College basketball gamers will certainly have an easier decision to make this December than in years past. The withdrawal of 2K Sports from the college basketball simulation market now means that EA's NCAA Basketball 09 will be the only collegiate hoops game to hit the shelves this season. We had a chance to check the game out for the first time at the UCLA campus where former Bruins star Kevin Love was named as this year's cover athlete.
The series, formerly known as NCAA March Madness will, for the first time, use the same engine used in EA's NBA Live series. As a result, improvements to player and ball physics, which will make their debut in NBA Live 09, will likely be included in NCAA Basketball 09 as well. In addition to the efficiency that using the same engine will provide, the game's developers are hopeful that the additional six weeks of development time (following the release of NBA Live 09) will allow them to evaluate feedback and make the game even stronger while providing an experience unique to college basketball.
While many of the game's features are still under wraps, EA did reveal that one feature unique to the NCAA Basketball 09 series will be the addition of team tempo. Prior to the start of each game, you will have the ability to set your team's ideal tempo. You will be able to choose between half-court, balanced, and up-tempo offenses, with the assumption that players will be more effective when playing their brand of basketball. A meter is displayed on the bottom of the screen indicating which team has imposed its tempo on the other.
Another feature making its debut in NCAA Basketball 09 is the addition of head coach feedback during the game. The head coach will share his tips and feedback on your play from the sidelines. While some of the comments simply berate you for sloppy play, others attempt to direct play toward your team's particular strengths.
The in-game play-by-play will again be handled by Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale, with Erin Andrews occasionally chiming in with a sideline report. This was one of the strengths of last year's NCAA March Madness 08 game and should be strong again this year. Although many of the gameplay features introduced in the NBA Live series will be carried over to EA's college basketball game, developers did confirm that five-on-five online play (introduced via a patch in NBA Live 08) won't be included in NCAA Basketball 09. However, online multiplayer involving more than two players has been confirmed for NCAA Basketball 2010.
Check back on GameSpot as we will be bringing you all the latest information on NCAA Basketball 09 when we learn more.