If you’re as big a college hoops fan as I am, then it will be very prudent for you to know that whether or not you’re a fan of EA’s NCAA Basketball 09, you don’t have any other options now. In 2008, Electronic Arts became the exclusive brand covering college basketball so it’s either the NCAA Basketball series or nothing. You would think that EA, knowing they’ve shut out the competition, would then try to make this game as kick ass as possible. That’s just not the case this year, as EA turns the ball over.
NCAA Basketball 09 made some big improvements on last year’s March Madness edition. However these additions opened the door to new problems. On offense you will notice the difficulty of using the quick-hit moves. The moves look pretty in the open court but when you’re being pressured or trying to get to the rack, it doesn’t really work. I would also guess that with a predecessor that focused so much on post moves, they would be just as good this year. Not the case. I had numerous and consecutive plays of getting the ball down low and trying to back someone down, and the defender flops and gets the charge call? When my post player gets three consecutive fouls the same way, there is a problem with the post play.
The problem of slow shooting response still exists. It is nearly impossible to catch and shoot a well-timed shot, not to mention that a stop-and-pop shot doesn’t exist. If you try to take a one-dribble shot, it looks like you’re running out of time on the shot clock and have to heave a last-second effort. This causes so many missed shots.
While playing defense, the frustration doesn’t end. In previous years, when you get into a passing lane to get a deflection or a steal, there was a good chance if the offense made a careless pass that you could capitalize. This year, time after time the defense will make cross-court passes despite your best efforts to intercept. Even more frustrating, passes will put the ball straight through your hand on many occasions. So it sounds impossible to steal the ball right? No. When you are guarding the ball, it is way too easy to get a steal. Simply swiping the ball is way too effective to steal the ball and head down on a fast break. They should have tried to compromise a little bit on each to make it a little more balanced.
That being said there are many good parts to NCAA Basketball 09. Last year EA focused a lot of attention on post play. This year brings an almost NBA action pick-and-roll to the picture (which would fit because EA used the same game engine as their other title NBA Live). Now it is easy and effective to set a high ball screen and go to work. NCAA Basketball 09 also pays emphasis to the tempo and styles of play. You can select whether your team will have a “fast pace,” “balanced,” or “half court” tempo. The more you play to your strengths, the better your team performs. You really can tell the difference getting up and down the court. There is no substitute to running a good offense and seeing your team get an easy bucket while working together.
Also, like usual, the most famous part of college basketball is the college atmosphere. I personally prefer the crowd interactions in March Madness 08 but the ones here aren’t too shabby. All 328 NCAA D1 teams are offered and most of their arenas are intricate and detailed. It is great to play in big rivalry games because you can really feel the electricity in the gym. It is the biggest difference between college and professional ball and EA always does a tremendous job of emphasizing it. EA also does a great job at making controls very user friendly. It really is a game anyone can pick up and play.
So even though you don’t have a choice, NCAA Basketball 09 is still a fun game to play. Its deep dynasty mode and college atmosphere are great but I would have liked to see EA really step it up, being the only college basketball on the market this holiday season. It’s not too different from last year’s installment, a bit of a step down in my opinion, but still good. It’s always great to live the dream and play with “your team” as you try to make some noise in March.