Dec 14, 2007
In many ways, sports gamers have been enjoying a bit of a golden age in the past year or so. Sifting through an unprecedented wave of well-received baseball, hockey and football titles, it's undeniably good to be a next-generation sporto - perhaps that's what's so surprising about EA's latest college hoops release. Like a much-hyped 7-footer who turns out to bring nothing but knees, elbows and disappointment to the basketball court, NCAA March Madness 08 is a cavalcade of ungainly gaffes and missteps.
From the opening tip, it's more than evident that something is a bit askew. Players move like wooden automatons, while the ball often takes decidedly, um, interesting bounces off the rim that clearly defy the laws of gravity as we know them. Passing, shooting and rebounding are all stiff, and you never quite feel like you're truly in control of the action. Perhaps that's how most coaches feel as they watch their youngsters try and execute all the plays they've so carefully drawn up in practice, but we're pretty sure that's not the vibe EA was going for.
It's all quite confusing, too, considering that NCAA 08's big brother NBA Live 08 was so darned good this year. While we weren't expecting to get that exact game splashed with a coat of collegiate paint, it probably would've made us much happier than what we did wind up with.
For every nifty feature introduced - and believe us, there isn't a whole lot new happening this season - there are two aggravations we can point out. Sure, the low post game is improved (if you can figure out the ungainly controls to make that work), but steals happen far too often and distributing the rock is an exercise in crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Granted, icon-based passing exists, although we guarantee that you'll accidentally alley-oop the ball to no one except the spectator in the front row plenty of times, since the same button controls both features. Frustration, thy name is the right bumper.
To be fair, we were happy with a few things, most notably the improved online options and an awesome selection of classic teams. It's always fun playing as Bird, Magic, Jordan, Walton and Kareem (or Lew, if you prefer) in their short shorts. However, no matter what we jumped into, our overlying frustration at the gameplay stifled any momentary buzz.
March Madness 08 is the kind of game you like less the more you play it - and we didn't like it all that much from the beginning. It's not even in the same league as College Hoops 2K8, even though that title isn't perfect. Instead of stepping up like its professional counterpart did this season, March Madness took a giant step backwards. Even the most ardent of college hoops fan should avoid it, as what should've been a championship contender gets relegated to the end of the bench.