NCAA March Madness 08 Review

Another year, another iteration of EA’s NCAA March Madness. Last year’s attempt deserved a lot of kudos for the spot-on feeling of watching and being at an NCAA game, but the gameplay definitely left a lot to be desired.

This year, EA tried to right the ship. Back again is the same spot-on feel of the crowd and announcers; you can complain about Madden being repetitive all you want, but when it comes to Dickie V, he’s always been represented fairly accurately in videogames. You won’t be fooled into thinking you’re watching the real deal, but there’s far less “Man, THAT again, ugh!” moments in NCAA 08 than other games such as Live and 2k8. Unfortunately, once again the highlight of the game is the presentation and atmosphere.

One of the actual improvements in the game is the new post-up system. Once you get the ball down low it almost turns into a minigame of sorts, and you’re able to execute all kinds of moves. Straight jumpshots, fades, hooks, up-and-unders, and more; you can even chain some maneuvers together to really trick the defender. All the different skills utilize other stats meaning stronger players are innately better at strength-based moves, but with practice even the worst low-post player can take an all-American one-on-one. (I can’t tell if that’s supposed to be a good or bad thing…)

Despite the new and vastly improved low-post control, NCAA just doesn’t feel right when you’re playing. Don’t get me wrong, once you have the ball down low it’s great (assuming you have a credible low-block threat), but the other 75% of the game is lacking. Players seem to move too slow (after they moved too fast last year), and the players look like they’re running a scrimmage against the JV team, not competing with and against some of the best athletes in college basketball.

If the mediocre gameplay of last year’s March Madness didn’t bother you, there’s certainly a lot more to entertain you this time around. Possibly my favorite addition in any sports game this year was the inclusion of classic collegiate teams. Fans of schools sporting some famous (and some mediocre) grads can relive the days of yore. Want to play as Jordan, Worthy and the rest of the Tarheels? Go for it.

Online leagues and play are also going to take your free time if you give March Madness 08 a chance. With 32 people per league (maybe we’ll actually get the full 64 next year?) it’s a fun way to compete against friends and find out who has the best school.

Unfortunately, other than the improved low-post play and classic rosters, there’s nothing really worthwhile to justify a purchase of this year’s version. If you’re a huge hoops head the classic teams will be enough, but almost everything is identical. I dug the low-post changes, but I played a forward position. People who are into shooting and dunking (aka most basketball fans these days) won’t get as much joy out of a perfectly executed pump fake. I’d say the general impact will probably be about as big as when Madden allowed you to control the O-line and set your own blocks.

Last year March Madness was too fast, had no new gameplay, and offered little to give it an advantage over College Hoops. This year, they fixed the speed by slowing it down too much, they added new gameplay at the expense of fine-tuning the other problems, and they attempted to get ahead of College Hoops by offering classic teams. Is that enough for a purchase/upgrade? That depends on how much those small aspects of the game matter to you.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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