12/11/2009 12:55 AM
52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 49
NCAA Basketball 10
Release Date: November 18, 2009
Developer: EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
While mostly ignored in Canada, college sports in the US are big business. Many fans prefer the unpredictability and creativity of college level games. NCAA Basketball 10 is the latest game by EA Canada to cover the US college level basketball scene.
At first glance, NCAA Basketball 10 looks may be mistaken for NBA Live. This is not just by chance as both games use of most of the same underlying technology. That is not to say that the two games are identical. Visually NCAA Basketball 10 appears to be a bit more refined than its professional counterpart. The animation is a marginally smoother and the framerate more consistent. Basketball players and crowd members all look good with more variety than in previous versions. The thing I noticed mostly was that the jerseys which looked so cardboardish in NBA Live appear more realistic and pliable in this game. The only problem I have with the visual is that game models at times appear to float on the court. The worse display of the floating character models occurs during the half-time show when the cheerleaders perform a pyramid. It is painfully obvious that the top cheerleader is floating mid-air. Why would the devs even add such a poorly animated sequence to the game? I honestly half expected Claire Bennet and the other fine folks from Heroes to appear in the game displaying various supernatural abilities. Had they omitted the entire floating cheerleader animation, I would not have even noticed its absence, but adding it resulted in lowering my opinion of the game.
I mentioned that both games were quite different and this is true. What really sets NCAA Basketball 10 apart from NBA Live 10 is in the presentation. New to the series is the inclusion of CBS and ESPN style broadcasting to each game. As each game begins, the game field will be blasted with a myriad of on screen graphics and banners and such things that we all come to expect when watching a sporting event on TV. I am told that the presentation is the exact same used by ESPN and CBS when broadcasting college games. I cannot confirm this as I do not watch US college sports. But I can say that the presentation is very well done and it really adds a lot of ambiance to the game. EA Canada really needs to hook-up a similar deal with CBC and “Hockey Night in Canada” crew.
I previously complained that the crowd in college sports games, some of the rowdiest crowds in any sporting events, were extremely tame. That has changed in this title. The fans in some stadiums can get so loud that the arena appears to shake to the roaring of the fans (actually it is the camera that shakes, but the effect is awesome none-the less). Still the atmosphere is still not perfect as fans will start roaring loudly at times then quiet down for no apparent reason.
Another area that the games are different is in the controls. It is obvious that NCAA Basketball 10 benefited tremendously from the extra development time since the release of NBA Live 10. I cannot stress how good of a thing this is as the controls on NBA Live felt sluggish and unresponsive. Whatever problem plagued NBA Live 10 has been resolved for NCAA Basketball 10 enjoys fluid and responsive controls. Not satisfied with simply correcting the control issues, the game also introduces a new control option called “Motion Offence”. Motion offence is not new to the college sport as it is often used successfully by many college teams. The goal is to keep the offence in constant movement, completion passes on the fly in an attempt to confuse the opponent’s defence. This is very similar to the “option pass” used in college football games. The addition of motion offence does a great job of capturing the style of play that is witnessed only at the junior levels. Motion offence is not as popular at the professional level as pro players are just too strong, too athletic and way to experienced to be confused by such fast plays.
Not everything in the game is an improvement over NBA Live 10. One major flaw in NBA Live that migrated over to NCAA Basketball 10 is with the artificial intelligence of non-player characters. It is not that the AI is particularly horrible, but all too often it will make really stupid mistakes like passing to players out of bounds or to a man double-covered. These inconsistencies can be explained as simple inexperience of college level players, but harder to excuse is when players run in the wrong direction or players dribbling down the clock with only seconds left in the game and behind by a basket. What irritated me the most was the insistence of the AI to apply the hateful clock management technique of purposely fouling out in the final minute of the game even thought they trailed by more than 20 points with no chance of making a comeback without some type of divine intervention.
The game offers nothing new as far as game types over the previous year. Back once again is the usual assortment of Quick Play, Dynasty Mode and online play. A Pro (or rookie) mode would have been nice. Too keep the game fresh, the devs included Dynamic Updates, a new feature that will download weekly changes in the US college basketball scene such as ranking and streaks. The features is not as engrossing as the Live Updates in the NBA Live series, in part because there are no real superstars in the college game, but still quite nice to have. This is another feature that needs to be included in NHL 11.
NCAA is a very competent basketball game that outperforms its professional counterpart, but falls short of NBA 2K Basketball series of games. I really would have enjoyed the game more if the developers would have included some teams from the Canadian University Men’s Basketball league to create a more personal attachment to the title for Canadian gamers. As it stands, NCAA Basketball 10 will mostly just appeal to Canadian gamers looking for some relatively easy achievements of which did not change from NCAA Basketball 09.
The NCAA Basketball series always served as a good indication of the direction being taken for the next NBA Live game. If this trend remains true, and EA Canada can improve on some key areas such as the AI and game modes, NBA 2K series may finally start having some competition once again.