The ESPN College Hoops series has been mediocre in the past because of average gameplay and too many turnovers. With a new developer handling the game this year, these issues are improved. An enhanced Legacy mode and new features online make this game a solid purchase at $20.
Presentation/Graphics : 84
The player models are realistic. They provide accurate body features and sweat on players without the polish that other sports games have. Players sometimes have jaggies on them. The models could have been done better but still look good. The courts are very well done and exactly portray what they look like in real life. Every teams’ mascots are in the game getting the fans pumped up. It is funny to see them dancing eccentrically. The fans are bland and are annoying to look at.
As expected, College Hoops uses ESPN graphics to display scores and player stats. There is not a highlight show in the game like ESPN NFL has, which is disappointing. It would have been nice to see Sportscenter episodes filled with game highlights. The ESPN license was not used to its full potential and one of the best uses of it though was the onscreen graphics.
Presentation/Audio : 78
The audio is excellent or poor at certain times. The atmosphere of college basketball is unique and differs from its professional counterpart. ESPN College Hoops does an outstanding job of incorporating fight songs and noisy fans. All of the sounds of the game, like shoes squeaking on the court, are here. There are some gaps in audio. Sometimes a basket is scored and the crowd gets very quiet as if the mute button was hit on your TV.
Where the audio is lacking is the announcing of the game by ESPN personalities Jay Bilas and Mike Patrick. While their voices are pleasant to hear and they can make good points at times, they can be way to repetitive. They also give analysis at the wrong time. Saying that a team can make a comeback down by twenty-five points with two minutes to go is foolish. The play-by-play announcer’s speech does not flow right at times either. He will be calm and then all of a sudden get very excited for no reason. Pre-game, halftime, and post game analysis are poor. There is virtually no incite given about the game. The pre-game just says where the game is being held, while halftime and post game display brief highlights with a poor breakdown of the game. Poor use of the ESPN license for announcing does not live up to the presentations of this year’s other ESPN video games.
Audio can be played either with the music included with the game or by music on your hard drive. The music included with the game is an average collection of alternative and hip hop music. The songs in the jukebox can also be played in-game between stoppages in play. The default music not in the jukebox is the music from ESPN broadcast of college basketball on TV. The developers continue to opt for this music every year since ESPN has been branding this series. The music was nice to listen to before, but new music needs to be provided in the future.
Interface/Options : 91
All of the modes that you would expect in a college basketball game are here. Tournament mode lets gamers play with up to four of their friends. Each gamer chooses a team and faces off with their friends and the computer. In Coach mode, two teams are chosen, one of which is played by the computer. A whole game is played out with you acting as the coach and deciding things like what plays are run, substitutions, and timeouts. All of these changes can be made on-the-fly as the game is going on. This mode is a great idea to put into a sports game. In rivalry mode, a team is chosen and that team’s rivals are shown and can be played against. Gym Rat is street basketball without the street. Two teams are chosen and players from the teams can play full court, half court, or one on one. Practice mode is where gamers can work on their shooting, passing, and foul shots.
The Legacy mode’s depth is astonishing. There are two options when choosing your teams, which are “career” and “open.” Career mode provides a limited number of lower ranking colleges that must be brought to glory. The coaches are of course going to be worse compared to the big-time college programs. Any team can be chosen in open mode. Micromanagement is focused on in legacy mode. The amount of scouting to be done and what players need to focus on in practice can be adjusted. The news from the latest game played shows only one key highlight and an article reminiscent of what would be expected from a newspaper, including quotes from players and coaches. There is even an e-mail folder which provides information on recruiting, scouting, administration, personal news, and help tips on playing in Legacy mode. Recruiting is a continually occurring as well and cannot be finished quickly and ignored.
One troubling problem with Legacy mode is that it can freeze up during game simulation, which forces gamers to turn their systems off. Different combinations may alleviate the problem, like turning off injuries, but this bug is inexcusable. This problem is not an arbitration and is a trend that has set message boards on fire. Even if this game is priced low, gamers should not have to put up with this problem as well as not receiving patches from the developer. Whether this was not seen by Quality Assurance or was just allowed into the game for early release, this cannot happen again next year.
Online mode has been enhanced with a few new modes. Now there is a tournament mode that can have up to sixty-four players creating their own version of March Madness. Season mode can also be played. All of you stats from these two modes can be viewed on a web site that looks similar to ESPN’s web site. Latency is a problem online, as some games have a good connection while others will be poor, even when the ping level was rated low.
Another feature in the game is the Campus Store. Things can be bought like pennants or alternate jerseys. Arenas that host tournaments or special college games can also be unlocked, including the Pepsi Center and the RCA Dome. There is also an air hockey table for up to four people. The Campus Store is a nice break from the other modes of the game.
Gameplay : 89
Gameplay has changed notably in a few ways. This game plays more similarly to ESPN NBA 2K5 then at any time in the College Hoops series. Having a similar engine does not mean that it plays like an NBA game. Past versions of College Hoops was slower but now plays with a higher tempo. This change was probably occurred because SEGA switched to Visual Concepts, the makers of the ESPN NBA series, to develop this game instead of the previous developer, Kush Games. Rebounding icons on the floor show were rebounds are going and help put an emphasis on paying attention to the glass.
Isomotion has been added to let gamers perform special moves. There are not as many moves in College Hoops as there are in ESPN NBA 2K5. Isomotion is very problematic since it lends itself to constant turnovers and charging calls. Gamers need to practice with Isomotion or else these problems will continue to occur. Another problem with Isomotion is that it cannot be used on defense to cancel the opponents use of Isomotion as was the case in ESPN NBA 2K5. It was puzzling that this was taking out, especially since College Hoops and ESPN NBA both use similar engines.
Turnovers have always been a problem for past versions of this game. While turnovers happen less frequently, they still happen at too high of a rate. Lazy passes and passes to the paint seem to always get stolen.
Foul shots have also been changed this year. Gamers have two options when taking foul shots. One way is very realistic and does not have a meter. You must hold down the shot button until the player is holding the ball in the proper shot height. Each player has their own way of shooting the ball. This is a hard way to shoot at the charity stripe and practice is a must. The other way is with a new meter that shows a box with a player and dot in it. The ball must be lined up with the dot.
There are problems with the gameplay. The AI in the game is acts realistically and does things well like boxing out. There is not depth in the number of moves a player can do down low, which hampers certain positions’ ability to score. Thankfully physically impossible dunks are less frequent. Crazy moves still occur. It is reasonable to believe that players will make nice moves in real life, although I doubt that players generally drive the lane, put the ball behind their back, and then swoosh it. The computer also has a tendency to alley-oop the ball much more then you would ever see in real life. Even with these flaws, the new changes to gameplay make this game very fun.
Replay Value : 91
The variety of modes provide tons of replay value. Even when you are not in the mood to play a game, there is still the options of Coach mode or Legacy. The increased modes of play on Xbox Live provide more depth then just continually playing ranked games.
Overall : 89
ESPN College Hoops 2K5 is one of the most fun basketball games on the market. Some of the elements need to be fine tuned in next year's version, such as presentation and audio. With these problems asides, the depth of the Legacy mode, increased Xbox Live features, and better gameplay make this a good buy at $20.