We have to admit we were a little scared about NCAA 07 March Madness for the 360. Frankly, our eyes and fingers still haven't fully recovered from the nightmare that was the console's NBA Live 07. Needless to say, we breathed a sigh of relief when EA's newest next-gen hoopster dropped into the machine and we got busy in campuses all over the nation. While it's by no means perfect (or quite as good as 2K Sports' competitor), it tips off with a fistful of attitude and a gymnasium's worth of gameplay. For that, we're thankful.
There's no doubt that it shoots - and scores - in a number of areas, like the in-depth Dynasty mode, a full slate of Division 1 schools in all of their real buildings (even the little guys), superb integration with ESPN audio and video, and plenty of on-the-fly coaching options to put your cagers in the right spot for open jumpers or ferocious dunks. Of course, since no coaches ever show up on the sidelines or in the huddle, just who's making these calls is a mystery. The folks at EA have even made sure that foul shooting is intuitive, instead of trying to reinvent it like everyone else seems to be doing these days. Good call.
Unfortunately, the on-court gameplay is slightly choppy and significantly less smooth than we're used to from its rival College Hoops 2K7. To be sure, the most egregious problems that surfaced in its pro hoops cousin have been eliminated, but we've still got a few issues with the frame rate.
The controls are more than adequate, with two different shot buttons - one for jumpers and the other to jam home the rock in the paint - to go along with a Freestyle stick that'll enable your more gifted athletes to spin and juke past dumbfounded defenders. Steals and turnovers happen far too often on both ends of the court, though; passes get intercepted at a rate that borders on ridiculous (for and against you).
Online play exists, albeit in pretty basic forms of ranked and unranked games - no leagues (bummer). Our games on Live ran even less smoothly than the offline ones, so that has us frowning a bit too. On the other hand, the kick-ass ESPN integration is fantastic, especially for us sports junkies who no longer have to exit the game to see or hear the latest scores, news, and commentary from all of the network's personalities. Of course, if you're the owner of any other EA '07 sports titles, this feature is nothing new.