Just in time for the tip-off of the of the college basketball season, 2K Sports has released College Hoops 2K7. While people that don't follow college hoops may dismiss the game as little more than NBA 2K7 with a different coat of paint, it's really much more. Sure there are similarities and both titles share the same game engine, but it's the details that separate the two. The best season-ending tournament in all of sports, raucous crowds with boisterous student sections, pep bands blaring fight songs, average players that sometimes dig deep for a special performance, and coaches that actually teach are just a few of the many differences between the two games. Unfortunately, there's one game that College Hoops 2K7 is just a little too similar to, and that's College Hoops 2K6. 2K7 is a good game, but it's hard not to be disappointed by the aging visuals and a lack of significant new features.
Whether you want to play a single game or lead a university to the promised land, there's no shortage of ways to stay busy in College Hoops 2K7. You can play a quick game or a single-game rivalry, enter a tournament, or head to the practice court if you need to polish your skills. Here you can practice, shoot free throws, and take part in a number of drills including fast break, monkey in the middle, dribble and shoot, knockout, and many more. There's also a coach mode where you can set defenses, tendencies, and substitutions as you watch your team play.
To get the most out of the game, you'll need to play legacy mode, where you control nearly every aspect of a college basketball program. There are two ways to play legacy mode. In career legacy, you can select from a group of small programs where you'll need to establish a solid track record before getting offers from bigger, more prestigious schools. An "open" legacy lets you take the reins of any team in the game. This gives you a better chance of success right out of the gate, but with higher-profile jobs come higher expectations, so you'll need to win and win quickly to retain your job. Both modes place you in control of day-to-day operations such as recruiting players, hiring coaches, and scheduling your games. The 360 version of the game has a new feature called hoopcast that lets you simulate a game while still controlling certain aspects of the contest. Sadly, hoopcast is nowhere to be found here. Also missing from the Xbox version is College Hoops Tonight, a weekly show where Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg break down all the big games of the previous week and also discuss upcoming matchups. It's not all bad news. The duo do host a preseason show that covers the top 25 as well as the best players in the country. Near the end of the season they host the Selection Sunday show, which breaks down the NCAA tournament.
Should you grow tired of playing the CPU, you can play with or against up to three friends on one console, or you can head online where you can play a quick match, join or create a league, and even participate in tournaments. Since it seems that most people have moved on to the 360 version of the game, it can be a little difficult finding an opponent, but save for a bit of lag here and there, the online experience was as smooth as you could hope for on the Xbox.
2K7 does a nice job differentiating the college game from the pro game. Teams play a variety of styles, mostly sticking to their real-life tendencies. Knowing when to apply pressure on defense and how to break a full-court press on offense is very important, as this can often be the difference in a close contest. You'll also need to be adept at patiently picking holes in zone defenses while also being able to run the floor to keep up with teams that like to push the pace. It's not a huge deal, but neither the confidence meter, nor team unity made it from the Xbox 360 version.
For the most part, College Hoops 2K7's gameplay is very solid, thanks in no small part to how much it has in common with NBA 2K7. They have similar control schemes, so you're able to shoot with the right stick and pull off crossovers and other dribbles by holding down the right trigger and moving the left analog stick. You can also shoot with the X button, which is nice for people that don't like the "isomotion" style controls. Calling plays and changing defensive sets on the fly is as simple as pressing a direction on the D pad. There are a fair amount of quirks and glitches that make 2K7 less fun than it ought to be. Casual players may be able to look past most of these, but anyone who's really into sports might not be as forgiving. The biggest problem is that it's all too easy to intercept passes; it's almost comical to see players turn the ball over so often. The game's box claims that the artificial intelligence has been improved, but any improvement is tough to see. The whole game moves way too fast on the default settings, and while this can be addressed by adjusting some sliders, it really should have been taken care of before the game shipped.
College Hoops 2K7 looks almost exactly the same as College Hoops 2K6, which means the visuals are really starting to show their age. Things only get worse in 480p, where the clearer display makes the aliasing more pronounced and it's easier to see all of the game's problems. The arenas look OK, and there are even cheerleaders and school mascots patrolling the baselines. While there might be minor differences between how the courts look in real life versus how they look in the game, the amount of team-specific detail is impressive. A number of real coaches have been included this year, which is a nice touch, though they don't add much to the proceedings and there are some big-name omissions. The fans in this version can't hold a candle to the crazed student sections dressed in school colors hopping up and down and screaming like mad from the 360 version, but they're pretty active and they look decent.
Player models look and move almost exactly the same as last year. For the most part, player animations are good, but there are some nasty cases of players jumping from one move to the next, and you'll occasionally notice the ball warping from one spot to another. It's also odd that players in the Xbox version can wear T-shirts under their jerseys but don't on the 360. Player's limbs will often pass through other player's bodies, and they can occasionally dunk right through the backboard.
A vital part of re-creating the college-basketball experience is accurately capturing the sounds of the game and College Hoops 2K7 does just that. 2K6 was lacking in the fight-song department, but 2K7 boasts a huge number of these (around 200), and they all sound great. It's not just the big schools that have their fight songs; small schools are well represented, too. The crowds are energetic and will cheer and chant until the final buzzer. You can't create custom crowd chants like on the Xbox 360, but you can create your own arena music clips using songs stored on your hard drive. Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist do a decent job calling the action, but they repeat themselves quite often, their commentary is choppy, and Raftery can get rather obnoxious. Bonnie Bernstein provides up-to-the-minute updates from the floor and actually has some interesting insight into the proceedings.
College Hoops 2K7 is a good game that does a nice job of capturing the look, feel, and sound of college basketball. There's no shortage of activities--be it controlling every aspect of a program in legacy mode or creating custom arena music--so you can lose yourself in the game for hours on end. However, it's tough to recommend to anyone who owns College Hoops 2K6, because the two games are virtually indistinguishable. If you're on the fence on whether to pick the game up for the Xbox or the Xbox 360, the game's much better on the 360, but it is $40 bucks more.