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12/26/2007 01:26:00 PM
Review: NCAA March Madness 08 (All systems)
NCAA March Madness 08
Reviewed By Paul Ulane
Things We Like
Fast Starter: If you take away all of the crazy new features (more on those later) and strip this down to just a basketball game, March Madness delivers an enjoyable hoops experience. The gameplay is smooth, controls respond quickly, and the graphics look good -- all you have to do is put the disc in and start shooting.
It's In The Game... Within The Game: 08 has the cure for what ails ya, Generation ADD. (No, not Adderall.) After selecting a game mode, you're challenged to score a certain amount of points within a time limit. Not only is it a welcome diversion during load times, but if you achieve the goal, your team will get a momentum boost to start the game.
Smartificial Intelligence: We all remember the days of Double Dribble, where you could throw three passes up the court, set up on the wing behind the three-point line, and bomb your way to triple digit victories. Those days are over. Over-passing leads to steals. Bringing the ball below your waist in the post is an automatic strip. And don't even think about letting one of your bigs dribble into a half-court trap. It'll piss you off at first, but if you're looking for a game worth replaying, this is a welcome challenge.
Locked and Loaded: A lot of hoops games have trouble mastering defensive intensity, but March Madness might have finally nailed the concept with its lockdown stick. Hold down the right toggle stick and approach your offensive counterpart from the correct angle and you will lock-on to him in crucial situations. Attack from the wrong angle and he will blow right past you into the lane. You can also keep your hands up or down, according to where you're standing on the court. It's the best balance we've seen between computer aided defensive pressure and human error.
Everybody Get On the Floor: Diving on the floor, flying into press row, half-court collisions. Thanks to thugs like Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy, basketball at every level has taken on a brutish defensive tone, yet we still rarely see players hit the hardwood in video games. March Madness is one of the few hoops sims to embrace this new era by having it's player's regularly sprawled out on the floor like freshman at a frat party.
Kickin' it Old Schools: The game added a new stable of classic college squads -- 74 in all -- this year, and while it's gimmicky, it works. Running a current team off the court as the 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels is a gas, especially since the game nails the details, like the guards wearing baggy t-shirts under their uniforms.
March Madness in action:
Things We'd Change
(Big) Man Down: We hope you like up-and-unders and drop steps, because even though 08 put an emphasis on controlling the paint, the available moves are irritatingly repetitive. What's worse, after a couple of successful lay-ups, the AI begins sending a second man at your big, in turn rendering your limited repertoire nearly useless.
Crowd Control: Crowd noise and white noise are indistinguishable in Madness. While there are the occasional "THREEE!" roars when you take a big shot, when the shot hits the bottom of the net, there's no discernable boost in cheers. It's off-putting for the crowd to hum along at a steady pace for an emotional game like college hoops, especially when you find yourself playing in win-or-go-home tourney games.
Style Over Substance: They certainly prettied up their online and ESPN stat tracking pages, but how about some more emphasis on varied gameplay? A deeper pool of moves and training modes would certainly add more to the overall experience than a pretty looking scoreboard page.
Nothing for Free: One of the most challenging aspects of the game is free throws. Tilting the right toggle stick back, then forward to shoot freebies comes down to rhythm. The problem is, you shoot from different camera angles throughout the game. Sometimes you're watching your player from birds eye view, sometimes it's from behind the basket, other times it's over your player's shoulder. Being distracted at the line should be a part of the game, just not because of the game's camera angles.
Still Loading...: Get ready to see a full takeover screen for everything from replays to "impact moments." It's one thing to have to constantly click through replays in the middle of the game. It's another to have the entire screen taken over with the game's logo before and after each replay. Maybe we're spoiled, but that seems a little excessive.
Miss Andrews: The good news: Erin Andrews has been added to March Madness 08. The bad news: You never see her, you just hear her reports. We doubt we need to explain what's wrong with that.
When it comes down to simply getting out on the court and playing right from the tip, this is a great basketball game. But once you start peeling away the layers and digging deeper, March Madness can't keep up with 2K8 as a next-gen college hoops title.