NCAA March Madness 07 - hands-on

As the winter's snow begins to melt, so too does the patience of college basketball fans around the country as they await the annual Big Dance - what's formally known as the NCAA Tournament.

And as exciting as this time of year is for videogame hoopsters as they await the release of the next amateur roundball simulation, this year brings with it an extra level of Dick Vitale-esque enthusiasm, as after skipping out on an Xbox 360 release last season, March Madness finally makes its next-gen debut on 360 this January.

Building off of the visually stunning technology utilized in the 360 version of EA's pro ball franchise, NBA Live, March Madness 07 is just as much of a head-turner as its big brother. Player animations are smooth, particularly on collision plays (i.e. blocking fouls or charges) and in post-play celebrations. The camera angle is also new and should be welcome to Live fans who couldn't find a view they liked.

More important, however, is how March Madness will play out on the court. EA is hyping a few new features as well as some old ones. Returning treats include the Lockdown Stick, by which you pull down on the right analog stick and try to "stick" to your defender, potentially breathing some authentic college life into playing defense. And then there's the Floor General playcalling system, which lets you call specific sets and follow the on-screen graphics in order to easily run them.


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