College Hoops 2K6 REVIEW

College Hoops 2K6 Review (Xbox 360)

If you would have told me it was going to be March before I would get a chance to play an Xbox 360 college basketball game, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here we are in the middle of March and College Hoops 2K6 just hit the shelves. There are multiple reasons behind the delay, but it’s possible that releasing a game during the excitement of "March Madness "could be a good thing. While many of us are bitter that it took until March for the game’s release, many of us are huge basketball fans who are happy that the gaming's best basketball series has finally come to the Xbox 360.

In a lot of ways, College Hoops 2K6 reminds me of its pro basketball counterpart, NBA 2K6. Both games have similar player and crowd graphics and animations. One difference is the crowd, coaches and bench blend into the game much better in College Hoops 2K6. Every arena has a student section and individual sections of the crowd react differently. While you can still tell that the on-court players are much more detailed and higher quality than the players on the bench or the crowd, it’s not as distracting as it is in NBA 2K6. You can tell that 2K Sports is slowly but surely getting closer to having the same detail for the on-court players and the crowd.

Sadly, the College Hoops series has been known for two things, great gameplay and bugs - and this year is no different. In previous years, the series has been filled with bugs that have affected gameplay and the Dynasty mode. There is nothing more frustrating than playing a few years of a dynasty and have your save become corrupted because of a bug. So far, I haven’t run across any bugs as big as in previous years (Last year, I ran into a bug that prevented me from simulating past a certain date) but there are still a few that take away from the game. A number of small bugs like problems with replays, the “potential” rating of players and a few graphical glitches popped up in this year’s version, but there's nothing game -threatening like last years’ bugs. That said, 2K Sports' reputation continues to take more damage every year as they release games with bugs that should have been caught and fixed before release.

The biggest glitch appears online this year, as many users - including myself - have trouble connecting and staying connected when playing custom games against friends. It’s a strange error, because I was able to connect using the “quick match” function and play a lag-free and fun game online against a stranger. When you can connect, it’s the best online basketball experience that I’ve ever had. Unlike NBA 2K6, games don’t turn into fast breaking dunk-fests but strategic and realistic games. If you don’t play at a slower, college-like tempo and utilize your team’s strengths, you will get blown out. College Hoops 2K6 is one of the few games that I’ve played where the online and offline experiences are similar and both are enjoyable.

All of the features found in the current version of the game are found in the Xbox 360 version. The “shot stick” is in this version and so are the new Isomotion controls. Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg still appear during the preseason and tournament selection shows, however, I would have liked to see a better graphical upgrade when it comes to this version of the game. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery also handle the play by play in the Xbox 360 version and continue the tradition of good commentary in the College Hoops series. Raftery says all of his catchphrases like “Man to Man!” and “With the Kiss!” but they aren’t repeated enough so that they become annoying unlike other basketball games (I’m talking to you, Dick Vitale).

I have to give 2K Sports credit when it comes to the on-court part of the game. It seems to me that they have the pace of the college game down. There is constant movement, but it’s not extremely fast or unrealistic. Watching the game in motion resembles a real college basketball game. The College Hoops series has always featured distinctive team play-styles and this year’s version is no different. Duke will look to shoot more threes than most teams; Syracuse will use the 2-3 zone exclusively, and teams like Ohio State will constantly focus on the post. I still have a few problems with some of the team tendencies ,though. For example, Duke shoots more threes than the average team in this game, but not as many as they do in real life. You will rarely see a Duke team pass up an open (or sometimes covered) three-point opportunity, however in College Hoops 2K6, the CPU will sometimes pass up open threes with players like J.J. Redick.

This leads to a greater problem - the CPU seems too attached to running the play that’s called. There are certain instances where I will double-team a star player, leaving a teammate open. Instead of passing the ball to the open teammate, the CPU will run the play as designed and force the ball to the double-teamed player. The AI must be programmed to improvise and make the user pay if he chooses to leave a shooter open.

In my opinion, the perfect dynasty mode is easy enough for the casual gamer to play and navigate through multiple seasons and deep enough for the hardcore gamer to feel like he is actually coaching a team. College Hoops does a beautiful job of giving the user the choice about how immersed he wants to be in the dynasty. If you want to manage all of the day-to-day activities for your team like recruiting, scouting and coaching you can. If you just want to cut to the chase and play your next scheduled game, you can also do that. One future addition to the series that I would love to see is the addition of the Drills feature to the dynasty mode. In this year’s game, you can run a number of drills and scrimmages with a team outside of the dynasty mode. This feature allows you to not only get familiar with a team, but with other basketball skills. I would love to see the Drills feature have an effect on your team’s ratings in the dynasty mode. Coaches say that if you practice hard, you will play hard - and I would love to see that statement come to life in the next version of the game. One other feature that I enjoy is the Coach Clipboard. It allows you to make substitutions, change defensive strategies and team focus without pressing pause and leaving the court. This feature alone helps the immersion factor and decreases the time it takes to play a game.

It seems like I say the same thing when it comes to all of the 2K Sports Xbox 360 games this year. Since the features are pretty much identical to the current-gen versions of the games, I find it hard to suggest that someone pay 30 dollars more for what surmounts to a graphical upgrade. If you don’t have the Xbox version and/or you the improved and beautiful graphics are important to you, I strongly suggest that you purchase this game. However, if you already have the Xbox or PS2 version and are satisfied with the game, I see no reason for you to make the upgrade.

College Hoops 2K6 Score
out of 10