NCAA March Madness 2004
You're dead wrong if you think the only difference between college and pro basketball is that one group is paid to play. Need proof? Try March Madness 2004, and you'll really know what it's like competing at the collegiate level. It all starts on the court, where everything is built around team-based play, instead of 1 -on-1 matchups. You'll face swarming full-court presses and tough zone defenses galore--you'll have to pull off some swift ball movement and sink long-range jumpers to stay alive. In terms of atmosphere, no other college basketball game captures the sights and sounds of a university arena quite like this. If the raucous crowds aren't stomping their feet, they're belting out school cheers and fight songs. Plus, the courts are littered with cheerleaders and rabble-rousing mascots. Ho-hum visuals and routine recruitment options slightly damage the overall package, but EA's game remains my choice for fans of the sport.
Madness impresses with new, authentic offensive moves like the Pro Hop Power Dribble and the ability to choose between taking a jump shot or driving to the hoop. Plus, a more complex defensive A.I. makes the simple pump fake less of a weapon. You still may get the defender in the air, but he's likely to pick your pocket as you attempt to drive by or swat your shot from behind. The ability to intercept inbound passes also beefs up the defense. From Midnight Madness to the Final Four, EA's effort emerges as the national champ. But hey, shouldn't announcer Dick Vitale be in ESPN's college hoops game?
March Madness 2004 is much more than NBA Live Jr. In fact, EA has done a great job of taking this year's Live engine and making a wealth of adjustments to reflect the way college basketball is played. You actually have to dissect zone defenses and expose weaknesses to have any chance of taking a good shot. But Bryan's right--it's the atmosphere that adds a little extra zing to the whole package: The fans' chants and noises are incredible. It's definitely worth picking up if you're a college b-ball fan.