March Madness '07

Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki

EA Sports


Graphics: 6

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 4


While a staple on prior consoles, the March Madness series took a year off before debuting on next generation systems. While some unique and even innovative features were inserted given the extra time, the same tired, broken gameplay means this is a title that can’t bring the full college basketball experience with it. It’s a game more fun off the court than on.

marchmadness07.jpg (30902 bytes)With a full ESPN presentation in tow like its sister NBA Live series, the initial impression is a strong one. ESPN Radio, video, and text are available at request adding an authentic flavor when navigating menus. Game modes include the usual suspects, from online, tournament, and dynasty play.

Fans of dynasty modes will have quite a bit to do. The High School All American game makes itself known, along with NIT action. Depending on your performance, new equipment can be purchased to keep your players increasing their stats while in training. Full editing means the players can be named to your liking, an easy away around NCAA regulations that prevent licensing the athletes.

Onto the court, the experience fails to come together. New additions make every effort to hide the problems, the key being the “Lockdown Stick.” This has potential to become the standard in defensive video game basketball, and it’s a shame it debuted in a weaker title.

Using the right analog stick allows the player-controlled defender to prevent the ball handler from simply blowing by untouched. The tight defense eliminates the long criticized loose feel of EA Sports basketball for years, though still makes it too easy to push or be pushed out of bounds. When locked in, you can easily call for a double team, attempt a risky steal, and make it difficult to make a pass.

Offense remains unchanged from the previous years PS2 and Xbox editions. The right analog stick is still used for jukes and special moves. Getting around a defensive Lockdown stick move requires some adept play calling at times, finally injecting the series with some greatly needed realism.

While making plays and grabbing the crowd’s attention, you’ll increase your mental state. You can use this to taunt opposing players, fire up teammates, excite your own crowd, or give a small adrenaline boost to the player in your control. If you let the meter fill completely, you’ll earn an “impact moment.”

This somewhat goofy feature has you walking around the court during a dead ball to get in the face of an opponent, cheer along with the band, or rub defeat in the face of the opposing squad. It looks ridiculous as you wander the floor while choosing what to do, and while it can be beneficial to the entire team, it’s probably better to use smaller bursts before the meter fills.

Sadly, all of the showmanship can’t make up for the sloppy core gameplay. An inconsistent frame rate fails to generate a smooth flow. Fouls are far too frequent on the default settings, with a call almost every time you drive to the basket. Steals are incredibly easy to come by, while the generic animation makes some moves hard to judge or control. AI runs into the same issues regularly, whether stepping on an out of bounds line before receiving a pass or falling for a pick and roll every time. It suffers from many of the same problems of NBA Live unsurprisingly.

A few nice touches do make the overall experience a step above the pro game. The crowd makes physical movements in unison when chanting, occasionally funny given the low polygon count of each member. Stoppages of play bring some nice animation routines to add some minor excitement. Sadly, the awful and limited color commentary from Dick Vitale ruins any thoughts of this being an authentic TV viewing.

March Madness '07 feels like a test run for 2008. Purchasing the game apparently enters you into a $60 beta test. Fresh ideas are prevalent, and sadly lost to another sloppy basketball effort from EA. Give this one another year and stick with 2K’s College Hoops.


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Last updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 09:26 PM