Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
3/23/2007 01:03:00 PM
Review: College Hoops 2K7 (PS3)
By Paul Ulane
Whether it's the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, or the Dick Vitale Hooters commercials, March is a time for college basketball excess, and College Hoops 2K7 has just the prescription for the overdose: more college basketball.
The thing is, once you get a good look at College Hoops 2K7 for the PS3 (also on Xbox 360 and PS2), you'll gladly welcome a couple more hours of sneaker squeaks and student chants into your living room. In fact, the only challenge you might not be able to handle in 2K7 will be peeling yourself off the couch at the end of a particularly long march through a single elimination tourney.
College Hoops 2K7 :: 2K Sports
The leading college ball simulator stays strong this year, making sure to keep the structure from last year's build while improving through subtle upgrades. As usual, there's the Legacy mode that leaves no detail unturned -- including everything from your coaches facial features to the incoming recruits from your local area -- on an engaging ride from Midnight Madness to March Madness. If you're saddled with the short attention span of most hardcore gamers, then try out a Quick Game. College Hoops Classic mode lets you carry a team through 2K's annual tournament at Madison Square Garden, while Pontiac Tournament Mode tests your mettle in conference tourneys or the NCAA pool of 65.
No matter how you get onto the court, the game play and visuals in 2K7 stay ahead of the competition. All the big college arenas are in play, and the lights reflect off of the freshly lacquered courts from baseline to baseline. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are on hand to call the game -- though silly NCAA restrictions still mean they're not so much impressed with the play of Kevin Durant as they are with "#35". Greg Gumbel also pops up for a recap after each game.
The standard controls still let you run through your options on offense smoothly, though as was the problem in 2K's pro hoops game, for some reason the players practically crawl to a stop when you attempt to move them laterally. While purists will probably shriek in horror, the new dribble stick creates more creative forays through the paint. It's not quite NBA Street, but the new freedom allows you to mix it up during the course of a game. That being said, smaller guards and lesser known players can't pull off the spectacular maneuvers some of the bigger names can, so we suggest you do most of your dribble stick damage with the likes of "#35."
College Hoops 2K7 :: 2K Sports
A more team-related addition to this year's Hoops build revolves around the Unity Meter. The better the ball moves on offense, the better the shot for your team. The better the shot, the more baskets. As this trickle down effect builds, the intensity on defense picks up, and the team's Unity Meter grows. The higher the meter, the better the team plays, and the more likely you are to take off on a game-changing run. 2K7 also develops this idea from an individual perspective with the Player Confidence Meter, which helps negate the superstar effect by allowing even the least known players on the roster an opportunity to get hot with a couple consecutive jumpers. It takes patience to kick-start one of these rolls but the ensuing rally from an unlikely source adds to the game's unpredictability.
Continuing the sports gaming world's obsession with first-person perspectives, the bizarre Coach's View game option gets you an all access view from the sidelines…to watch the game. Sure, you can call a 2-3 zone or pick-n-roll, but the novelty wears off before the halftime buzzer sounds. Next time 2K wants to toy with a view from the court, they should give it a shot with the point guard.
Two new elements of the game leave some room for improvement. The Chant Creator is a little too vanilla for our tastes. Sure, you can channel your inner-frat boy by spelling out short, randy cheers, but how are we supposed to really heckle another team when the meanest phrase available is "Airball"? Props to the first couch potato who hacks into the foul language chants -- and don't be afraid to post your rant ideas in the comments section below.
The other new aspect of the game that remains in limbo lies in the free-throw shooting gimmick. Just like NBA 2K7, you shoot with the SIXAXIS controller by mimicking a free throw stroke. Pull back, then follow through, as if you're shooting a jumper. It's not so hard to sync up between your wrists and the player on the screen, but in College Hoops, free-throws aren't shot from a first person perspective. Mimicking a player's shot from a press box view doesn't have the same effect as NBA 2K7's first-person charity stripe simulation.
