College Hoops 2K7 Legacy Mode Hands-On
We step into the hot seat while checking out the legacy mode in College Hoops 2K7.
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There are many good reasons to watch college basketball: The pageantry of the game and its fans, the "anything can happen" nature of the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and, of course, the legacy of pride and history that long-successful teams have built over the course of many decades. With the upcoming release of 2K Sports' College Hoops 2K7, you'll get a chance to create some history of your own by guiding your own coaching career (and the teams you head) to virtual greatness in the game's legacy mode, which has undergone some tweaks this season.
As in previous College Hoops games, legacy mode is split into two variations--open, which lets you take control of any team featured in the game, and the more challenging career version, which has you take the reins of schools with--how do we put this politely?--less-than-sterling basketball reputations, in the hopes of raising the fortunes of that team, and perhaps even moving on to bigger and better jobs as your career progresses. One of the biggest changes this year is that, unlike in College Hoops games of the past, you can be fired when playing in open mode. The coaches' carousel swings in both open and career versions of legacy mode during the off-season, so if you can't keep up the winning ways of an established school like Kentucky or UConn, you can expect to be on the hot seat before too long.
Another important change to the mode is the influence of team unity to your team's fortunes. We wrote about how unity works in our previous look at College Hoops 2K7, and it's nice to see the concept carry over into the most significant single-player portion of the game. Team unity won't just affect your team's on-the-court performance--where unified teams of mediocre players can even take down an undisciplined team of better athletes--it also will have an affect on how your team is perceived in the game. An experienced team with a high unity rating will benefit in the preseason polls and, once the NCAA tournament (or the NIT, which is a new addition to the game this year) rolls around, high-unity teams might find themselves in a better seeding. Bottom line: You can hardly go wrong by keeping your team playing...well, like a team.
The mechanics of either version of legacy mode will feel very familiar to series vets. In the career version you start off by creating your virtual coach, then choosing the contract you wish to take on. In open mode, you choose the school you wish to coach and are then offered the chance to alter the coach appearance as you see fit. 2K7 includes many real-life coaches in the game, such as Florida's Billy Donovan, North Carolina's Roy Williams, and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, among many others. For the most part the resemblance between a virtual coach and the real thing is pretty good, but if you want to create a 6'10" alternate version of Lute Olson, go right ahead.
Your contract signing taken care of, you'll next hire a couple of assistant coaches and adjust your schedule as you like, and then it's off to the races. You'll spend much of your time on the team calendar as you move through your season, be it simulating up to your next game, dealing with roster adjustments, or handling in- and off-season recruiting duties. The game also includes an updated and upgraded weekly "broadcast" starring Greg Gumble and Clark Kellogg. Before the season begins, the pair will run down the top 25 teams in the nation, as well as their picks for first- and second-team All Americans. Once the season gets going, the weekly show will focus on previews of upcoming games, recaps of big match-ups from the prior week (using in-game footage for the highlight reel, which is a nice touch) as well as news on the recruiting front.
The college basketball season is long, but you aren't required to play out all of the games if you don't want to in 2K7. In addition to simply simulating games the old-fashioned way or playing in coach mode, a new method called HoopCast lets you have a bit more control over the game's outcome than a traditional simulation, without having to play the game in real time. When simulating a game via HoopCast, you're taken to a menu that shows you constantly updating stat windows for both teams and players, plus a representation of the court itself. As the simulation progresses, the virtual floor will fill up with circles and Xs, indicating successful and unsuccessful shots, and your players will begin piling on the points, rebounds, and assists, while their energy rating will drain the longer they're kept in the game.
While you don't have complete control over the happenings on the floor, there are some things you can do in HoopCast simulations to keep things interesting. Pressing the right analog stick in any direction brings up slider options for things like offensive tempo, defensive pressure, fast breaks, and board crashing, which you can adjust as you deem necessary. You can also change the substitutions and timeout settings to "manual" and make subs when you see fit. Pressing the right or left button will bring up a new menu where you can determine match-ups. Unfortunately, some key abilities, such as calling set plays and defensive schemes or determining match-up pressure, are missing from the mode, but producers say they hope to work those aspects into the mode in future iterations of the game.
Another area that's received some attention from the 2K development team is statistics. There's just an absurd amount of stat-tracking happening here--not on the level of the publisher's MLB 2K series, mind you, but impressive nonetheless. On the team side of things, improved team cards will illustrate your schedule and record as well as your overall team unity level, the confidence level of each player on your team, and his game experience (both of which contribute to the unity rating).
Similarly, player cards also give a better picture of a player's skill ratings across categories such as ball control, dunking ability, speed, stamina, and many others. Not only are you given a numerical rating for each attribute, but also a grade. That grade is relative to the position that player holds; a player with a ball control rating of 65, for example, might not merit a good grade as a point guard, but would be excellent for a center. This rating/grade system works prominently into the recruiting of new players for your team; the more you scout them, the better a picture you'll get of his abilities at his position. In addition, player cards include little additions such as career highs across different statistical categories, tendencies, and confidence ratings, as well as any awards he's earned while at school (or any high school trophies he racked up, for that matter). The game will also keep track of your record as a coach either in career or open mode to give you an idea of how you've progressed since your first season in the game.
As the season winds down, College Hoops will keep you informed of the postseason action, thanks to a constantly updated feature called Bracketology. Here you can get a look at how the seedings for the in-game NCAA Tournament change from week to week, and also check out the teams "on the bubble" (as well as their RPI ratings) for making it into the big dance.
The off-season in College Hoops 2K7 will include coach firings, retirements, and hirings--and depending on your performance, you might even entertain offers from teams looking to attract your services. You'll also be able to improve your coaching abilities, but how you earn attribute points will differ depending on which version of legacy mode you're playing. In career mode, you'll earn points based on how many goals you complete; in the open mode, your attribute points are tied to how successful your team was during the previous season; the better your record, the more points you'll earn (though it is possible to earn no points at all). After the coaching carousel has spun, it's simply a matter of dealing with player transfers, scouting new players in the various high school invitational tournaments, and getting ready for the next season.
A final word about the Xbox Live achievements in 2K7: The game has 49 total achievements spread across all facets of the game. Specific legacy mode achievements include things like winning multiple championships in career mode, completing legacy mode goals, or maintain a 75 percent win percentage over five years.
With hundreds of schools to choose from, more than 30 tournaments to participate in, and modes such as online play, coach mode, and rivalry modes (among others), College Hoops 2K7 looks like it's shaping up to be another fun entry in 2K's college basketball series. We look forward to bringing you more on the game, including a full review, after the game is released later this month.