Review by Fingolfin the Elf
"The champions win yet another title."
Ever since Sega bowed out of the console race and brought their games to all the consoles, they have always dominated the sports department. While some may argue that EA is the dominant sports developer, and that may be the case in at least the football genre, Sega was the undisputable king of College Basketball. I say was because this marks the first year that Sega will not be publishing the 2K sports titles. Little difference is to be noted however, as this is easily the best College Basketball game to date.
When you first load up the game you will notice the lack of anything related to ESPN. EA now has that license so you won't find it in 2K games anymore. Really, this is not a problem. 2K Sports does a more then adequate job at delivering presentation that exceeds anything in the past. Sure, we don't get the ESPN theme music but it's a small sacrifice I'm willing to make. Of course anything ESPN could have offered is trumped by the amazing Pre-Season and Selection Sunday shows. More on those later though.
The gameplay in College Hoops 2K6 is more or less the same as it always has been with a few tweaks. You'll hear no complaints from me however, it's still the best basketball engine around. The biggest noticeable change is the how much the defense has tightened up. Last year you could throw a long heave to the center under the other teams basket from your endline and have the center slam it in for an easy bucket. Not so this year. Try that and you'll easily get picked off, even on the lower difficulty levels. Another defensive improvement is how good the shot blocking is. If you have a 7'0 forward in your face, you're not going to be able to just shoot and watch it soar over him like last year. At the very least he'll get a finger tip on it, knocking it off course and away from the bucket. You actually have to work to get good shots, and while defense wasn't a slouch last year, it's been dramatically improved. I would have liked to see the lock down stick that was so awesome in March Madness, but I can do without it.
Ok, so the computer is better at stuffing you. That's nice, but do you get any new moves on defense? Yes, yes you do. Aside from the returning strategy plays like calling for another defender and so forth, a new feature is the right analog stick being used for steals. When you are guarding someone, just flick the stick in the way you want your player to go for the ball. For example if you opponent is holding the ball to your right, flick it right and you'll make a swat that way. If you want to bat it down, flick it down and so on. It's an awesome feature that is a huge upgrade over the old X button to try for a steal. Is there a better feeling then performing a steal that you controlled and racing down the court for the slam dunk? I don't think so. It's a great feature.
The right analog stick is used on offense as well. Dubbed the Shot Stick you can use it in the exact opposite way that it was used on defense. If you are going for a shot, flick it to one side and you will shield it to that side, reducing the chances of an embarrassing swat. I didn't use it as much as I used the regular old X button as I didn't need it all that much. It's nice if you're going up for a lay-up or in heavy traffic, but it's not necessary for outside shooting.
Really, College Hoops 2K6 is a simulation through and through. You won't find any ridiculous end to end fests here and a 5'8 white shooting guard won't be able to dunk over a 7'0 tall center like in March Madness, but it is a real Basketball game. The casual Basketball fan won't find much to rejoice about here with the stifling defense you encounter, but real fans will love it. It's the best game play in a College Basketball game ever. I know that's a big statement, but it lives up to it.
The graphics in College Hoops 2K6 are almost identical to last years game. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, as last year had amazing graphics. The jerseys look just great, they are very detailed and full of polish. I mean, you can even see the tiny little mesh holes in some jerseys, that's just fantastic. The player models look great as well, although players faces will get a little bit generic at times, but that's to be expected in a College game. Stadiums themselves are all very detailed, the stands and crowd look great, their care cheerleaders on the side, a mascot etc. The only problem I had is that unless a school had a medium to big time program, expect a generic stadium. While the court may look right, you get a bland gymnasium for most of the small schools.