But the best part of this game has little to do with next-gen looks or controller flourishes. Just like in real college ball, 2K7 lives off of its emotion (and, of course, advertisers, but that's a bitter blog post for another time). The crowd in a rivalry game reaches a deafening roar before tip-off and rarely lets up. A chorus of "Thhhrrreee!" sets off every time you pull up form behind the arc, and as the above mentioned unity meter builds, so does your team's confidence, usually leading to an extended rally to put away your opponent. Pretty soon, the basket will be swallowing every shot you throw up and you'll be able to scan the HD crowd for fans flipping out in the student section. Yeah, the bells and whistles are nice, but it's the energy in 2K7 that separates the game from other hoops sims -- and makes sure you can get your fill of madness 12 months a year.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 8
It's easy to run an offense and fun to attack on defense, but until they fix the slow sideways running bug, we're not going to be completely satisfied.
Star player likeness are exhibited in everything from body type to hairstyles, while historic courts and rampant student sections appear pretty much as they do during conference tourney clashes on ESPN.
The ability to play every game in any tournament means you could continue to find new options with this game until Durant's ready for his NBA 2K8 cover shoot.
By Aaron Samus
A few months ago when the Game Room got to play a working version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour (Wii), I was pretty excited to see what EA would do with the Wii controller. I imagined wildly swinging off the rug in front of my giant 60" Sony TV. I knew then the game would be judged by how well the swing mechanic worked. So how did the final product turn out?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 :: Electronic Arts
The swing system in Tiger is pretty easy to learn. To swing you turn away 90 degrees from your TV as if you were addressing a golf ball out on the course. Using one or two hands you grip the controller as you would a real golf club, aiming the controller down at the ground. In real golf you'd be aiming the shaft of the club at an angle but in Tiger your best bet is to aim directly down at the ground. To start a swing you hold down the B button (bottom-side of the Wii remote) as you pull back the controller in an arc.
The tutorial for the game shows gives the idea that you can take a normal golf swing. But in reality the game will punish you for trying a real swing. The ideal swing is accomplished using one hand (your primary hand) and back swinging the remote about 90 degrees with a follow-though of about the same degree. The game rewards you with a straight full power swing if the complete swing arc is parallel to the ground. In a real golf swing the arc created by your windup and release is invariably angled (see an image we grabbed from our friends at GOLF.com).
In your swing-through you can influence the ball to the left (hook) or right (slice) by titling the controller as you finish the swing. While this adds a certain level of realism to the game it can also be a little frustrating. Sometimes the game interprets your swing as straight and sometimes it doesn't. And in some cases where you decide to intentionally play a hook or slice shot you can't consistently get the ball headed that way even with an exaggerated finish.
Here's a decent video that shows you the swing and outcome:
You can add spin to your shot by lightly shaking the Wii controller while the ball is in the air. It's a strange thing to do but it's crucial if you want that extra level of control over your shot. I'd prefer to see spin control added into the swing somehow like in real golf. It's really something you should have to commit to before you swing and not after when the ball is away.
A vital component to improving your game is the practice mode. At any point during any game you can setup your shot and then take a practice swing. You don't get to see where your shot would've gone but the HUD does tell you how much strength went into the shot and the trajectory of the ball. This is really helpful for tricky shots and for most approach shots.
Overall the swing is satisfying and effective for drives and full-power shots. However the game struggles on partial swing-shots -- in the short game and putting -- where you don't want a full swing. And while the game is somewhat forgiving in this area it's not really consistent even if you take a practice swing. The basic problem is that the ideal swing arc doesn't work well if you shorten it. If you need to hit a shot at 65 percent it's next to impossible to land it with the controller swing with any consistency. It's a significant problem that we hope will be addressed in the next iteration of the game.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 7.5
We commend EA for taking a stab at golf on the Wii. We wish they had decided to make the control more precise especially on the short game shots. That said the game is pretty fun and immersive in the now-you-can-suck-in-video-game-golf-like-you-do-in-regular-golf sense.
The animations in the game are decent. To EA's credit the game is in 480p and offers widescreen support. The courses are well rendered but after seeing other Wii games you have to know the system can do more than was done here.
Tiger is packed with features we've come to expect from this franchise. It has 18 playable courses and 35 characters, a solid array of game modes (multi-player and arcade) and a very engaging create-a-player mode. With that you can take your created golfer through a season on the FedEx Cup Tour or square off in the standard array of modes (stroke, match, skins and alternate shot).