When I think of March I think of March Madness. Although that is still a long way off the NCAA Basketball games have already made their way on store shelves. The first this year is 989 Sport’s NCAA Final Four 2003. Following a pretty disappointing showing last year, Final Four has since added a lot of depth. The only question is, has the gameplay improved for us to even bother?
The best thing Final Four does has to be the wide variety of Gameplay modes to choose from. The game modes vary from a quick game mode to exhibition, season, dynasty, career, and tournament to name a few. Wow, that is just a ton of different game modes. Most of them are relatively the same thing but all are nice additions to make Final Four a very deep game.
The season mode is where you play a single season with a team. The Career mode is similar to the Dynasty mode except you start as coaching a small school and if your record is good you get new job opportunities at higher schools. Between seasons you get to recruit and watch your seniors leave, so there is work to be done in the off-season. The dynasty mode is really the same thing but you play as only one school instead of switching around following a coach. As I said earlier this is a very deep game. I mean, what other game do you actually get to customize your team’s practice schedule? Well you get to do just that in Final Four, and depending on your practice schedule, your players’ stats should increase accordingly.
Ok so we know this is a very deep game with plenty of gameplay modes. How does the gameplay hold up this year you might ask? This is where I find myself scratching my head and wondering why they can’t get this right. Shooting in Final Four uses a meter system where you press the Circle button to get the meter moving and Circle again to stop the meter in the proper place. The only problem is this is not a very accurate system. I have found that I can do a quick tap and sink 3 pointers. At the same time I found myself letting the meter hit the top and also hitting shots. So I really never found a guaranteed way to make a basket. I also found that you could really sink shots very easily with a decent shooter.
Another difficulty I have found with Final Four is dunking. It really seems like you have to be right under the basket to execute a dunk. Then when you go too far under the basket, you will throw up these nothing shots that really don’t look right.
Not only do I not like the shooting system, I really dislike the way the game feels in general. Nothing seems to be very polished. Passing seems to be a little quirky and it doesn’t always seem to pass to the obvious people.
The only positive portion of the gameplay is the controls, which is very easy to use and learn. Final Four really uses the standard controls so nothing should catch you off guard. There has been the addition of using the right analog stick for doing moves but all in all it’s not really worth your effort.
The only portion of the game’s sound worth talking about is the commentary. There is really not much to say about it. To be honest it is pretty simple and plain. Although it gets the job done for a while you will still have quite a bit of repetitiveness.
Last year, one of the biggest flaws with the game is in the graphics department. This year you can really see they took a new look or style, but it really just isn’t cutting it. The new lighting effects and such have really just do not work to full force; therefore they really just don’t look overly impressive.
Probably the biggest downside to Final Four’s graphics has to be the player models. They are a slight upgrade from the previous game but they still are not very impressive. For the most part they are not very detailed and from a farther away camera angle they look rather blurry.
To top it all off the game really doesn’t flow very well. Everything still does not seem to want to move like you would expect it to. Shooting and passing really just doesn’t look very good. For the most part the animation still needs a lot of work.
This game would be a lot of fun if there were some good gameplay. The game has plenty of game modes to last you a long time but the fact that the game doesn’t play as well as the other games on the market won’t make it a fun experience. There is some fun in the game if you really don’t care about the graphics or the way the game runs, but for the most part this isn’t a lot of fun.
Sometimes I wish you could just combine Final Four’s vast selection of gaming modes and the gameplay mechanics from other great basketball title. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible as of yet, so for the most part Final Four is a game with great selection of game modes, but not good enough gameplay to back it up.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.