2K offers two robust tournament experiences: sponsored Pontiac events, including the beloved NCAA Championship and individual conference tourneys, and their own charity event, the College Hoops Classic. Both modes offer the same level of customization found elsewhere, from seeding to the number of players allowed to participate. For those who enjoy basketball at the strategic level, Coach Mode lets you watch from the bench and make real-time decisions without worrying about execution. Legacy incorporates elements from every other mode and then some. After customizing each conference to your liking and creating a coach, you build a team from scratch and take them through an entire season. Recruitment is a game unto itself, and tracking additional details such as job security, assistant coaches and a player’s long-term health can be overwhelming. Still, this mode is ideal for hardcore fans that have the time and patience to learn it.
Alas, College Hoops is far from perfect. Aside from terrific animations, the graphics are generally average. Player models and skin textures look fine from the default birds-eye camera, but don’t always hold up when viewed up close. Models for coaches, cheerleaders and crowd members are noticeably inferior. The presentation is especially inconsistent on standard televisions, as 2K continues the Dead Rising tradition of making some text virtually unreadable at lower resolutions.
There are a few gameplay issues, as well. Passing-related turnovers occur a bit too often, and the four different passing options have no noticeable affect outside of looks. Lock-On Defense feels unbalanced; even the massive Greg Oden can keep pace with a Nate Robinson-esque point guard or forward. Speaking of names .. there aren’t any. Due to NCAA regulations, 2K cannot use any player’s name or exact physical likeness (exact being the key term; the man on the cover is still Oden, albeit slimmer and a good five years younger). This isn’t too big an issue since it’s obvious who’s who, provided you’re familiar enough with a team to figure it out on your own. You can even change the names yourself, although it won’t make Verne Lundquist referring to players by number any less comical.
Bottom Line: College Hoops 2K8 is by no means an ideal showpiece for next-gen hardware. It’s also unlikely to win over those who care little for basketball. But like the sport it simulates, the game manages to overcome its technical deficiencies with hard work and pure effort. Just as college players play for the love of the game, 2K Sports succeeds where others falter because they care. Even if you’re not a hardcore hoops fan, at least check it out.
Recommendation: Buy it.