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EA drops the rock with ‘NCAA Basketball 09’

As good as most sports they release usually are, EA Sports has never managed to make a great college basketball game.

Since the company has become a household name, EA has released great soccer games, a pretty fun rugby game and even a good college baseball game. But not college basketball.

I never understood why EA didn’t use NBA Live’s mechanics and apply it to a college game, The “NBA Live” franchise has the best gameplay of any basketball game on the market. EA invented a way to creat fluid mechanics in one of the few sports that has really no slow moments. But EA hasn’t transferred those ideas to the college basketball games. Actually, it seems like the college games are operating on a platform for “NBA Live 98.”

My expectations were again low when I got a copy of “NCAA Basketball 09” late last month.

Before I went any deeper into the game, I played through a couple of exhibition games just to get a feel for the gameplay. It’s better this year, maybe the best in recent memory.

But the game action still doesn’t run smoothly. Sometimes driving to the basketball requires no resistance, and other times — I’m talking about with the same player — you can’t drive inside the 3-point line. The computer never misses an open shot, and never makes a contested jumper. You can work with the sliders to change some of those issues, but they don’t really change enough to matter.

The best changes about the game don’t have much to do with the gameplay.

The designers already did a good job in years past of designing life-like courts and arenas.

But this year is even better. Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum is meticulously recreated. My alma mater Georgia State’s arena is pretty close to accurate, down to the Charles “Lefty” Dreisell insignia on the court. Mercer’s University Center isn’t very detailed, but you can’t expect all 300-plus arenas to be perfect.

All Division 1 teams are included in the game, as are some historical teams and some of the more prestigious preseason tournaments and their arenas.

The best addition in this year’s version is the overhauled recruiting system. The recruiting system in years past was inexact at best.

This year, the designers modeled their recruiting system closely to the one in EA’s college football games. There are two signing periods and the ability to score talented players in the spring if you miss on them in the fall.

The recruiting system makes playing the dynasty mode more enjoyable and adds to the total package. But the gameplay is still lacking, leaving me still searching for the perfect college basketball game.

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