Did anyone watch the all day marathon of college basketball on ESPN? Can you believe it is already that time again? As a mild UCLA fan I have to say it feels like just yesterday I was watching UCLA take its latest Final Four exit last March. Well the NBA has drafted, and college basketball is back again, and again its back with its latest video game iteration, NCAA Basketball 09 which we are checking out on the Xbox 360. The question is, does NCAA Basketball 09 have what it takes to go all the way? Read our full review to find out!
Some may remember my highly praising review of NBA Live 09 which I wrote a few months back. We got a lot of reaction from that review both in a positive and negative light and I do stand by my review and score of the game. Being that NCAA Basketball 09 borrows what I figure to be 80-90% of NBA Live, you would think that this would be another sure fire winner for EA right? Well not so fast, I wouldn’t go that far.
To me all college sports video games need to really capture the atmosphere of the action. The one thing that college sports have that I don’t believe professional sports have as much of is dedication. I mean the fans have a vested interest in their school’s succeeding not only for bragging rights but to enhance the school. Being a UC Irvine graduate I always find it really exciting to take my lowly ranked basketball team from the bowls of the Big West and hope to take on the likes of UCLA or North Carolina in the big tournament. But my issue with EA’s college basketball franchise is that I have never felt it capture the excitement that college basketball has.
This has changed quite a bit in NCAA Basketball 09 which takes some necessary steps in the right direction. First off the speed of the game is light years faster then last years game which is really a huge blessing for this game and keeps the excitement level much higher. The only issue is that with things moving faster the game suffers from some minor issues.
For example you have a meter in each game which tracks how you are playing and makes sure you stick with your intended goal. So for example I always wanted to have an uptempo squad and if I could remain at that pace my players abilities gained some brownie points and were rewarded for that. Its to archaic however, the added ability is nice but its misguided and doesn’t necessarily work all that well. You feel like you cannot delve even a half step off the plan without ruining the tempo meter and putting everything in whack.
The word archaic actually came up more then I thought it would throughout playing NCAA Basketball 09. Although you can feel the underling’s of NBA Live 09 throughout the game there are far to many other shortcomings that get in the way. Very little has been done to the modes, you have standard online options, the dynasty mode has no huge improvements, and outside of that little has been done to improve the depth of the experience.
The gameplay is solid, a bit misguided at times with the new momentum meter, but solid nonetheless. The only issue I really had was there wasn’t enough meat around the bones to contain the experience. Where NBA Live had several new features, NCAA Basketball 09 just doesn’t feel as complete and there lies the games biggest problem.
College basketball is a tough game to review the visuals of, since there are no models based on specific players you are obviously going to have a lot of generic players on the court, however EA has done a rather good job of it nonetheless. The atmosphere of the game is still lacking, I don’t feel the excitement that we get from EA’s college football experience. This is a major element of the game that I think this game needs to take its experience to the next level. There are some spots also in the game like crowds which are a noticeable dip in graphical quality.
Like I have mentioned before a lot of the underlying feel of NBA Live 09 is part of NCAA Basketball 09 but it are the details where this game lacks. I know that the developers are taking this series in the right direction because I enjoyed this experience a great deal more then I have with previous titles its just a shame that this wasn’t a more complete experience. Fans of college basketball are going to find more to like here as the experience has got a nice pacing on the court but in terms of a long term experience that is where this game lacks.
A good outing for NCAA Basketball 09 on the Xbox 360, not perfect, but good. NCAA Basketball 09 has the underlying element of what could be a huge step in the right direction, but the lack of depth ends up being the games great fault. With such a rich holiday market for gamers this is a hard game to recommend, but if you really want to get your taste for college basketball this season the game wouldn’t make a bad rental.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.