The best way I can sum up the review for NCAA March Madness 2005 is this: If you want to play a good basketball game, then play one from the NBA Live series. NCAA March Madness is a NBA Live wannabe. It contains a lot of the same features but they're not presented in the same polished manner.

It appears as EA Sports purposely goes out of its way to treat to the NCAA March Madness series as an inferior game. Granted, it's college hoops but that doesn't mean the gameplay has to amateur. So what if a lot of us don't know who the hell the players are and we don't really care if Kentucky beats California? For the money the gameplay should be right up to par with other basketball games - pro, street or otherwise. And if you do follow the college circuit don't let the content fool you. Just because you can play as your favorite team, complete with official mascot, fighting song and colors doesn't mean the game itself is any fair shakes. Let's face it, it all boils down to the gameplay and NCAA March Madness has always been a little deficient in that area. While many things have been improved there are still some nagging technical issues. One of the biggest disappointments is the online play. It's simply unplayable.

More control has been added to the gameplay but to the detriment of reality. It's easier for each ball handler to maneuver about the court and lose his opponents in the dust. It's less of a team effort. While there may be the odd star player on the college scene that kicks ass consistently this is not the norm for every team in every game. Even the opposing team is able to get itself together very quickly and recover from a messed-up play almost instantly. Even the pros have a problem doing this consistently. Not to mention that there are lots and lots of blocked shots. Fortunately you can adjust the options sliders to tame the game to a more conservative style.

There are lots of plays available in the playbook. You can access 12 or more plays and motions which adds more strategy to the game for more advanced players. For more assistance a "floor general" feature allows you to choose six scripted quick plays. There are two groups of three moves that can be accessed by the D pad. By clicking the R stick you will activate various icons onscreen which will show you where you can pass the ball and which path you should dribble down.

After hitting the glass you can access any of three commands to rebound, tap in or put-back slam. The rebound is the easiest to perform consistently. The put-back slam is the hardest to pull off. It's randomized which makes it seem more realistic since it is such a difficult move.

Modes consist of Quick Play, Rivalry, Dynasty, College Classics and online play. In Dynasty you'll have to prove your worth to your school as you outline a budget and take your team to victory. Lose too many games in a row and you're job will be on the line. You'll have to discipline player for various infractions. The NCAA will require a certain number of game suspensions for these lawless cretins. You will receive notices about various players' stats, health and conduct which will help you take measures to keep your team balanced for upcoming games.

Online play is terrible. It suffers from lag and intermittent slowdown which can really break up your momentum. If you are under the impression that online play is this game's biggest selling feature, it's actually the game's biggest fault.

Players still continue to skate around on the floor in certain situations. There is a lot of good animation with smooth body movement and expressive faces. The locations are well done and are sure to impress gamers that have actually been to these real-life courts. You'll hear tunes from Lifehouse and other rock bands as performed by the local marching bands. Commentary is provided by Nessler and Vitale which is the best so far but it could use a few more thousand variations since it tends to repeat after a few hours. The crowd noises are great. If you're a visiting team -look out. The hometown crowd gets so loud the whole place shakes.

There may not be many games that can deliver the college experience like NCAA March Madness but there are plenty of better basketball games out there that deliver a better game.

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System: PS2
Dev: EA
Pub: EA
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - Multi Online
Review by Fenix