amount of authenticity juxtaposed with the color-commentary from Bill Raferty, and Bonnie Bernstein keeps us updated with the latest info from courtside.
During the game the arenas come alive with cheering crowds, stadium music, cheerleaders, and of course, squeaky sneakers and a bouncing ball. You can even hear major momentum shifts as the home team starts winning or losing. It’s totally immersive.
Whether you are trying to become the perfect coach or create the perfect team, the Legacy and Season modes in College Hoops 2K6 will keep you engrossed in this game for months to come. And the multiplayer is phenomenal, both local and online. Those with a competitive edge will certainly find the online tournaments and leagues a compelling reason to perfect their game.
There is seldom a reason to ever stop playing any sports game, at least until the next year’s edition comes out and I’m guessing that if you love college basketball you’ll be playing this one until 2007.
For me, this game is a mixed bag. I don’t follow college hoops that closely, so personally I’d rather play NBA 2K6 where I actually know the teams and the individual players. Even so, I have to admit I got hooked on the Legacy mode and I really wish there was a way to take my college players into the NBA game. If they could tie these two franchises together I would be sold.
But personal preference aside, College Hoops 2K6 is a fantastic basketball game, better than NCAA March Madness 06 (according to Steve) with as much flavor and presentation as any live event or any other sports game that would hope to compete with it. This is as good as its gets…until next year.