Reviewed: February 18, 2007
Released: November 20, 2006
I’ve been an EA Sports fan for years. I’m not really sure if it was by default (the only game available), or by choice. 2K had a really innovative football game a few years ago but I stuck with Madden. I never really took 2K seriously until I put their NHL Hockey game in a few months ago. That’s when I realized 2K is for real.
So I was looking forward to this year’s showdown between EA’s NCAA March Madness 07 and 2K Sports’ College Hoops 2K7. The trend at EA seems to be “putting all their cookies into one jar” – and that jar is graphics. On the other hand, 2K seems to like the “put in as many features as humanly possible” approach.
I’m looking forward to this! The battle between EA Sports and 2K Sports rages on…
When you start up the game it will go straight to the setup menu for a game between your favorite team and its biggest rival. Press ‘start’ and you get the actual coach giving a short speech to the team. Then it’s off to the races.
The game opens in an accurately modeled home arena where you participate in the warm-up shoot around drill. Once the game gets going you’ll find it to be one of most satisfying sports games out there. Spending time with the 50 page manual always helps and gives you some idea just how many features are packed into this game.
The game options are too numerous to mention. You can alter pretty much any aspect of the rules and presentation as you see fit. There are 29 camera angles with up to six settings for each angle (zoom, height etc.).
Similar to March Madness, College Hoops 2K7 has a player composure/confidence meter. It seems to be a bit more liberal (and thus more accurate to real life) than EA’s version.
The player animations and the general flow of the game are really accurate. The player likenesses and names cannot be “real” due to NCAA regulations; however, in 2K fashion they have included the usual player editing capability. Player names can be entered by picking from a list of names or you can enter them in manually. There are a lot more names available in College Hoops than in March Madness. It’s really fun to see and hear the actual player names on your favorite teams – it just takes a little time and patience to get there.
If you search around the Internet, some people with way too much time on their hands have gone through and named all the players – even the historical ones. The files can be imported with 3rd party hardware such as Datek’s Xchange memory card utility. Once the names are in, the announcers will usually say the first and last name of each player – both on the broadcast and arena PA system.
The real bonus in this game comes in the number of teams available. Like their competition, College Hoops includes over 300 NCAA schools. Where it shines is in the number of historical teams, which includes a whopping 74 teams (52 unlockable in the campus store with challenge points).
Teams include most of the recent NCAA Champions, but the real fun is with the classics. A few of the teams included are the 1979 Indiana State Sycamores (featuring Larry Bird), the 1979 Michigan State Spartans (with Magic Johnson), various Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina teams, plus a few teams from way back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
Even more fun can be had with the “All-Time” conference teams. All-Time teams include the SEC (Shaq, Charles Barkley, Pete Maravich), Pac 10 (Jason Kidd, Reggie Miller, Bill Walton), Big 12 (Wilt Chamberlain, Mookie Blaylock, Wayman Tisdale), BigTen (Magic, Isiah Thomas, Chris Webber, Kevin McHale), Big East (Allen Iverson, Zo Mourning, Patrick Ewing) and the ACC (Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, James Worthy). I left out a bunch of big name players, but you get the idea. 2K Sports has just made a big fan out of me.
On the down side, 2K chose not to include any women’s teams, which is unfortunate. I guess Title IX doesn’t apply to videogames.
Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery announce from the booth and Bonnie Bernstein is the sideline reporter. They are not as colorful as EA’s crew, but they are not as annoying either. This is about the game, not the announcers… and they pull off a nice rounded presentation without being over-the-top. What a nice breath of fresh air!
After the game is over, Greg Gumbel hosts a review of the game. You can see a wealth of game stats, including instant replays of every single basket. Those replays can be saved and imported into Reelmaker.
Reelmaker is a slick add-on product to make highlight reels. You can download it from Xbox Live for 400 Microsoft points. Use Reelmaker to edit your saved clips, add sound effects and animations and save it to show off for your friends. You can even upload your highlights to the 2K server for others to see and rate. It’s a neat function but I’m not sure it’s worth 400 Microsoft points.
Other game modes include Legacy, Pontiac tournament, College Hoops Classic, Coach mode, Rivalry, and Practice. In Legacy mode you make your coaching persona, pick from a short list of teams with available coaching positions, and go about putting together a competitive team.
Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg host a season preview show and provide some insight into the top teams. They also will use correct player names if you bother to edit the names. Throughout the season they will do an optional highlights show and previews for the coming week. The regular season ends with a tournament selection show.
When you get into the schedule you can choose to play the game, simulate it with hoopcast, or coach the game. Throughout the season you’ll have to deal with the usual round of recruiting, player injuries, unhappy players etc. You even have to deal with SPAM email. No, I’m not kidding, they really put spam in your coach inbox.
