College Hoops 2K8 Hands-On: Legacy Mode Spotlight

Scouting and recruiting are bigger than ever in 2K Sports' upcoming college basketball game.

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Playing five-on-five basketball in 2K Sports' College Hoops series is a lot of fun, but sooner or later, you want all those games to mean something. Yeah, it's great taking your buddy behind the wheelhouse in an online match and dealing him an on-court beating the likes of which he's never seen. But the real meat of the 2K8 is found in the legacy mode, where coaching careers are made or broken on a season-by-season basis. As one of our favorite aspects of this college basketball game, we've spent a ton of time in the legacy modes of previous College Hoops entries, and today, we got a sneak peak at what the team at 2K has done with legacy mode in the upcoming College Hoops 2K8.

Games may be won in the paint but careers are made in recruiting.
Games may be won in the paint but careers are made in recruiting.

First things first: Legacy mode will still include open and career play styles. The former is where you can choose any team to coach, and the latter is where you start with a scrub school then move your way up the prestige rankings by winning wherever you go. When you aren't playing games in legacy mode, your time is taken up mostly with two things: scouting new players and recruiting talent for your team. This time around, the game is giving you even more tools at your disposal for ensuring you find the right players for your team. One of the most powerful of these is the amateur basketball league (ABL), which is aimed at helping you zero in on the best up-and-coming talent. One hundred and twenty eight teams spread across eight regions compete in the ABL during the season, which means a lot of games to cover. Smaller programs might want to stick to their home region for a better chance at securing local talent. After all, there's little reason for the Hartford Hawks to go scouting about North Carolina unless they're looking to get a few doors slammed in their face.

With more than 100 teams, there will be a ton of players to keep straight. During the ABL season, you can view one game per day either by simulating or playing the game (note: playing these ABL games will earn you extra recruiting points to use once recruiting season begins, which is a handy little incentive to play the game out). You'll be given a full rundown of the players' performances in the game. This includes the basics, such as in-game stats, but also more valuable information, such as attribute values that are the real meat and potatoes of player scouting. After each game, a select number of attributes will become unlocked. The skill of the coach attending the game plays into matters here: The more skilled a coach, the more attributes he'll unlock after a game. In addition, a player's most outstanding attributes will be most readily apparent, while his worst attributes will come last. After all, if a guy is a monster on the boards, you're going to know it practically right away.

As you attend multiple games throughout the ABL season--which culminates in a cross-regional tournament featuring the best teams from all over--you'll be able to add and subtract players from your target list as potential recruits for your team. The more times you scout a player, the more complete a picture you'll get of him as the season progresses across attributes, such as three-pointers, dunk, clutch, steals, blocks, and many more--30 attributes in all. In addition, players will earn overall grades for general items, such as defense, skills, and shooting. Each player will also carry standard star ratings for a quick view of his overall skills.

Once you've got your target list put together, it will be up to you to convince players that they need to don your school's colors. Recruiting visits still works similarly to years' past. You'll still spend points on a weekly basis on actions, such as making phone calls to players, inviting them on campus, and so on. In fact, the team at 2K has spent a good deal of time balancing some of these recruiting activities--adding more import to a coach's visit to a recruit's home, for example. The result should be a similar but slightly tweaked feel to recruiting new players.

Scouting players in 2K8 will mean paying attention to the ABL schedule and looking out for hot talent.
Scouting players in 2K8 will mean paying attention to the ABL schedule and looking out for hot talent.

Recruiting and scouting takes up a big chunk of your time as coach in 2K8, but it won't be the entirety of your job responsibilities. You'll also be in charge of making sure your players progress during the season. You'll have a couple of options for doing so: First, you can set player practice and training areas of focus on a week-by-week basis. This can be set either on a team-wide basis or individually for each player on the squad. Handy player progression meters will show you how close a player is to moving up to the next attribute point for every attribute on the list, so if your player is close to moving up to the next level in free throws, you might spend some extra time in his practice focusing on taking shots from the line.

The other option is to take players through individual drills that are based on the same skill-based minigames described in our last look at the game. Here, if your player is almost ready to jump up a point in free throws, you can take him to the free throw drill and focus on practice that you control yourself. You'll be able to train in two of these drills per week. These drills are purely optional, of course, and your players will still progress at a modest clip even if you choose not to use them, but it's nice to have that extra level of control over how your players evolve.

While all of these additions seem like positives for 2K8, we can't help but wish for a new user interface to enhance all of this depth. The menu system in 2K still seems unintuitive. A new all-in-one legacy mode front-end screen--aimed at getting you as much information as possible in one place--helps a bit, but transitioning between windows and finding player information can still be confusing. Is it too late to hope for a UI overhaul in College Hoops 2K9 (and the rest of the 2K lineup while we're at it)?

Sports game manuals are getting thinner than a rehabilitated Lindsey Lohan, so a tutorial in 2K8 showing you all of the special moves you'll be able to pull off in the game is a welcome addition. Similar in execution to the practice mode, you can queue up several special moves (such as hesitation, crossovers, and many more) and practice them to your heart's content. You can watch a play in action by a computer-controlled player and see how the move is executed with a small legend on the top portion of the screen, as well as practice a move as many times as you like. The moves tutorial is in addition to a huge number of in-game help screens that will explain practically every aspect and icon found in the game.

More flexibility for your rotation will help you ensure that you put your bench to better use.
More flexibility for your rotation will help you ensure that you put your bench to better use.

It won't be the first game to let you create plays from scratch, but College Hoops 2K8's play creator looks like a real winner for those who are looking to add their own dash of strategy to their game. You can customize seemingly everything here--from the set you start your play out in (either one of the many presets found in the game, or create a set all your own) to choosing how and when every player on the court moves during your created play. When players move, when they go for the pick, when they pass the ball, even how long to wait in between every step in the play (with a handy delay timer)...the possibilities for on-court strategy seem practically limitless. You can also practice your play on the floor either alone or against a defensive set. In addition, with the cool 2K Share option--which will let you share everything from created shots to NCAA rosters online with friends--you can upload your own created plays or download the highest rated plays and try them out with your own team.

A revamped shrine to hold all of your trophies, new alternate uniforms to unlock, new classic teams to play with (how about 1990's Loyola Marymount squad for starters?), and a number of new all-time teams look to make College Hoops 2K8 yet another deep, immersive college basketball experience. The tip-off for College Hoops 2K8 is set for November 19, and we'll be bringing you more on the game in the coming weeks.

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