|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (10 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
I reviewed NCAA Basketball 2009 last year around this time, and I have to say right off the bat not much has changed. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I should clarify. The game is a whole heap of a lot better in certain, very distinct ways. I wasn't the first to point it out, but I'd like to jump on the bandwagon and say that most of those ways are very similar to the recently released NBA Live 10. Still, as a fan of college sports, I have to say that NCAA Basketball 2010 is a strong entry in the series even if it's reminiscent of years past. Presentation is better than ever, play-calling has improved, and EA's collegiate level focus on tempo and crowd involvement is stronger than ever. I just hope you haven't played Live or NCAA 09 in a while.´
I hate to always be Captain Buzzkill, so let's start with the good things, and there are plenty of good things about NCAA Basketball 2010. One of the first things you'll probably notice about the game is the all-new (at least to NCAA) Motion Control offense. Essentially, this is a hotkey that maps offensive play-calling to the left shoulder button. As I remarked about the feature in Live; while not entirely revolutionary, it definitely streamlines gameplay a bit without removing the strategy that makes the game more than a shoot-out. As a side-note, I've considered running plays and strategy obsolete and unnecessary in the all-star swish-fest known as 'Live' for a few years now. Yet in NCAA 2010, it makes a strong comeback. While it is entirely possible to run and gun or pick and roll all game, the best defense really is a good offense - or a well run one.
With a tap of the button, the ball handler will call the motion and send players screening and cutting across the court. When held, the shoulder button brings up a quartet of signature plays, each mapped to one of the face buttons. While these plays don't feel overly powerful, they can be quite effective when played to their strengths (feeding a backdoor cut, luring the double team and kicking to the perimeter for the three, etc.). The system isn't perfect, but it can slow gameplay down considerably and, when used properly, can offer a real advantage. For once in a sports game, it's actually gratifying to see a play called and run and not just watch star players knock down improbable shots.
The gameplay scales nicely and most games won't be blowouts. Offense is all about finding and taking the intelligent shot, controlling the floor, and keeping the ball out of defenders' hands, while defense boils down to controlling the paint, limiting second chance opportunities, and playing the passing lanes (this is very effective). This pace can be realistic to a fault. I played a rivalry game as Wake Forest against NC State and won by ten or twelve. During the last two minutes of the second half NC State fouled to stop the clock, naturally. At first it seems like a smart touch, except that it's nearly impossible to avoid the defenders. It may be true to life, but it's very annoying. Gamers hoping to smash their opponents by fifty won't necessarily be unable to, but it is important to note that fast break points, outside shots, and the other staples of that kind of offense are tough to come by. It's up for debate, but I think it makes for a much better game.
Fans of the "home court advantage" will be thrilled to find that EA pushes the envelope yet again with the Toughest Places to Play. Apparently, fans around the country voted (although when I'm not so sure) and EA selected the top 20 arenas where the crowd is a factor. It's an interesting idea and it plays a significant, though perhaps not game-changing, role. When you enter one of these arenas, chants shake the camera during key moments, free throws are tougher (though I'm not a fan of that mechanic anyway), and you really get the sense that you're playing under the scowling eyes of thirty thousand fans. What's more interesting is the fact that a team can earn its way on the list by winning during dynasty mode. Kind of a nice gesture to all of the fans of college hoops whose teams don't play in North Carolina.