NCAA Basketball 09 Demo Impressions

Posted November 6th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

The NCAA Basketball 09 demo came out earlier today marking the release of one of the more important demos we’ll see given the circumstances. In a good move EA included four different teams, the ability to change cameras and difficulty levels, and made it a full eight minute half. Structurally it is one of the best sports game demos ever offered. How the game is being received though seems to be mixed, with some seeing improvement over Live 09 and others actually thinking it is a step back from that.

I’m having issues with the audio in my recordings right now so I’ll attempt to get videos of the demo up when I’ve figured out what the problem is. Until then I wanted to drop some quick impressions from the demo.

  • The Live engine being used is pretty evident. What is good is that the better aspects of it, pick and roll control for example, have been carried over.
  • Many issues with Live 09 appear to have been fixed. One is with shot block attempts as now you press the button and the player actually jumps when you want them to. Same with contesting shots by pushing up on the right stick.
  • I also like that players go up with their shots immediately. When kicking the ball out for a three I can get the shot off quickly as opposed to it being slow and a defender closing in.
  • Somewhat related is that you can actually pull up for a shot when on the run. One thing that has frustrated me with Live is attempting to pull up and being drawn into a leaner. That isn’t the case with NCAA.
  • The tempo feature seems to be a great addition and differentiates styles like we’ve never before seen in a basketball game. The difference is stark between an up-tempo team like Tennessee and even a more half-court like Kentucky. It felt good running with Tennessee and it really did seem like you were more effective playing the desired tempo.
  • The coach pop-ups are helpful, though I’m not sure how much I’d pay attention to them after getting acclimated to the game. I think the tempo meter is a great addition and I found myself looking to that more.
  • Directional passing continues to be a problem, I suppose this is a combination of being a Live engine issue and a basketball game issue.
  • The court seems really spacious. In a way maybe to an extreme but it opens up the gameplay which is a good thing.
  • It’s nice having the same free throw mechanism as Live. It still maybe falls on the side of being too easy but it is so much better than having the right stick way of shooting them forced on us.
  • Too many shots are made with contact. This is another issue that has seemed to carry over.
  • I don’t like getting stuck in the lockdown defense animation and being unable to pull yourself out of it.
  • Pressuring in the back court works really well, though the CPU doesn’t always seem to react to it as they should.
  • At times the CPU just seemed to be helpless on offense. Maybe that is a product of playing out of their tempo I don’t know. But it is frustrating having them just pass the ball around for most of the shot clock and never go on the attack only to lead to a poor contested shot or turnover.
  • Do you really get penalized as a half court team when you take advantage of a fast break opportunity? That is a problem.
  • Half the time I don’t know what just happened, there will be a whistle and I’ll have the ball or vice versa. The commentators don’t describe what occurred.
  • There is some real sloppiness to this game. Lockdown animation pushing players back over half court, CPU passing to players who are out of bounds, occasional players warping several feet.
  • Without the names I just don’t know who most of these guys are or their skills and I suspect that is the case for many out there. While the overall ratings being on the low side isn’t an issue, having so many players bunched together adds to that. Just goes to show how much trouble I would have playing online without names.

So while I find only marginal complaints about NCAA 09 when comparing the game to Live 09 gameplay wise, and being impressed at how well they have translated the difference between college and pro games, I still find myself with low expectations. It comes across as a slightly improved NBA Live with the addition of the tempo feature while lacking the Academy, Online Team Play, 365/DNA, and names for online play. With Live’s upcoming patch though it may bring it up to the level of NCAA with small adjustments. Ultimately though I think people will end up favoring the game that matches their preference between the NBA and college basketball.