NCAA March Madness 2003 Review (PS2)
March Madness 2003 hits the PS2 just in time for the college basketball season. Its fast and furious gameplay provides for an entertaining, if unsophisticated, arcade romp.
March Madness’ graphics are a mixed bag. The animations are reasonably varied and well done. They run smoothly throughout gameplay, and don’t detract too much from the overall experience. The jump shot animation, in particular, is very good, providing the player with an opportunity to become a very good shooter by releasing at the top of the jump – which is displayed beautifully on screen. However, there are a lot of “jaggies” to be seen, the crowds are awful, and the whole game has a slightly unpolished look. As an aside, the arenas in March Madness are very generic, and that may bother more than a few fans.
On the court, March Madness shines. While you’ll notice some peculiarities, namely a lack of fatigue, and very high shooting percentages, the game is very fun to play – especially with another player. Modifying the sliders can make quite a bit of difference in how the game plays, but at the default settings, don’t expect defense to play a major factor in your games. At the higher settings, however, the game’s difficulty improves substantially, along with your ability to play defense against the CPU. The rebounding is similar to other recent EA releases – namely, positioning is useless due to the seemingly random nature of March Madness’ ball/rim physics. If March Madness was more of a sim, this would be much more bothersome, but as it stands, it’s simply annoying from time to time.
To put it in a nutshell, the on-court gameplay of March Madness is simple, straightforward, and fun. It just looks a lot more like playground basketball than the kind you’ll see at Duke.
Like EA’s other collegiate offering, the sterling NCAA Football 2003, arguably the most enjoyable part of the game occurs in the offseason. After taking control of a college’s basketball program, the fun of building your program into a perennial contender takes front stage. While not as detailed as NCAA Football’s recruitment, the system in March Madness does the job, and it’s nearly as fun as it’s gridiron counterpart in this department. I found myself simming season after season just so I could get back to recruiting. It’s the best reason to play March Madness, and the feature that will provide the most replay value.
Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale provide the commentary for March Madness 2003, and they do the job admirably. The script becomes repetitive rather quickly, but Nessler and Vitale perform their lines with enthusiasm and exuberance, and that goes a long way towards keeping it fresh for the listener. The crowd noise is rather well done. They cheer, boo, and raise or lower their enthusiasm levels based on what’s happening in the game. Few games really get this right, and when they do, it adds a great deal to the “feel” of the game. Overall, March Madness provides a solid and enjoyable audio experience.
March Madness 2003 is a fun diversion, and if you play against other friends, so much the better.
One large negative aspect of the game remains, however. Normally, 100 or so teams would be plenty for a college game – it certainly is for football. But college basketball has its championship tournament – “March Madness”, of course – and it’s a 64-team tournament. This means that more than half the teams in the game make the tournament every year – and that reduces the variety from season to season. It’s a lot to ask EA to make 300+ teams, but their main competitor’s doing it, and as such, I’m more than a bit surprised that EA didn’t follow suit.