NCAA Basketball 09 review
Available for
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Electronic Arts
NCAA Basketball 09

Reviewed by Jason Thompson



s we all know by now, some time in the not-so-distant-past the great EA conglomerate made sure no one else would be able to create an officially licensed NFL video game. Well, now they’ve gone and made sure no one else can do the same with college basketball. It’s not as big a deal, as it’s sort of hard to get worked up over college hoops video games, but it does leave the door open to make comments about how someone else could have made a much better game if only they were allowed to. Seriously, is EA that afraid that they’re going to get trumped?

Of course, the problem with having no competition is that, no, you no longer need to be afraid, and yes, you can make whatever game you like knowing that the public will partake in it simply because they have to. This ultimately means the game can be as boringly average as “NCAA Basketball 09” ultimately is. It doesn’t matter that EA has revamped the game engine using the same one found in “NBA Live 09.” Yet where that game excelled with the new engine, the same can’t be said when porting it over to this title.

And speaking of those college players, where the hell are they? Here, we’re treated to faceless dudes represented only by the numbers on their jerseys. Well, at least we all know number 62 is hot shit with the three pointers and that 17 can’t guard to save his life. Luckily, we do have the real coaches thrown in to react to their generic players. Hmmm, real coaches and no-name players. Doesn’t really make much sense, but I suppose if you’re looking to play from someone’s particular playbook, then you can at least satisfy that urge.

Gameplay is also notched up a bit this year with the Tempo Control feature. With this, you can choose to focus on a particular style of offense and play to that strength. If you do well, the game’s tempo will lean towards your favor and the crowd goes wild. Or something like that. The coaches also have to get in their say whenever possible, letting you know how well or poorly you’re doing. As if having that goofy meter on the screen wasn’t enough to let you know.

The big draw of the single player game is, of course, the dynasty mode that allows players to choose a particular team and try to take them all the way to the Final Four. Sounds like this would be fun online, right? Well, too bad, as this feature is completely absent from the online play. The only thing available is a player vs. player mode. No co-op, no multiple players, just one-on-one gaming. So don’t get all excited and think you’re going to take that dynasty online as it just isn’t there. So who dropped the ball here, and why?

Yet EA saw fit to include the ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends feature, where players can choose from one of the best 64 college teams of all time, and pit them against any of the remaining teams. It’s sort of fun in that retro way, but it’s really only amusing for a short time and does nothing to fix the game’s myriad flaws. No, not even color commentary by Dick Vitale (who sounds like he’s on life support here) and Brad Nessler. So what’s to be done if this is the only game in town? Rent it, obviously, if you really need to get a fix of college hoops. This series has a way to go before it becomes truly great. But with no other competition allowed, that idea may never actually become a reality.

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