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1/30/2007 01:02:00 PM
Review: NCAA 07 March Madness (XBOX 360)
By Jake Luft
There isn't much I can say in this space that will convince you to buy this game or not. Basically, it boils down to this: Are you a college hoops fan?
If you are, then you want this title in your library. It's easily EA's best hoops offering on the XBOX 360 to date, surpassing their two NBA efforts by the length of a full-court heave. If you aren't a fan of the 2K series, EA's top competition for yours sports gaming dollar, or even if you are, this game will not disappoint you.
The gameplay is solid enough, if not frustrating at times. (The next time the CPU picks off one of my entry passes, I'm gonna chuck my wireless controller through the window!) The CPU makes you work hard for your points, especially at the free-throw line once you ramp up the difficulty settings, but a well-executed alley-oop makes it all worthwhile.
What makes this game fun is the high level of immersion into the campus atmosphere. A new feature called "Team Intensity Control" assigns a "Composure" meter for each player. Hostile crowds on the road will rattle the weaker willed members of your team. On the other hand, the "Impact Moment" feature allows your players to pump up their abilities by interacting with the home crowd, clowning around with the mascots and even dancing with the cheerleaders. You can also talk trash to the opponents to get them off their game. It's not exactly realistic -- theatrics like that would get you T'd up in a college game faster than you can say "Krzyzewski" -- but it's amusing nonetheless.
The dynasty mode doesn't disappoint either, with a full recruiting season and an alumni challenge feature that allows you to unlock new facilities and even get campus streets renamed in your honor.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 7.5
The playcalling, what EA calls the "Floor General" feature, isn't easy to pull off at first (you have to take your thumb off the left analog stick and start messing with the directional pad) but it's worth figuring out the finer points of the process. The upside is you can change up your defenses on the fly. You'll quickly find that full- and half-court pressure are the way to go. When you play a human, and both of you are doing running and gunning, the game becomes something out of a Paul Westhead-inspired dreamscape. The shot clock becomes more obsolete than last year's iPod. On the downside, the action can be a bit clunky. Also, you will want to mess with the customizable sliders to make the game more fluid (for example, decrease the CPU's ability to intercept your passes). The AI of the CPU will prove challenging once you get to the All-Conference and All-America settings. Forget about running the same play every time down the court. The CPU will adjust and force you to come up with new strategies.
The graphics live up to the Next Gen gaming standard. Using the default view, "broadcast," is basically like watching a real game in high definition. The replays are shown in letterboxed-widescreen mode and are simply scrumptious, as are the free-throw shooting attempts and the Impact Moments. Some of the animations can be choppy, especially around the basket; rebounding can be quite a bit of guesswork.
The deep dynasty mode has a lot to do with this high score. Mostly, though, you'll find yourself booting up the game time after time trying to reach some of the wacky "Achievements" and thus improve your all-important XBOX Live gamerscore. Some of the more unreachable Achievements include blocking 14 shots or grabbing 51 rebounds with one player, winning a game on a buzzer-beater and posting a quadruple-double.
Do yourself a favor and try the demo of College Hoops 2K7 and EA March Madness before buying either one. In my humble opinion, College Hoops 2K7 blows EA March Madness out of the water with superior game play and appearance. Like Madden 2007, EA March Madness has very choppy gameplay. Come on EA....you can do much better than this!!!!