This is a lot like last year's game, except now instead of 06, it says 07 on the box.
- Dynasty mode is quite deep
- using the lockdown stick to D-up players works well
- freestyle control makes dribbling a breeze.
- It's so much like 06 that even their mothers can't tell them apart
- the game moves very slowly
- visuals are extremely dated looking.
PlayStation 2 owners are accustomed to the release of EA's March Madness series in mid-October, but this year the game is hitting store shelves quite a bit later. The delay was most likely caused by EA's desire to ship both the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions together. And the extra three months in development would make March Madness 07 on the PS2 extra special, right? Not so much. Outside of a few bug fixes and a few insignificant additions, this is the exact same game you played last year.
March Madness 07 offers up quite a few more game modes on the PS2 than it does on the 360. You can play a quick game, practice, take on your archnemesis in a rivalry game, and participate in such tournaments as the NCAA tourney, Maui Invitational, or a frat party tournament. You can relive great games of the past, such as Georgetown and Villanova in 1985, or Duke versus Kentucky in 1992 in the college classics mode. There's even a mascot game, which means you can realize your dream of seeing the actual Duke Blue Devil play hoops against Otto, the Syracuse Orangemen's giant orange mascot. Dynasty mode lets you take the reins of a college basketball program, and there's a single-season mode that is perfect for anyone who doesn't want to deal with the responsibility of running a program. A new feature that sounds good in theory, but isn't all that interesting, is the sideline general mode, which lets you call plays and make substitutions while the CPU plays the game. There simply aren't enough options here to make this mode worthwhile.
If dynasty mode is your thing, you'll find a lot to like here. Most of it will be familiar to veterans of last year's game; you'll need to recruit players (even junior college players), schedule games, and allocate resources for training and game planning. You can even scout upcoming opponents and make adjustments to your lineup based on the scouting reports. This sounds good on paper, but it doesn't add much to the experience. Of course, there are the negative things that real coaches get to deal with; players will break rules, athletic directors will bug you about your job performance, and talented players will sometimes leave school early. Last year, players on every team would break more rules than even the most poorly behaved Miami Hurricane. But this year, the players behave better, so they're not such a chore to deal with anymore. Hardcore hoops fans will be disappointed to learn that teams do not have their official 2006-2007 schedules in the game, and they'll have to manually craft their team's in-game schedule to match that of the real team.
From a gameplay standpoint, March Madness 07 is solid, albeit unspectacular. There are a number of things it does well, and the controls are one such example. Rather than adopting NBA Live's three-button shooting scheme, March Madness sticks with the friendlier two-button setup where one button shoots while another performs dunks and layups. Dribbling is made easy with the excellent freestyle control, which allows you to perform a variety of dribbling moves with a flick of the right stick. Floor general play calling lets you quickly choose an offensive or defensive play to run by tapping the D pad. One of last year's big additions, the lockdown stick, is back this year. When you're on defense, you can move the right analog stick in the direction of the player you're guarding. This lets you play him closely, enabling you to prevent him from receiving a pass, cutting to the hoop, or getting into position down low.
March Madness has a new go-to-guy feature where the player designated as your go-to guy gets an attribute boost when you go on a long scoring run and dominate play. You can choose to use the ability as soon as it's earned, or you can wait until the end of the game when you may need a player to step up. The problem here is that it takes a strong performance from your team to fill the meter, and if you're actually playing well enough to fill it, you probably aren't in a close game where the go-to guy is needed. The game does a decent job of capturing the college atmosphere. There are cheerleaders and pep bands to spice things up, as well as a number of big-name schools with mascots going bonkers on the baseline. However, none of the cool impact moments, where players will interact with cheerleaders, other players, and fans, made it over from the Xbox 360 version of the game. Players still show a bit of emotion here and there, but it's quite underwhelming after seeing how much it added on the 360.
It's frustrating that there are so many nagging issues to bring the game down, especially when so many of these problems could be easily solved. The game moves so slowly that even a snail's pace would be an upgrade. Players run up and down the court as if the court has been covered with molasses. You can fix this by adjusting a slider, but it's so ridiculously slow that this should have been done during one of the 450-plus days it was in development. They may move slowly, but this doesn't stop players from being able to leap right out of the gym. Even on the more difficult settings, the game is a constant stream of dunks. Players actually do a really nice job of running the floor and getting open in the half-court offense. But sometimes they're a bit too good, and there's little reason to take a jump shot because a dunk opportunity is almost always present. The lockdown stick lets you cover one player effectively, but this effort is usually for naught because you'll never get the "five seconds closely guarded" call. However, the big problem is your four teammates, who generally play tough defense and then all of a sudden lose interest and leave someone wide open. The lack of defense is frustrating when playing the CPU, but it flat-out ruins the two-player game. It quickly devolves into "dunkapalooza" because you can just stand around at the top of the key until the opposing center decides he's had enough and leaves your center wide open for a dunk. The CPU does a poor job dealing with close games. It appears cognizant of the clock and will call time-outs or foul to get a chance at another shot, but once it gains possession, players will meander lackadaisically around the court as precious seconds tick away.
March Madness was once a nice-looking game, but the series has lost its looks faster than Britney Spears after she married K-Fed. The frame rate is slow at best, and slow and choppy at its worst. Arenas are realistically modeled, and there are even mascots and cheerleaders patrolling the sidelines, but the crowds look horrendous and the lighting is terrible. The player models aren't bad when frozen in an instant replay, but there are so many quirks in their animation that they look poor in motion. They'll skate around the court, spinning and moving with little regard as to what their feet are actually doing. While some individual player moves and dunks are top-notch, the transition from one move to the next is quite often nonexistent. At any given moment, it's easy to spot some sort of clipping, whether it's the ball going through a player's head or two players merging into some sort of hideous two-headed basketball monster of doom.
Thanks in no small part to raucous fans and a large number of fight songs, March Madness 07 sounds good, but the game has a propensity for playing the same song over and over again. However, there is one aspect of the audio that is sure to alienate a few people, which is the inclusion of Dick Vitale. To most of the college hoops world, Dickie V's enthusiastically colorful commentary is synonymous with college basketball. But to a small number of people, he's the Antichrist. One thing both camps will agree on is that he repeats himself here far too often, as does Brad Nessler, who does otherwise competent play-by-play.
Online play offers ranked and unranked games, as well as a quick tournament option. To add insult to injury, online games are even slower than the regular game, and they're choppy too. Even when games run smoothly, they quickly devolve into steal-and-dunk fests. One nice addition is that the PS2 version has the same ESPN integration as the Xbox 360. After the cumbersome initial sign-in process, you can hear ESPN Radio SportsCenter updates, read news, view ESPN Motion content, and even check out a ticker that runs across the bottom of the screen.
March Madness 07 isn't a bad game, and the action on the court is solid, but there's not enough new here to justify the $30 price tag, especially when you can find 06 for $13. It's hard to fathom just how EA spent the 15 months between releases. The graphics are ugly and the new gameplay features amount to little more than marketing catchphrases that exist only so EA has something to put on the back of the game's box.
- Player Reviews: 10
- Game Universe:
- NCAA March Madness 2004 (PS2, XBOX),
- NCAA March Madness 2005 (XBOX, PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 06 (XBOX, GC, PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 07 (X360, PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 08 (X360, PS3, PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 2003 (PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 2002 (PS2),
- NCAA March Madness 2001 (PS),
- NCAA March Madness 2000 (PS),
- NCAA March Madness 99 (PS)
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
2 Players Online