IGN Review of NCAA Basketball 10
The NCAA Basketball series from EA Sports has always been the red-headed stepchild of the sports conglomerate. It's constantly being overshadowed by the more-popular NBA Live series and every year we see it struggle to find its own identity. This year's falls into some of those same pitfalls but benefits greatly from the refined game that NBA Live 10 presented. This year's collegiate effort also does a good job of adding a few key touches that help liken the finished product to what you'll see in March much closer than what we've seen from past efforts.
The biggest problem that will dissuade some from picking up NCAA Basketball 10 is that it feels extraordinarily similar to NBA Live 10. That would be fine if they had fixed some of the glaring AI issues that plagued the pro experience, but sadly that's not the case. You'll still see many of the same problems such as guys calling for the ball when out of bounds, needless backcourt violations and other oddities. The game hasn't taken a single step forward from Live 10 in that regard despite the added development time and in my book that's not okay.
Thankfully the team at EA Canada has made a few additions that actually do help expand on the college basketball experience. For starters, the presentation has been kicked up several notches thanks to both the CBS and ESPN licenses making appearances. As soon as you enter into a game you're instantly transported into the world of either broadcasting experience. You'll see identical logos, the same graphics transitions, pretty much everything right down to the commentators is identical to what's on TV. While ESPN's trio of Dick Vitale, Brad Nessler and Erin Andrews have much more to say than Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery who often repeat the same unexciting quips, seeing them both in the game is cool. The attention to detail that has been put into each of the presentation packages is great to see and certainly helps bring the visual presentation of NCAA Basketball 10 much closer to the genuine article.
Another cool addition to the NCAA Basketball formula comes in the form of new play calling. This year all that's needed to initiate a typical motion offense is a tap of the left shoulder button. From there you'll see your players set screens for one another and icons will show up over certain players' heads when they're open to receive a pass (you'll have a primary and secondary option). If you nail a guard curling off of a screen and he shoots in rhythm, it seemed to me as though your shot percentage gets a bit of a bump, which stands to reason.
Occasionally passing icons will illuminate when your player isn't actually open, thus leading to an interception which can be very frustrating, but more often than not the feature works as it should. Not only do you get the initial motion offense and more by holding down the left shoulder button, but you can also assign your team a bevy of other offensive options if you want. I think college fans are really going to appreciate the new play calling and it's something that I hope will make it into the next iteration of NBA Live.
The development team also added a new rendition of the dynamic updates that have made their way into NBA Live as of the '09 edition. While they can't replicate reality quite as closely because of the amateur status of NCAA athletes, they'll still be updating the Top 25 weekly as well as RPI ratings and team statistics. It wasn't available for this review, but the end goal is for the feature to keep the game relevant up through March Madness.
The rest of the core gameplay feels very similar to NBA Live, both in a good and bad way. As I said before, identical issues with artificial intelligence permeate NCAA Basketball 10 and you'll also get an almost identical set of animations. If you didn't sink your teeth into NBA Live 10 then that won't matter much to you, but if you dropped dozens of hours into the pro version this one might not be worth the plunge. The identical gameplay also doesn't help bring out the finer points of college play where the inside game is still alive and well and hustle play is much more prevalent. NCAA Basketball 10 certainly isn't a bad game of basketball thanks to the numerous improvements that were made to the NBA Live engine, but I would've liked to see a more concerted effort to differentiate the two products.
In the way of game modes you won't find any massive deviations from the standard crop. Dynasty Mode will undoubtedly be where you'll spend most of your time. You have the ability to track players' progression, make improvements to facilities in your school and go through the standard recruitment process that every college sports game brings to the table. Dynasty Mode has wonderful length and will keep you busy for some time to come. It's also cool to see the proper broadcast package being delivered depending on where you play.
One nice new touch that was added to the Dynasty Mode formula is the top 20 toughest places to play. When you enter one of these arenas you'll be able to feel the heightened excitement of the crowd, something that's accentuated further by a cool camera shake effect that happens during high-intensity moments. Cooler still is the fact that you can earn a spot in the top twenty by excelling on the court. Yes, the high-octane college crowd is alive and well in NCAA Basketball 10.
In terms of visuals, NCAA Basketball 10 is almost identical to NBA Live 10. You'll notice some nicer cloth physics and the aforementioned presentational improvements are welcome, but for the most part the player models are the same and the animations have remained largely untouched. That doesn't mean that details aren't solid and I think the crowd has a bit more detail and livelihood in NCAA, but that doesn't change the fact that the game simply looks very similar to its professional counterpart.
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