NCAA Basketball 10 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Nov 18, 2009

College basketball is a two-headed monster of a sport, attracting both devoted fanatics and those who are drawn to the frenzy that is March Madness. EA has done their best to please both parties with NCAA Basketball 10, and the result is a flawed, but generally fun experience.

The Pros
  • Excellent presentation
  • Accurate collegiate offenses and defenses
  • NCAA Tournament, FTW!
The Cons
  • Disparity between strong and weak teams is awkward
  • Your skill at gaming might not matter
  • Can be too easy and too hard at weird times

College basketball is a two-headed monster of a sport, attracting both devoted fanatics and those who are drawn to the frenzy that is March Madness. EA has done their best to please both parties with NCAA Basketball 10, and the result is a flawed, but generally fun experience.

NCAA Basketball 10

The Pageantry, The Tradition…

The first thing you should know about NCAA Basketball 10 is that if you’ve played much of the recently-released NBA Live 10, you’ll notice that the experience is strikingly similar. That’s intended, as the same team was tasked with making gameplay improvements to both games. The controls are the same, the display is essentially the same, and the interface is quite similar, so learning one game is the same as learning both, which is good.

That’s not to say it’s the same game, because it isn’t, neither in practice nor in philosophy. This is both a blessing and a curse. If you choose to be a marquee team, such as North Carolina or Duke, you will find the sailing perhaps a little too smooth as you crush your smaller opponents, even playing in All-Conference and All-American modes, which are the most difficult in the game.

It’s a double-edged sword that teaches you the limitations of the sport as much as anything. Let’s say you’re the University of Akron Zips, for example. You can play as hard as possible, but beating a team that is athletically superior on their home court is nearly impossible. That discrepancy does nothing to encourage you to be one of those inferior teams, because why would you bother if you could just decide to be Kansas and crush everyone?

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#23, #23, He’s Our Man, If He Can’t Do It, #0 Can!

The tetchy relationship between commerce and the NCAA dictates that your players will be anonymous and identified only by number. This will make you more reliant on the stats you’re provided before the game because without them, you won’t be able to figure out who’s supposed to be who on your team, unless you are a mega-fan and are able to accurately guess.

This ethic extends to cover athlete Blake Griffin, who once played for Oklahoma, but is now riding the pine for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s the only character with an identified personality in the game, but isn’t available as a player except when he’s training on the anonymous college campus that serves as the load screen for the game.

NCAA Basketball 10

Bracket Busting

There are some real positives about NCAA Basketball 10, the first and foremost being the experience of actually being in the game. Never before has a college basketball game captured the experience of watching it on TV. From the beautifully constructed gyms to the ESPN and CBS announce teams that feature Gus Johnson, Bill Rafferty, Brad Nessler, Erin Andrews, and the immortal verbal stylings of the great Dick Vitale, you will feel more a part of the game than ever before.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than during the NCAA Tournament, which you can jump right into, choose a team, and play through all the way to the Final Four. Really, why would you play anything else? After experiencing the Madness, slogging through a season in which you play against clearly inferior opponents can feel a little like a self-imposed penalty. But, if you’re a frenzied roundball fan, it might be just the ticket. Don’t think you’re going to get achievements for all this, though, as they are few, far between, and difficult to get.

Get With The Motion

A lot of attention has been paid to making the game on the floor more accurate, as well. The Motion Offense feature will allow you to run offenses like the Princeton, 4 around 1, Zone Motion, and more. Of course, you’ll need to study up to figure out how they work, but running them correctly can add up to a successful game plan. A quick button tap initiates the motion movement control, and highlights players that can get open for you to pass to.

Defense is pretty robust, too, although it becomes a little easy to steal the ball from a defensive trap. During one early game I played, my point guard got a double-double with 20 points and 15 steals. One would hope that the opposing guard would have learned his lesson after about the fifth, or that the coach would have benched him, but it was not to be.

Also, inexplicably, you will miss point blank shots from about 15 feet when unopposed, but drain almighty threes driving one-on-four with eight hands in your face. That can be kind of annoying as well and make you wonder why you would bother to do anything but launch ridiculous three point shots all the time. Ultimately, it ends up just frustrating you, because you might go to some lengths to learn these offenses, only to realize that they are just as effective as taking a scattershot approach to the game.

NCAA Basketball 10

At The Final Buzzer…

Ultimately, your enjoyment of NCAA Basketball 10 will come down to how rabid of a college basketball fan you are. The presentation is lovely, and there have been efforts to make the gameplay smooth and accurate. If only EA took into account the idea that real-life accuracy doesn’t always make for fun gaming, this would be the sort of experience that could draw people into the sport. As it is, however, it’s fun on a sliding scale, with too many flaws to be more than average.