Friday, November 19, 2004

ESPN College Hoops 2K5

Initial impressions are very favorable for the sequel to the game I thought was the best sports game of 2003. The graphics have been upgraded, the animations are solid, and the A.I. is improved. The sliders have a surprising amount of nuance to them, although the game plays pretty solidly with the default settings.

One innovation that is long overdue is the new free throw system. No more meters. Instead, you watch your player's motion and release the shoot button at the proper point. It's beautiful. I've always railed about 'meters' in sports games in any capacity. If you're watching a meter instead of the game, it's just wrong. That's why the Trueswing innovation by Headgate totally redefined golf sims, and I hope that developers will take note of this new free throw system and expand its use to other sports (this is how field goal kicking should be done as well).

Here's a quick example of the gameplay: the CPU was running a fast break against me, and as the point guard passed to a player heading for the basket, I knew instinctively that it should be a bounce pass because of the spacing and relationship of the offensive player and the defender. No basketball game really uses the bounce pass appropriately--at least, none that I ever played, and I've played most of them. So I had already resigned myself to another year of bad passing.

And the damn guy threw a bounce pass. And put some mustard on it, too. It looked so perfect that I was just absolutely stunned. Nicely done!

Player movement and spacing is also very well done, which again is extremely unusual for a basketball game. I have been very, very pleased with the on-court action.

Now I haven't started a Legacy yet, but Legacy mode was outstanding last year, so I expect good things from it. I'll be focusing on that when I play the game over the next few days, and I'll have some additional impressions for you early next week.

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