Sound in College Hoops 2K6 is just as good. The lack of ESPN means Jay Bilas and Mike Patrick are gone, we get two CBS announcers. Patrick and Bilas were two of the best video game announcers of all time. They sounded like they were in your TV, actually calling the play by play. It was a great commentary but unfortunately, this is one area with a little bit of drop-off from last year. The new guys are bland, generic and sound exactly like you think video game commentary would sound. It's a shame because last year it sounded like how real commentary would sound. Other then that, sound is pretty solid. The court effects are really detailed like sneakers squeaking, players yelling and cheerleaders. The crowd is really noisy and can be a big factor in determining the out come. If you hit a couple three pointers, get some slam dunks, etc; you really start getting some momentum and the crowd can carry you. Menu music is odd to say the least. There is a mix of some techno and pop-punk, not exactly what comes to mind when I think of College Basketball. Custom soundtracks are absent as well which is a real bummer. Oh well, that's what the mute button is for right?
Of course, no sports game is complete without a franchise mode and College Hoops 2K6 delivers. It's the best franchise mode I have ever played, and I play a lot of sports games. The level of depth is outstanding, calling this a RPG wouldn't be to far fetched. You start off at a small school from a dozen or so selections. Nothing big, just cupcakes like Portland State or North Florida. Your job is to turn them into a dynasty, or at least make them good enough to get a job from a school in a larger conference. This raises an interesting morality choice of sorts. After spending a few years turning them into a respectable school, do you abandon the team and latch on to a bigger school? Or do you work to make them even better? It's no easy choice, or at least it wasn't for me, and this is the reason why I call it an RPG of sorts. It is incredibly rewarding to slave and toil as Kennesaw State, and then after a few years get your name called on Selection Sunday, even if you are a 15 seed playing UConn. You can ditch the little guys and eventually work your way up to power conferences too, but you don't get to decide when that happens. You'll have to wait for a current coach to get fired or retire in order for you to get a chance at the job. Duke won't just forget about Coach K and hire you after they win a National Championship, you have to get lucky sometimes.
All that is familiar if you played last year, so what's new? Well, a larger selection of teams to start out as for starters. You can recruit High School players that aren't seniors now too. So if you are it Lipscomb and are stuck recruiting 2 star players, you can target 4 or 5 star High School prospects that are sophomores in High School. Work on them for three years, and they might just come to your tiny school. It's a great way to make a small school competitive and is incredibly rewarding to finally get the verbal from the stud you were working on for three years. On the flip side, when you put all that effort into recruiting him for so long and he decides to go somewhere else, it is devastating. All part of the fun though, and you work that much harder on the next one. One thing I was happy to see improved was the ridiculous rate at which teams got better. Last year, after playing six or seven seasons, pretty much every power conference team and a heaping of mid-majors were rated 99. This has been toned down for this year, and it makes all the difference. No longer will you have to deal with 100 rated Baylor and so on.
Of course the big new feature which was discussed earlier is the Pre-Season and Selection Sunday shows. Hosted by CBS's Greg Gumble and Clark Kellogg, the Pre-Season show is a full show like you would see on T.V. It has a rundown of the top 25 teams, All Americans, coaching changes and so on. The Selection Sunday show is exactly what College Basketball games needed. Last year it was nice to see a little thing pop up that told you, you made the tournament, but this is the next step in bringing sports games closer to real life. First it shows the bubble teams. Kellogg does a little spiel on who he thinks should get in and who shouldn't. Then they reveal the #1 Seeds. This is a awesome thing and had me yelling at the T.V a few times when I didn't get a #1. Then they reveal the brackets and do a little rundown on each and every team that made it in, saying thinks like it's their first tournament appearance or whatever. You can skip single matches so it never gets boring either, Then they do a conference rundown and come back to the bubble teams. Who got in and who missed it. It's an amazing feature and shows that 2K Sports is really trying to bring sports video games closer to the real thing. It should be fun to see what they do on the next generation of consoles.
If you like College Basketball, get this game. No other game has the great gameplay, the amazing graphics, the deep dynasty mode or the authentic college atmosphere. It's a College fan's dream, and for only 30 Dollars there is no reason not to get this game. It far surpasses EA in every way, shape, and form. College Hoops 2K6 captures the College Basketball videogame championship in a blowout. Don't miss it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/30/05
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