Graphics and gameplay take the bench to strategic college play – calling in NCAA March Madness 08…
Featuring Texas Longhorns freshman phenomenon Kevin Durant on the cover, NCAA March Madness 08 is sure to appeal to collegiates caught in the hype of this spring’s tournament. They may be the only ones interested, however. With few changes game-to-game in the March Madness franchise, 08 focuses on its strategic basketball gameplay. And while setting up offensive and defensive strategies and calling plays in action are focal points of March Madness 08, it’s safe to say graphics and animations have definitely been benched.
One thing I noticed about this year’s installment of March Madness is how slow the players move. The blurry-faced players are extremely sluggish as they run up and down the court, making for a pretty boring gaming experience. It also makes it pretty difficult to drive the lane at times when even holding R1 for a turbo boost doesn’t make them move that much faster. The focus of MM 08 is definitely setting up the perfect play, but the result of the sluggish player movement is also unexciting gameplay. One of the biggest examples of how sloth-like the players move is when they steal the ball. You will notice how slowly your player reaches around to tap the ball away from your opponent and then moves to recover the loose ball from the floor. Another negative point is turnaround of the camera angles from up-court to down-court in transition. It can be annoying because the camera angle changes around so slowly when you’re in a rush to go the other direction. Patience is key, but sometimes when you want to run a quick play, MM 08 makes it difficult.
But I don’t want to make it seem like I’m totally complaining here. The thing to understand is that the NCAA is a different type of basketball game than the NBA. Because players may naturally be slower or less athletic than an NBA athlete, you must use strategies, run plays and take your time to score buckets. Whereas a skilled NBA shooter may be able to nail a three with a defender in his face, a college player may not be able to make the same shot. You must look to the open man to make the play best suitable in each setting. Calling plays is essential to successful offense, using the directional pad to post up and set pick-and-rolls. You can do the same on defense to call for double teams and foul intentionally, but they aren’t really as necessary.
Little animations and celebrations between plays are a nice touch. Things like your teammate cooling you off and dusting off your shoes after you block a shot make the game a lot more fun. One thing I did notice is the repetition of the animations occurs a bit too often. There is one where your teammate will give you a little shove as you celebrate a blocked shot that seems to be shown over and over again. A lot of the commentating becomes repetitive as well – so much so you may want to shut off the annoying bantering between Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale completely. Some of their conversation is funny at first and if you’re a fan of the duo you may enjoy it, but once they repeat themselves several times you start to wish there was more variety of comments. Still, EA does a good job of capturing realistic commentating that actually coincides with what’s happening onscreen – Baby!
One of the biggest factors in the March Madness series is its ability to capture the spirit of college basketball, which it does pretty well. From the excitement and noise of the crowd to the music of the marching bands, EA Canada does a good job replicating the college hoops experience. Each arena is detailed pretty nicely with the home team’s mascot standing courtside. Also included in March Madness 08 is the Mascot mode, which allows you to play as your favorite mascot. The animations for some of the bulkier mascots are even worse than that of the normal players, but it’s still fun if you’re bored.
Among the highlights is 08’s Dynasty Mode, which works much like it does in most games, with a year-round calendar to schedule practices on off-days and prepare for upcoming games. The College Classics is a nice touch well, allowing you to recreate 20 of the NCAA’s most memorable games. The Rivalry mode allows you to put rival teams head-to-head as well, although this is something you could do by simply picking the two teams in Play Now mode.
With some motion and graphic qualities lacking, it’s a shame EA hasn’t gone further to incorporate excellent atmosphere with astounding gameplay for the ultimate college hoops game. It seems as though EA may be looking to simply cash in on the popularity of college hoops as the hype and excitement escalates throughout the school season. No doubt, however, the game will be popular in dorm rooms across the country during the height of March Madness.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
Blurry character designs, but detailed arenas and courts. 2.1 Control
Awkward and sluggish player movement. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
EA does a good job of capturing the live college hoops atmosphere, though some commentating and animations are bit repetitive. 3.1 Play Value
College basketball lovers may enjoy the game, others may want to beware. 2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.