NCAA March Madness 2003
After the initial release of the March Madness series last year left much to be desired, EA Sports has revamped the series with the release of March Madness 2003. Filling in the immense holes left mainly by the lack of gameplay options, this year's release is at least a complete game offering the standard assortment of options and features. Although hampered by minor issues that keep it from being this year's clear pick, March Madness 2003 offers a number of well-executed features, delivering a rounded performance.
The issues most will have with this game will depend mainly on what is expected from it. Since most of March Madness 2003 is generated using NBA Live as a template, the game doesn't have a strong collegiate feel to it. The gameplay for one can look more like NBA action with flashy animations and dunks that call more attention to the individual than the team and pre and post game coverage that is almost too elaborate for college play. Again the effect this has may be minimal for some, but part of what makes college basketball so exciting is clearly missing.
Even with the college basketball experience not fully grasped, the gameplay found is as solid as it is in NBA Live 2003. This isn't too surprising since March Madness 2003 uses it as the engine, but why recreate the wheel anyway. You'll notice similarities like the same Freestyle Control system where the right analog stick is used to perform different moves, creating a sense of better control in addition to graphics that have characteristically great player models and animations. The audio commentary is also fantastic with Dick Vitale and Brad Nessler calling dynamic games with the crowd interaction helping to draw you into the game. There are only a couple of real gripes with the game but the main one is lack of online capability. Why it wasn't included is beyond me as NBA Live 2003 has it, but for whatever reason it wasn't included in Madness.
March Madness 2003 is a much-improved game from last year and should be considered before purchasing a college basketball game this year. Although there are some issues with it feeling more like a NBA game and the lack of online capabilities, those who are looking for a solid basketball game won't be disappointed. Owners of NBA Live 2003 may want to pass due to some similarities but other fans should check it out.