College Hoops 2K8 first hands-on and trailer

Posted October 12th, 2007 at 3:59 am

College Hoops 2K8

Gamespot has posted up their initial run through of College Hoops 2K8. You can also catch the first trailer for the game by continuing on.

The sixth-man feature in 2K8 is represented as a meter that’s shown at the bottom of the screen during a game. By default, the meter is green and will be filled depending on which team you’re using (a big program like Duke, for example, will start with about half of its meter filled when playing at Cameron Indoor Arena). Performing successful plays such as scoring baskets or stopping the opposing team will fill the meter up, whereas playing as if your players’ shoes are filled with lead and their fingers are coated with motor oil will decrease the meter. If you fire up the crowd enough, the sixth-man meter will fill up completely and turn red, at which point your team will be feeding off the intensity of the crowd and earn temporary confidence as well as energy boosts in the process.

The boost to players’ default energy will replenish some of the energy points they’ve lost over the course of the game. Once the sixth-man bonus runs out–and the meter does deplete gradually–your players’ confidence attribute will return to normal and their energy level will return to a slightly higher level than where it was when you first earned the bonus. Along with the obvious visual of the sixth-man meter filling up as you play, the audio clues are unmistakable–to our ears, the crowds in 2K8 sound more alive and variable than ever. When you’ve got your “sixth man” working for you in the game, you’ll know it. Of course, sixth-man bonuses are available only when you’re playing at home (or at a neutral site).

The intense atmosphere of college sports is a huge factor, one which usually isn’t given enough consideration when it comes to the games. March Madness 07 was excellent in this area, although the system they used to interact with the surroundings wasn’t ideal. I like the sound of the 6th Man feature because the developments on the court and the crowd factor in to the potential boosts to the players. As with any new feature, how well it is balanced will determine the reaction it garners.

Naturally, the college basketball game comes after 2K’s NBA series, and one of the nice things about that is the team behind the college game can take the best features from 2K and tweak or improve them for the college game. Remember the hot spots feature in 2K8–a cell-phone signal-like meter that indicates the favorable spots on the floor for your players to shoot from? That’s been tweaked a bit in College Hoops 2K8 to simply indicate a player’s proficiency at shooting from a certain range, no matter where he is on the floor.

That sounds good to me for the college game. In a way I like it better because it reduces the urge to hunt out specific hot spots on the floor. For the most part people will understand each player’s range already and since it isn’t intrusive it could simply be used as a guide.

Another example: the visual play-calling system that diagrams the plays on the floor to assist you with how to run particular plays. In College Hoops 2K8, it’s got an official name this time around–play vision–and works very similarly to the NBA series. Plays still unfold one step at a time–start the player here, move to there, now pass the ball, set up the screen, and so on–but it’s an invaluable tool for learning some of the specific plays in the game. A practice mode will let you take all of these plays into the gym and run them over and over to your heart’s content, against multiple types of defense (or no defense at all). You can also switch to the defensive team on the fly and try different defensive looks against the different types of offensive plays in the game. It’s a good thing, too, because there will be approximately 80 plays to practice on both sides of the ball.

It will be great to be able to practice plays. Not much more needs to be said than that.

Passing has been changed up in College Hoops 2K8. Now, in addition to the default passing system, you can select which kinds of passes you want to make by pressing the left bumper (on the Xbox 360) and a face button. You hit X for chest pass, A for bounce pass, Y for lob, and B for leading pass, which is really only effective when your target player is in motion. Getting used to these new passes will take some time, but certain moves are sure to be deadly weapons when used properly, such as the ability to bounce the ball underneath a tight defender, or to toss it over the hands of an outstretched opponent. Isomotion controls will also be controlled with the face buttons: B for crossover, Y for spin, and the shoulder buttons for hesitation moves.

I think the hardcore players will love being able to select the type of pass, but as it mentions it will probably take some time to get used to. I’m not sure it will be something that the majority gets into. Regardless the best part of that is the leading pass which has been sorely needed in the basketball games.

This year, at halftime, you’ll be presented with a laundry list of things you’ve done right (and wrong) during the first half. Most, if not all of the entries on the list can be addressed with game-plan slider adjustments. For example, if you’re not getting enough offensive rebounds, you pump up the crash-boards slider; you can move up the defensive-pressure slider to get some hands in your opponent’s face at the 3-point line; and you can pump up the fast-break slider to generate more chances on the break. Each time the computer decides that you’ve addressed a concern, it will check it off the adjustments list. Of course, you can game-plan all you want, but the execution will still be all up to you.

That sounds interesting to me. I’d rather go through something like that over halftime or quarter breaks than just watch highlights from the game.

One of the underrated features in 2K8 has to be the new 2K Share function. Here, you can create custom rosters, game-settings files, playbooks, legacy files, and even custom chants you’ve created with the built-in chant creator–then you save them and share them with your friends.

March Madness had that last year with the EA Locker being used to share the rosters, so its good to see it in for 2K8 as well. Being able to share the playbooks and other things should turn out to be useful for some people too.

I enjoyed College Hoops 2K7 quite a bit (much more than the NBA offerings) and expect 2K8 to be good as well. However it is difficult to ignore how poor the game is graphically. The screenshots looked relatively promising, however the players seen in the video are just ugly. In some sense the college games have the advantage of not having players compared to their real life counterparts. But it also means they have to come up with unique but generic looks that come across as natural which is a different challenge. We’ll have to see more of the game before a fair comparison can be made to NBA 2K8, but it doesn’t look good early. There is some pretty evident sliding going on as well.

In the end it’s just a trailer so there isn’t much more you can take away from it than that. The hands-on preview provides insight in the gameplay and features which will be the strength of the game to no ones surprise.