March Madness 2002
For college basketball fans, no other sporting event comes close to generating the attraction like the NCAA tournament. After watching their favorite teams battle all season long, most wait anxiously to see if they made the cut, what seed they were given, and who else is in their bracket. That's only the beginning however, as pools are set up all over the country with spectators trying to guess who will advance to the next round and who won't.
EA Sports attempts to recreate this excitement with March Madness 2002. Since this is the first installment of the series on a next generation console, you might expect some game flow problems or moderately buggy gameplay. EA Sports must have been aware that these issues might crop up because one way to get around these types of problems is to simply offer less options, reducing the complexity of the design. With that said, what EA Sports does ship is characteristically solid and gameplay is even slightly improved over its last installment of the NBA Live series.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The main problem most people will have with this game is a lack of options. Specifically and uncharacteristically missing is a season mode. The interesting point here is that for a game focusing around the NCAA Tournament, you'd want to play a full season more than with an NBA game. Part of the fun is trying to get seeding for the tournament and then competing in it. The absence of this option is a large disappointment and shortens the game's life span drastically. In addition, there isn't a career mode either so for those people who enjoy building up teams and attempting to keep them at a high caliber, there's not any of that here either. There is an option however to create your own school, but without a season or career mode to make it worthwhile, most people probably won't even bother.
So you might be wondering what options are offered for gameplay and basically there are two. There is of course a tournament mode and a "play now" option. The play now option is the standard game where teams are selected and play each other without any advancement or team growth. Generally it's a multiplayer option and only die hard fans will repeatedly use it. The tournament mode however is where the main part of the game is. Although it would be much more entertaining if a season could be played in an attempt to get into the tournament, mainly you select some teams from a bracket and play through a replicated tournament. There is an option to simulate games where the computer controls both teams so time can be saved and you can quickly advance to the next game. If it seems somewhat static and you find yourself wondering if you're missing something, I wish I could affirm that you are. The sad truth is that's all the options included and even those lack any excitement.
You can however, create your own school to enter in the tournament as one method to personalize the game and create some change from the standard options. Here you'll be able to select the school's name, abbreviation, nickname, conference, state, city, and fight song. Once finished, a selection of fourteen logos will be available to choose from in addition to eight coaches. Selecting a stadium type is also possible as you must decide between a field house, arena, or stadium. Now that the school options are completed, the uniform must be picked out from one of eight jersey styles with both home and away available to edit. You can adjust the colors, intensity, and brightness of the jerseys until you're satisfied. Creating the roster may be slightly more interesting and once that's done, the team's ready for action.
As with most EA Sport games, there are various ways to coach and set up games. This is one of the areas where the game does excel and can keep pace other EA Sports basketball games in some parts. Generally, there are numerous ways to set up a game to make it more or less realistic. For instance, fatigue can be factored, frequency of offensive and defensive fouls can be adjusted, and players can get injured. Other rules like goaltending, traveling, 3-in-the-key, and the shot clock can also be adjusted to the preference of the player. If coaching is more to your likening, offenses and defenses can be changed at any time and substitutions can be made to relieve fatigued players.
One area that will receive few complaints is the control system. With a learning curve of maybe a half hour, most players will have no trouble quickly becoming accustomed to the structure. In addition to the basic controls, more advanced moves and shots are also possible, adding a level of realism. For instance, the basic moves cover things like the d-button or left analog stick moving players and R1 causing the player to sprint. Other points like shooting uses the circle button, passing uses the X button, back-down the triangle, and crossover uses the square. For switching players, the X button can also be used while a steal again uses the square with a hand check using a circle with the triangle jumping. Besides those, pump fakes, stutter step, calling a pick, jump hooks and even fade-away jump shots are possible.
The multiplayer option is one area not directly effected by the missing modes of play and generally shouldn't disappoint. With the 138 NCAA teams from 11 conferences to choose from, you'd be hard pressed not to have a variety to different teams to choose with various different levels of skill. The tournament mode actually pays off here as well as running through a tournament can be entertaining.
Another area that gives some hope is the graphics. As with most EA Sports games, it looks fantastic. The players move realistically and you'll be hard pressed to see any faults physically or otherwise. They are also detailed well with faces that aren't distorted or bodies that aren't misshapen. There was one issue that stood out and mainly dealt with the coaches. Being a Purdue fan, I checked out Gene Keady and was surprised to see a young black man coaching the team. Most people know that Gene Keady is not a young black man so this was confusing. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only coach where little or no attention was paid to their appearance and generally distracted from the game.
One pleasant surprise was that the school songs for most of the teams seemed to be accurate and were played during the game. Although only parts of it are played, it still added more of a college feel in addition to the crowds being more of a factor. They'd cheer for their home team and get louder as the action picks up. The announcer on the other hand was slightly repetitive and bland. The only time he was even heard from was when a shot was taken.
The only saving grace that can be found is the actual gameplay because without it, it falls into the "Don't touch with a stick" category. Unfortunately, even solid gameplay can only keep a game interesting for so long and with a serious lack of options, this one will be worn out within a week. It's hard to comprehend why a game developer with such an effective history of producing top quality games would release a $50 game with so little meat. Now if it was $20, maybe it becomes a worthy investment but definitely not at its current price. Basically, if you enjoy sport games where single games are the focus without any extra frills or different modes of play, I'd recommend it. Otherwise, wait till next year.
Download March Madness 2002
EA Sports is jilting gamers by passing the baton from one average basketball game -- NBA Live--to another: March Madness 2002. Before we go into the gameplay, the first question that comes to mind is "Where's the freaking Dynasty mode?" Every EA game in recent memory has made use of this feature, and it makes even more sense in a college setting. We need the chance to recruit new athletes, graduate players, and fashion a team to our liking. EA has robbed us of that opportunity. Dumb. The other stupid part is that you can't even simulate one season of college hoops, as there are only two play modes. It's either Play Now, Tournament or get out. Definitely not what we expect of EA, the king of options. March Madness also suffers from the same droll gameplay that plagues NBA Live. Stiff, often overly lengthy, animations lead to a pretty lousy-feeling game of basketball. Rebounding and jump shots (sore points of Live) seem to have been tweaked for the better, but there's not much else to praise. Stealing the ball is almost comically easy at times, and I'm still not sold on the camera presentation for this one. Give me the opportunity to create our own, user-defined view (a la Madden) and be done with it. I'll never have to bitch about the camera again.
No matter what collegiate paint EA stirs into this pot of crap stew, it still doesn't change the fact that Madness 2002 plays like this season's disappointing NBA Live. All of the floaty physics, bad player control and unrealistic play from that game have made it into this one, with the biggest difference being a bunch of college fight songs. Whoopee! At least NBA Live had some slick features that made it palatable. This, on the other hand, has no season play, something standard in sports games since Hoover was president. Half the fun of college sports is moving your team up the ranks, but EA seemed intent on draining every bit of fun out of this mundane game.
If you have a soft spot for NBA Live 2002, you'll get a similar tingle for March Madness 2002. Both look and play about the same. Unfortunately, both still lag well behind NBA 2K2. The control in March Madness is solid, if a little fidgety. The players trot around the court taking baby steps. Other animations (like the two-hand push foul) also look a bit unnatural. The lack of a Season mode puts a cap on the replay value as well. Half the fun of a sports sim is taking your favorite team through a season. EA assures us next year they won't forget that important feature. Drawbacks aside, the title is good enough to have some yucks with. Rent it for a night.