Video Game Review: NCAA March Madness 07
Release Date: January 17, 2007
Distributor: EA Sports
Microsoft Xbox 360
· Official Site
by Scott Juba
Published: February 19, 2007
"Defense wins championships." Itís a mantra every sports fan has heard countless times. But letís be honest Ė scoring points is whatís really fun. Yet, what if a video game could make it as fun to play defense as it is to play offense? Thatís exactly what EA Sports has achieved with "NCCA March Madness 07."
Thanks to the Enhanced EA Sports Lockdown Stick, you can wage an all-out defensive war against your opponent by getting up in his shirt and hounding him with relentless pressure. Such intense defensive play often leads to turnovers and mistakes by the other team, creating valuable fast break opportunities for your squad. At the same time, you have to be careful not to become too aggressive to avoid picking up a cheap foul or having the opposing player slip past you for an easy drive to the hoop.
On the other side of the floor, in the half court set, it requires patience to set up a play that will result in a basket. Opposing teams tend to be apt at playing zone defense that limits dribble penetration to the hoop. In addition, the impressive computer AI challenges you with a variety of defensive looks throughout the course of a game depending on the score. For example, if youíve built a sizeable lead, the other team will likely apply a full-court press to try to force you into quick turnovers. They also are quick to fill the passing lanes, which means lazy passes will usually result in a run out for the other team.
The other main selling point of "NCAA March Madness 07" is the way it successfully incorporates the crowd into the game. As anyone whoís attended a college basketball game knows, the enthusiasm of the fans brings a special atmosphere to the game that translates to the play on the court. In "March Madness 07," the Team Intensity Control ensures that the energy of the crowd and momentum swings during a game affect the composure of both teams. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that itís easier to win at home than on the road.
To go along with this, "March Madness 07" features the Impact Moment. When youíre Team Intensity Meter is full, all you have to do is press the Left Bumper during a break in the action to either pump up yourself, pump up the crowd, taunt the crowd, get in the face of an opposing player or encourage your teammates.
Aside from the way the players interact with their environment, as with most EA Sports titles, the graphics are also stellar. The player models are adequate, but itís the lighting reflections on the court that add the most merit to the gameís visual design.
It should also be noted that if youíre tired of playing with guys named #13 and #5, you can edit all the players in the game to give them the proper names and appearances of their real-life counterparts.
The number of teams featured in the game is also impressive. Although itís becoming routine for most Xbox 360 sports games to feature less teams than their current-gen counterparts, "NCAA March Madness 07" features a large selection of schools. Even smaller conferences such as the MAC are included. In total, the game features 325 NCAA Division 1 teams.
In terms of presentation, the menus are fairly simple to navigate. In addition, the mini-game before each match-up serves as a nice distraction during the load times. Unfortunately, the in-game menu options and controller configuration arenít as intuitive as what other basketball titles such as "NBA 2K7" offer.
In addition, the commentary by Dick Vitale and Brad Nessler tends to get repetitive and sometimes serves as little more than an unnecessary distraction to the gameplay. Other disappointments are that the create-a-team feature and the classic college teams are non-existent.
Nonetheless, "March Madness 07" exceeds my expectations in almost every way. As college basketball prepares to enter its most exciting time of the year, EA Sports delivers a gaming experience thatís equally as exciting.