NCAA Basketball 09 Review

EA's latest foray into the world of college basketball begins with a sad tale. In this world of trademarks and contracts, EA has led the way to getting most of the licenses for their sports game whichleads to becoming an overall authentic experience. However, one of the major downfalls of hoarding licenses is that you end up having little or no competition. We saw this exact concept being used earlier in the year with Madden 09; and NCAA Basketball 09 is the latest suspect. Unfortunately we won’t see another College Hoops (2K’s version of college basketball) for the next few years but this gives no excuse for EA to give their gamers any less of an experience.

High fives are all the rage these days ... seriously.

When you first load up the game, you see the coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, Bill Self who continues to give you a crash course on what to expect in this year's rendition of college basketball. The first thing he mentions is the tempo system which means when you start a game you'll have to select three different types of play styles. which ultimately determines what tempo your team will attempt to run. The more your team runs and stays in the tempo you have pre-determined, the more confidence your players will have, and more importantly, the more shots they will make. Whilst good in theory, in general, one of two things would happen; one, I wouldn’t really try to stick to the tempo that the computer and my head coach would want me to run and always be up-tempo, and two, when I was running my “optimal” tempo, I saw no visible change in my players which effecitvely makes the system a pointless exercise.

The gameplay suffers from the same exact flaws that NBA Live 09 suffer from, in other words, fastbreaks are too easy to break down and generally are cut down by an opponent simply standing in front of your player. Shooting controls and rebounding are extremely inconsistent and if/when you (or the AI) get an offensive rebound, you can immediately put two points on the board because no one is going to stop you. It's quirks like these that make EA take two steps forward and one step back. The lack of a lockdown button or stick makes defense almost impossible on the harder difficulties or against human opponents meaning online play can become extremely frustrating but more on that later.

College basketball is bringing back the highcut shorts

The shining jewel for NCAA Basketball 09 is its sheer volume of features they put into the game and whilst many of them are hardly groundbreaking, they make the game so much easier to pick up and play. Updated rosters are always nice but the additions to Dynasty mode are pleasing to the eye. Additions such as easy navigation through the menus make this much less tedious than any 2K rendition and the scouting reports for every team and stadiums just add to all the little things that EA have done well.

The graphics are similar to NBA Live 09’s and the player models are hit and miss, with some of the major players such as Tyler Hansborough and Wayne Chism get their own likenesses, but obscure freshman are relegated to getting generic models. This may be understandable with over 200 teams and over 3000 players in this game.

With the addition of all the features, it still somehow seemed like they managed to cut even more gametypes. Of course you have your typical Quick Match and the signature Dynasty Mode, but the only other gametype worth noting is the Classic Tournament of Legends. In this mode, you get to pick one of the sixty-four greatest college basketball teams of all-time in a clash of the titans. It is exactly like the NCAA College Championship tournament in every respect except for the teams are all champions in their own right.

Wow,the cheerleaders are dogs these days ...

The online play is what you would expect from a sports title with ranked and player matches are available to you to use at your disposal but what is mysteriously absent, is the “Team-Play” feature. Unlike NCAA Basketball’s older brother, NBA Live 09, there is no teaming up with four of your friends to take on other groups with your favorite school. This doesn’t particularly make sense due to the popularity of the feature not only in Live 09, but in the 2K installment as well. While playing online, I experienced no lag and was a generally enjoyable experience but be warned though; the online feels like a tacked on paper-thin feature and plays as such.

The achievements are what you would expect from an EA game. Fairly easy with little to no skill involved in them. While the All-American difficulty might seem daunting, the game sliders are back and can be modified more than ever. Another positive from this achievement list is that there are only three online achievements. A major drawback is that you will have to play 75 matches which can get tedious very fast. However, with a little bit of skill and a little bit of time, you will have the full 1000.

Sounds from the fans and good old Jimmy V will keep you entertained. It is just a couple steps below from actually being there in the stadium. However, if you have played any collegiate game, you would have probably heard all the songs many times over.

Even with the generic player models still look absolutely gorgeous. The only thing I can complain about is that EA decided to only do up a few select players (such as Tyler Hansborough).

There is something about EA’s basketball games that just doesn’t sit well. The shooting mechanics just seem wonky and unnatural whereas shots that look and feel good get air-balled and it is extremely difficult to get each individual’s shot down. Fast-breaks are still broken and are stopped simply by putting a defender in front of your player. These games will continue to field poor scores until the shooting mechanics feel fluid.

Something that all of EA’s games do extremely well. The menus are clean and easily navigated. NCAA Basketball holds your hand throughout the Dynasty process and even in an exhibition game.

A decent list with at least a bit of thought put into them. Only one of these achievements will require you to put in some time. 75 online games with five minute halves seems a little excessive. The score suffers a bit for this madness.

A polished game overall that falls victim to crimes of the past. Every basketball installment from EA in this next-gen era of video gaming gives up a bit of improvement with the essential roster update. However, they fail to fix the ultimate mistake of all of those games. The shot-taking mechanics still lack fluidity which leads to a nominal score. You will enjoy this game if you are at all interesting in college hoops. It is and will continue to be the only offering for college hoops so you will have to be satisfied with EA’s installment.

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