- Perfectly captures the exciting
atmosphere of college basketball
- Requires more strategic on-the-court decisions than NBA Live
- Can unlock classic teams by completing 20 of college
basketball’s great moments
- Graphics engine completely
- Not many players online to compete against
- Xbox Live play can get too laggy at times
- Dynasty Mode not as good as other EA Sports titles
March Madness is one of the most
electrifying times of the sports year, when 65 NCAA basketball teams
each set out on an exciting journey towards a national championship.
Each year, there are plenty of Cinderella stories of teams with
seemingly no chance at the title pulling major upsets and yet other
tournament games where teams secure victory in memorable, last-second
fashion. There’s simply no other championship tournament in sports quite
With the great, authentically detailed arenas and loud, highly charged
crowd, Electronic Arts has captured the true exhilaration of winning and
the anguish of losing that is the NCAA basketball tourney in NCAA March
What NCAA March Madness 06 does exceptionally well is bring the
strategic element of college basketball to the virtual court. The game
Floor General Playcalling, which allows you
to devise defensive tactics while your team is on the court. You can
call up the playbook on-screen during a game and select a defensive play
that you are counting on to stop the other team from scoring. It’s a
great chess-like component of college basketball that really
differentiates NCAA hoops from the pro game of the NBA.
The most successful college basketball
programs in the nation are built around a strong defensive strategy. In
NCAA March Madness 06, if you’re successful at calling the right defense
for the situation using the Floor General Playcalling, you can cause
turnovers which can lead to easy baskets, and that can be the difference
between winning and losing a close game.
In another nod to the defensive-minded NCAA basketball mindset, NCAA
March Madness 06 introduces the Lockdown Stick. Using the right
thumbstick while playing defense, you can have your defensive player
“lock on” to an offensive hoopster and play tight, aggressive defense.
If you stick on the player long enough you’re sure to create a
well-deserved turnover. It’s not a simple task to lock on to a player,
because they can simply pass the ball off to another teammate. It takes
a lot of work to become deft at using the Lockdown Stick. But with
practice, if you can tie up a player without any possibility of a
bailout pass, using the Lockdown Stick and the right trigger (the steal
control when in “lockdown”), that turnover’s practically yours for the
And getting turnovers by using both the Floor General Playcalling and
Lockdown Stick leads to a more up-tempo game offensively, giving you a
much better opportunity to outscore your opponents on a regular basis.
Gameplay in NCAA March Madness 06 really does emulate successfully the
game of college basketball.
One major area that NCAA March Madness 06 is not head of the class is in
its graphics. Its NBA counterpart had a new graphical engine upgrade
this year, but NCAA March Madness 06 didn’t, and it is easily apparent
from first glance. Visually, NCAA March Madness 06 is clearly not a game
taking advantage of the rendering prowess of the current consoles, and
definitely flunks out of the School of Good Graphics.
Players are hard to evaluate as far as their respective closeness to
their real-life counterparts. Because college players don’t have a
“union” (and can’t have any unionization, if they want to continue to
play at school) to receive any residuals for using their likeness,
players are identified by number only. So unless you’re a huge fan of
the team you’re playing with, you won’t really have any idea who’s who
and if they actually look close to realistic. Players too closely
resemble each other visually in NCAA March Madness 06, with not a lot of
tell-tale, identifiable individual characteristics.
One visual aspect that NCAA March Madness 06 swooshes from half-court is
the arenas that teams play in. EA has done a wonderful job of capturing
the essence of individual, hallowed meccas of college basketball, down
to even the most unexpected detail. While playing against St. Joseph’s,
a local school to me, the St. Joe’s Hawk mascot can be seen in NCAA
March Madness 06. The Hawk is famous for flapping his “wings” without
stopping the entire game, and that’s exactly what he did in NCAA March
Madness 06. The crowds suffer from a case of the jaggies, but the
distinct and colorful atmosphere of particular college courts is
undeniably brought to NCAA March Madness 06.
Partnered with the excellent look of arenas is the aura that only comes
with a frenzied crowd. The sounds of the college band playing fight
songs and pop music are a treat for the auditory senses. Throughout the
game, the crowd will chant for the home crowd, and if you’re playing
with a school that’s renowned for its spectators, you can even fire them
up with the arena pulse, similar to what’s in NCAA Football 06. If a
school is ranked among the 25 toughest and fiercest places to play, the
pulse meter will be able to be utilized to pump up the crowd and
energize the home team while rattling the visiting squad.
NCAA March Madness 06 again has a classroom full of modes to play,
including Season, Tournament and Mascot modes. Two great modes are the
Rivalry mode, squaring your team off against a bitter and long-time
rival school, and the College Classic mode, where you can replay 20
classic moments in college basketball history. If you complete the
Classic challenge, you can unlock those classic teams to use in the
There is a 30-year Dynasty mode, which is overall okay, but it certainly
falls a shot or two short of the usual EA Sports Dynasty mode quality.
While it generally operates along the same lines as most other EA Sports
Dynasty modes in other sports titles, having too much worrying about
player violations (which may require suspending players) takes some of
the fun out of the game.
Online play is overall acceptable in both its performance and setup, but
there are similar lagging issues that appeared in NBA Live 06, bogging
down play at sometimes inopportune times. It was also hard at this
juncture preceding the beginning of the actual NCAA basketball season
tip-off to find many players online. That should improve as the season
gets underway in earnest, but right now there’s not many college
basketball gym rats populating the Xbox Live servers.
While the graphics engine is ready for serious retirement, the Dynasty
mode not totally up to the EA Sports standard, and some online lag
issues, NCAA March Madness 06 completely engulfs players into the world
of college basketball. The great defensive “chess match” of college
hoops and the whole rousing spirit of major college athletics is brought
to full life in NCAA March Madness 06.