College Hoops 2K8 Review
The college game of basketball is not the same as that played in the NBA, and this point is not lost on the developers of College Hoops 2K8. The first big difference is that the college game is played in front of some of the rowdiest crowds you'll find in any sport. A fired-up student section can make it feel like the whole arena is shaking apart. College Hoops tries to capture some of this energy with its new 6th Man Meter. As the home team makes big plays it fires up the crowd, which in turn fires up the team to make bigger plays, which fires up the crowd... This cycle is captured in the 6th Man Meter. As good plays are made the meter fills to reflect the crowd's excitement. Maxing out the meter will give your team a boost while at the same time making it harder for your opponents to execute plays and make their shots. It's a cool feature even if it was borrowed from EA's NCAA Football game of a couple of years ago. In practice though it's not quite perfect in the way it reflects a real crowd's excitement. If you've ever been to a real college basketball game then you know that the crowd's mood swings can be pretty wild. A slam dunk can send it through the roof while a single three pointer from the opposition can bring it crashing down in a moment. The 6th Man Meter simply needs to be more volatile. It's too lethargic in charging up and degrades a little too quickly off of its highs when nothing has happened on the court to change the home team's momentum.
College crowds are also fond of chanting, something you don't see much from pro fans except for the time-honored "Beat LA" chant. The game includes a really cool chant editor that lets you piece together words, letters, claps, stomps, horns, and more to create your own custom crowd chants. Not only is this a good way to add some of your old favorites from your alma mater to the game, you make some of the types of chants that only a drunken frat boy would love. After you create them you can save them and set them up for use in your games.
Another difference between the pro and college games is player acquisition. College recruiting requires player scouting, and a lot of it. This is reflected in the game by the addition of ABL games to the dynasty mode. The ABL is a nation-wide high school all star league that helps college recruiters more effectively gauge the talent level of the year's top senior players. You can jump in and take control of each and every ABL game all the way through the championship if you'd like. Doing so will earn you bonus recruiting points as well as let you see some of the prospects that you are interested in in action. Frankly this is all too much for me. I'm usually just mildly interested in the recruiting aspect of dynasty modes and I am nowhere near methodical enough to keep track of each player in a high school game for recruiting purposes. It's pretty simple; if you love really getting into a game's recruiting feature then you'll probably enjoy the ABL games. If you're not so sure, ask yourself if you'd ever run down to the store to preorder your copy of High School Basketball.
The on-court action itself features some of the innovations introduced this year with NBA 2K8. The first is known as Maximum Passing and you know it's a good idea because it will make you wonder why it's taken so long for something like this to appear in a basketball game. One of the longstanding issues with basketball games is that the passes have always been of lazy lob variety, prone to steals and to going to the wrong man. Now you can hold the left bumper when you want to make a pass and use the face buttons to select the pass type. Why'd we have to wait so long to be able to do a bounce pass in a videogame? The system isn't perfect though, down court passes still have an annoying habit of going towards the wrong man and as a result usually into the hands of the other team. It has the potential of being a good system, but for now passing still has its frustrating moments.