At the end of the season you can play the East vs West High School All-star game. Another nice feature is you can export the draft class into NBA 2K7. During the off-season you can attend basketball camps to look at recruits. You can play the scrimmage games and drills. While playing the various game modes, you can earn challenge points by completing various tasks. Use those points in the campus store to purchase all kinds of unlockable extras. Items for purchase include 52 historical teams, 21 arenas, 9 balls (including an eyeball), and 15 alternate jerseys.
Also in the College Store is the Student Lounge, which has two mini-games of darts and air-hockey. You can also check out your records and six levels of unlockable challenges.
You can also create your own players and schools. It was particularly interesting to create my old Division III school. While the number of logos and mascots available are few, it was still great fun to pick a school song, arena, cheerleader outfits and even floor paint patterns.
College Hoops 2K7 also includes a sound test to make sure your system utilizes Dolby Digital surround sound to its fullest extent. As you can probably tell, 2K Sports put a ton of stuff in this game.
This is the one area where College Hoops 2K7 stumbles slightly. It’s not that the graphics are bad, they just are not as good as March Madness. There isn’t a huge difference, but it is noticeable.
As with all the other 2K Sports games, the menu design is very reminiscent of an arcade game. It’s not as polished as EA’s games. If you are playing on a small TV, this is the game for you. Text is large and easy to read. The interface takes a bit of getting used to – you have to move the right joystick to bring up the menu. It seems like most games use the start button for this function. I had a difficult time adjusting.
The players in College Hoops appear to have subtle white outlines which make them look like computer modeled paper cutout players running up and down the floor. It’s certainly not on the level of one of those old arcade games, but it does take some of the realism out of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the players have realistic textures and even sweat; they just have an annoying subtle white outline.
The majority of arenas look amazingly close to their real life counterparts. The fans are dressed in team colors, as are the cheerleaders though they are not as nicely modeled as EA’s. 2K tries to hide this with a virtual depth-of-field so it blurs out things in the background. The sidelines have photographers, cameramen, mop boys and the usual assortment of school personnel. The mascots wander around on the sidelines – but why does Purdue Pete look almost as creepy as that Burger King guy?
Having just played the new 2K7 MLB baseball game, I know the 2K Sports dev team has the capability to do some amazing player models. It is unfortunate the graphics are not as stunning in College Hoops 2K7. But we can hope that College Hoops 2K8 will be up to that level next season.
Sound is an integral part of the college basketball experience. EA does a good job, but 2K just upped the ante.
2K offers a masterstroke with the Chant Creator. As the name implies, you can use this tool to create your own crowd chants by picking from long lists of sound clips. You assemble your clips in a timeline similar to most video editing software. Clips include “letters”, “sound FX” (claps or stomps), “words”, “leader” (a cheerleader yelling), “mascots”, “regions”, and “drums”. Don’t get any funny ideas though. 2K Sports (probably at the NCAA’s insistence) doesn’t allow certain colorful letter combinations. So don’t expect to hear your fans yelling “I U sucks!” However the more mischievous amongst you will find a good combination to get your point across.
Crowds respond realistically to the on-court action. The band plays unique songs for many teams and the fans do unique cheers. There have been a few times when I’ve had to stop the game to turn the crowd down because they were drowning out the announcers. It’s about as realistic as it gets.
Selectable menu music in College Hoops includes 22 songs from various groups including P.O.D. (with album info and artist biographies), and 54 college fight songs (there are even more college songs during the game).
College Hoops 2K7 is just huge. The amount of challenges, statistics, unlockables, and little mini-games is amazing. This game can be as simple or complex as you want it. The inclusion of all the historical teams is a bonus that just adds to the life of this game.
There are 49 Xbox Live achievements available totaling 1000 points. Achievements range from simply winning a game on a buzzer beater shot, to beating every single team in the game. There are also a handful of rivalry achievements, which you must win at the highest skill level. Good luck with that.
The Xbox Live Marketplace includes the Reelmaker add-on (400 points), over 20 team themes (150 points each), and over 30 conference picture packs (200 points each).
In the current climate of videogames where some developers are cutting features out of 360 games, it’s great to see 2K Sports pack this much value into College Hoops 2K7. This is $60 well spent.
It’s unfortunate that most college basketball gamers will end up buying March Madness. I’m not sure if that’s an availability issue or a visibility issue. Probably both. I went to three major retailers this weekend and not a single one had a shelf spot for College Hoops 2K7, but they all had March Madness 07. I rarely see TV commercials or sponsorships for 2K Sports games.
EA has ESPN integration and a little better graphics. 2K has everything else… and I mean EVERYTHING. While EA has been relying on the power of their well-financed marketing team to generate sales, 2K Sports has been developing a creative and fun college basketball game that any fan will love. If they put some kind of sports integration together with Fox Sports (a ticker is a must), add some women’s teams and ramp up the graphics for 2K8, they will bury EA.
If you love college basketball, do yourself a favor and find College Hoops 2K7. 2K Sports has the better game. Seriously. It’s not even debatable. Now if we can just get them to do other NCAA sports… hey 2K, how about a soccer or volleyball game?