College Hoops 2K8
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: November 19, 2007
With "On-The-Fly Coaching" in this year's title, you call the shots while the action is rolling on the hardwoods. Hit the locker room, reassess with "Halftime Adjustments" and turn a sure loss into the highlight comeback story of the week. College Hoops 2K8 also allows players to design and execute their own plays, rounding out a favored team's playbook.
2K Sports also includes a "Range Meter" for determining best shooting position on the floor, as well as "PlayVision," a feature aimed at teaching gamers skilled execution of offensive plays. Further, "Legacy Mode" has been enhanced with an amateur basketball league and the option to create your own recruits.
"6th Man Advantage," a performance-based gameplay mechanism for rocking the house full of fans — or in away games, hushing the lot of them — promises direct influence on the seasonal accomplishments of your favorite all-star college basketball squads. With "Maximum Passing," holding down a controller button lets the player review passing options on the run, more readily choosing the best pass for pushing your star forward straight to the basket or setting up a nothing-but-net, wide-open field goal. "Lock-On D" maximizes your man-to-man coverage potential; once you've successfully nabbed the ball, the surprisingly suitable and fluid "Shot Stick" shooting scheme is back and as solid as ever. The "Shot Stick" isn't the most readily evident solution to the problem of shooting in basketball sports titles.
However, in a recent media conference, Zach Timmerman, 2K Sports producer, addresses this apparent incongruity, the risk-taking in game design, explaining, "Yes, doesn't seem like a very cool idea until you try it. It works well in that it allows users to imagine that the stick is sort of an 'arm' that you pull back and release when you're ready to shoot." He's dead-on there: The "Shot Stick" feels most like taking a shot at the goal, short of actually taking a real shot at a real goal.
As a games producer, Timmerman displays a unique aptitude for and understanding of the myth and magic of collegiate basketball. When asked why college crowds, addressed by the aforementioned "6th Man Advantage" feature, are given such weight in NCAA sports titles, over crowds in similar professional sports games, he replied, "The fans are more rabid, young and willing to scream anything in games. This easily trumps a crowd full of families there to enjoy a basketball game."
College Hoops is also graphically more interesting than many other basketball titles. In a college ball simulation, the initial impression of atmosphere is paramount. "Art direction is one of the most important aspects of putting our game together," Timmerman says. "We're always trying to push the envelope from a graphics standpoint, so setting out a plan of attack early in the project is very critical. Our goal is to mimic what each type of arena would look like if you were actually there at the game."
And Timmerman knows his campus arenas. "Larger gyms typically have darker ceilings and upper bowls while the smaller gyms allow you to see everyone from the front row to the back. We feel we've done this in 2K8, as well as worked a lot with player lighting and floor lighting to enhance the overall look." The emphasis on sophisticated art direction is a true highlight of College Hoops 2K8.
In addition to full online multiplayer features, the online experience is improved with "2K Share," a system for sharing with other College Hoops fans the custom rosters, plays and even crowd chants you've created. With all of this and a carefully chosen soundtrack of songs playing in the background during various game modes, College Hoops 2K8 is shooting for a very high standard in collegiate basketball.
Timmerman is particularly excited about the 2K Share feature, calling it "probably the most anticipated new feature in the game." His enthusiasm stems from the fact that online sharing of custom rosters, plays and other in-game elements creates for the title an open-ended, almost endless experience. Immediately 2K Share belongs in the territory of hardcore sports fans, but also serves as a step up, a place to go, for the casual fan captured in College Hoops by the pure adrenaline excitement of collegiate basketball. The intent here is to provide the most robust experience in both the short and long term, for both the casual player and basketball devotee. The 2K Share feature is key to meeting the ambitious goals of the College Hoops development team.
With this year's College Hoops, Timmerman indicated that not only will hardcore college basketball fans be pleased with the 2K8 experience, but certain components and new features in the title — especially "PlayVision" and "All-American Training Challenge" — have also been designed to capture a broader, more casual, sports games audience. As mentioned, "PlayVision" lays out on the court step-by-step instructions for running offensive plays, a particularly important element of college basketball. "All-American Training Challenge" provides for less seasoned players a fun, goal-oriented system for learning how to the play College Hoops 2K8.
Timmerman reports his developers watch as much NCAA basketball as possible, reviewing plays in detail, the athletes' styles of movement, and absorbing the arena atmosphere and crowd responsiveness. They read online fan forums and Web sites, and review gamer wish lists, "almost everyday." According to Timmerman, the ultimate challenge of each new version of the title is always "coming closer to reality."
Between a talented development team and, in Timmerman, a sports title producer whose emotional investment in his game transcends mere mechanics, his comments conveying a strong vision for moving the franchise forward by incrementally improving extant, detailed features for current fans while creating a new perspective on college basketball that will more appeal to the casual sports gamer, 2K Sports is poised this year to unleash a college basketball title that not only ratchets up the realism, but is long-lived and fun, both for old-hand experts and novices alike.