NCAA 08: March Madness review


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Buy your copy from NCAA 08: March Madness (2007) starstarstarno starno star Publisher: Electronic Arts
Category: Sports
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS2
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Pull up your big socks, people – it’s time for your yearly update of “NCAA March Madness” courtesy of your friends at EA. God knows, if there’s a sport to be played, then these guys have a video game version of it to take home. At times, playing and reviewing all of these EA sports titles can feel a bit monotonous, especially when many of them are formatted the same way (as in being presented by ESPN, with live radio feeds and video clips to watch up-to-the-minute action). It’s as if they created a giant ESPN box, and then just switched out the different games per title and sent them on their way.

So, yeah, this year’s “NCAA March Madness 08” has that feeling of updated-roster-with-a-sort-of-new-feature-tacked-on game. And that special feature this year is low-post play. This basically means that if you’re on offense, you can move the controller’s right stick to execute various moves, such as spins, up-and-unders, and so forth. When you’re on defense, hit the same stick to change out the defensive stance. Not an exciting enough of a feature for you? Well, rest assured that if you’re a fan of this series, there is a solid basketball game underneath.

And that’s the whole thing about these EA sports titles. If nothing else, they usually get the job done in being playable. They are enjoyable enough at their core, even if their annual new features don’t add a whole lot to the end product to make it something truly unique. But then again, what’s left to be done with many of these games? Once again players get a deep and expansive dynasty mode, or they can go straight to their choice of tournaments and play through those, or just play a quick pick-up game and never even bother with 95 percent of what the game does offer.

Having played my fair share of these titles over the past year, I can clearly say that with a minor exception, I’m a player who likes to just plug in and play. It’s nice that the dynasty mode is there with all of its player creation and “college” experience, but at the same time, for a player like myself, it’s like buying a Rolls Royce when I only need an Echo. They say it’s all in the details, but really, running up and down the court and shooting the ball into the hoop is what it’s always been about – nothing more, nothing less. I’m not a stats freak – just gimme the ball and lemme shoot it.

There are some interesting “mini” games tacked onto this year’s game as well. Players will get a chance to improve a certain stat before the game starts by scoring a set number of points in 30 seconds. It’s a nice little distraction before the main event. That event plays smooth as silk for the most part, with control being easily switched between the players, though attempting to steal the ball can often lead to nothing but personal fouls. And even though the graphics look awfully nice, get ready to be stuck in those doldrums of seeing the same animation for a play ad nauseam after a few minutes. But hey, you do get to listen to Dick Vitale add his commentary while the game plays out, which is guaranteed to be a little more interesting than having to listen to most other basketball commentators yammer on.

In the end, “NCAA March Madness 08” is another old reliable EA title. You’ll feel like you’re basically playing last year’s game after the new car smell wears off, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game does what it needs to do: offer up a good game of college hoops for those who are fans of the sport. It’d just be nice if there was a new arcade-style basketball game that was released for those of us who just wanna get out there and shoot the ball, ESPN be damned.

~Jason Thompson