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NCAA March Madness 07 - PS2 - Preview

Is college basketball more real? More intense? More satisfying than the professional action of the NBA? Going by EA's two basketball franchises – NBA Live and NCAA March Madness – the answer is a resounding yes.

This year's update is no different. March Madness 07 pumps out a smoother and faster gameplay system, offers a more lively audience, and better camera angles – compared to last year's NBA Live. Compared to the last March Madness, there aren’t a whole lot of gameplay differences that’ll instantly catch your attention.


Note: These shots are from the Xbox 360 version. PS2 shots were not available at press time.

The Guy To Go To

March Madness’s Go-To-Guy feature takes advantage of what EA calls the “Momentum Meter.” The goal is to boost your player ratings at a key point in the game. Additional momentum is applied to the guy you think will best utilize the boost – the star player, floor general, or senior leader.

It’s somewhat of an arcade feature, but that’s not too surprising considering the speed of the rest of the game. MM07 is supposed to be a simulation sports game, but it’s really a simulator within an arcade environment.

That said, you will find numerous sim elements to fuss over, courtesy of the EA staple that sounds like a KOEI hack-n-slash: Dynasty Mode. As head coach you can go through the large list of options, check messages (with instant updates and other info), change the player lineup, look for new star athletes, and so on. Anyone who’s played Madden, NBA Live, or EA’s NHL series will be right at home with MM07’s Dynasty Mode. The calendar layout sticks to the current look other EA games are sporting (on PS2 at least – the next-gen versions have been getting a little more detailed).

Another unsurprising similarity is the graphics. Player models look great, and for a current-gen title (technically “last-gen” now that all the next-gen consoles are out), the animation is excellent. Crowd detail, though nowhere near what’s promised on Xbox 360, is also worth noting. You can spot individual fans flailing their arms. Patterns are noticeable, but their motions are still more varied than what is typically seen on this console.

 

The controls are coming along well and feel a little more like its 2K Sports competitors, which is a good thing. Shooting and passing haven’t changed much. The icon option – where a different button appears over each player’s head (for specific passing) – is still present.

EA has chosen to stick with the face-the-net view as its base camera perspective. The presentation isn’t that different either. A new title screen and differing menus are inevitable, and are of course included. Load times between screens are considerably longer than other EA sports games, so I’m hoping that, if nothing else, this will be the last kink ironed out before release.

Player ratings come in the form of NBA Live, with “As” obviously being the best, “Cs” are average, and anything below isn’t too good. Often times you can’t afford the best of the best, but it helps to start with a great, high-rated team.

Fans looking to re-create history and/or re-live a magical moment will be intrigued by the College Classics mode. It’s a lot like the classics mode found in Fight Night Round 3, but instead of picking one of two world-renowned fighters, you pick one of two world-class college basketball teams.

Thus far the commentary is decent, but not very specific. There are a lot of general comments about the game, rather than specifying who’s doing what. That makes sense given the knowledge and popularity difference between college stars and pro NBA players, but I hope to hear a little more specificity from the final version.

 

Shipping to stores this month (January 16th to be exact), NCAA March Madness 07 could be the last hoorah for college basketball on PlayStation 2. There do not appear to be enough new features or gameplay content to warrant a purchase from every gamer. But if you love the series and have yet to upgrade to the new generation of consoles, EA has you covered. Will the final version turn out to be any different? Stay with us as we bring you more coverage of NCAA March Madness 07 in the coming weeks.

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