NCAA Final Four 2003

Review

posted 11/29/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
While 989 Sports developed games have often been a curse rather than a gift, I’ll admit that I’ve been rather excited to receive them in my mailbox. Not because they’re fun to play, but because I like to see what steps have been taken to assure that this year’s game will outdo last year’s game. It seems that with every year, the goals have been significantly decreased. Starting with “gain market dominance” and eventually ending up at “Jesus Christ, this is embarrassing. Let’s just make a decent game for once guys.” Of all of the 989 Franchises released this year, only one of them managed to rank above par, NBA Shootout, can it’s younger brother follow suit? Or does it do everything in its power to make sure that the rotten stench of 989 lives on? Hmm… what’s that smell?

This year’s game marks a major improvement in the series, I'll give it that. Some major tweaks have been made to make sure that the game will be ready to play with the big boys. There is a new dynasty mode that adds some much needed longevity to the game, the practice mode is actually a really nice addition and the player models have been improved. It's all for naught though, when the game plays this bad, it doesn’t matter how many features it has.

As it seems to be with each seceding year, the 989 Sports franchises lag a step or two behind the competition. Oddly enough, this is actually one of the rare instances where it’s not so true. Games based on college hoops have been and perhaps may always be, some of the worst games on the market. They lack depth, they lack polish and most of all, they lack anything that warrants a purchase. Interestingly enough, this game manages to avoid most of these pitfalls but still manages to feel like a sub-par game.

Let’s start with the gameplay, it’s just plain awful. It’s so unrealistic that you just can’t help but wonder what was going through the programmers’ minds when they were coding the game. There are a number of nice additions such as a shot meter to tell you the ‘sweet spot’ when you’re hitting a jumper and special moves that are mapped to the right analog stick, but it ends there. Gameplay is flawed, taking shots while your foot is clearly on the three point line will net you three points as opposed to two. Even more interesting is how the announcers will chime in with “he was clearly behind the line for that three ball.” I guess they haven’t heard of modern marvels like instant replay. When inbounding the ball your receiver will often stand right on the line resulting in an out of bounds infraction when you pass it to him. The only way to avoid this is to pass it down court and face a possible steal or call a time-out. Offensive rebounding is far too simple, I was able to miss about five shots on a single possession and snag the rebound on each occasion. If you thought that the rebounding in the EA Sports games was simple you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The defensive AI is just horrid, you can usually trick the AI by doing complicated maneuvers like dribbling and uhh, dribbling. Apparently the AI has no problem with watching you stroll right past them en route to slamming the ball into their net. They’re not too bright when they have the ball either, you can usually relieve them of the ball by simply mashing on the steal button. Blocks are rather hit or miss, sometimes you’ll block a shot from a mile away while at other times, you can be in a guy’s face and he’ll sink a 30 footer. Watching the replay will conclude what you already knew, that the ball magically sailed through your defender’s hand en route to the twine.
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