We've seen it a thousand times - a head coach steps down from his job, citing a need to spend more time with his family and oh-so-earnestly saying that he's retiring from the grind once and for all. A few months later, he resurfaces elsewhere, clamoring how his need to coach was too hard to resist. So it goes with College Hoops 2K8, the latest academic b-baller from 2K Sports. It'll drive you crazy to the point that you'll swear off of it more than once, only to return time and again for another shot at victory.
The heart of this unquenchable addiction is the Career Legacy mode, a long and winding road putting you in the shoes of a coach longing for the big time. You'll first pay your dues at a small school, replete with lousy players and a daunting schedule. Over time, you'll suffer heartbreaking defeats and enjoy wondrous victories, win and lose recruits, and slog it out in the hopes of landing a better job. It's not for impatient, as the combination of underskilled ballers and utterly mystifying scouting and recruiting menus will frustrate you beyond belief. Over time, though, you'll learn how to use what little talent you have and may even qualify for the Big Dance. Eventually, better job offers will come along and you'll ditch the small-time faster than you can say "booyah!"
On the hardwood, the action is fairly similar to last year's edition - which by most accounts is a good thing. The gorgeous visuals, booming collegiate atmosphere, and deliciously rich menu featuring every current Division I school envelop you in an environment oozing with intensity. Of course, this also means the return of the maddeningly inconsistent Shot Stick, which some of us feel was created simply to torment our souls. Missing open jumpers and layups gave us some seriously angry moments, but at least our opponents seemed to be as unfortunate as us, which took away a bit of the sting.
Two additions to the mix give 2K8 some new zest. The 6th Man feature turns the home court into a real advantage by granting the host team's attributes a temporary boost when you string together some solid plays. We also love 2K Share, letting those of us who love authenticity but hate to work for it benefit from the labor of other hoops junkies by letting us download their rosters with names of real players. Even better, announcers and arena PA guys have many of these names pre-programmed - a brilliant move. Some Achievements are easier to get this year too, which always makes us happy.
So despite our troubles mastering the intricacies of shooting and recruiting, there's no denying that College Hoops 2K8 continues the tradition of excellence of its forebearers. With more modes than you can shake a stick at and a rock-solid core basketball engine, it's a superb experience that collegiate hoopsters won't be able to tear themselves away from - even as they shake their fists in rage.