NCAA Final Four 2003 Review
Some times I just wish 989 Sports would take a year off and concentrate more time on their sports titles. After playing numerous games by the development company, I've come to the habit of going into the experience with heavy reserve. After playing NCAA Final Four 2003, every previous feeling I had was strongly confirmed. The gameplay is sloppy; the graphics are sub-par; and the control scheme is dire. If college basketball is your passion and you're looking to lead your favorite team to victory, I would recommend finding another way to go about it.
As stated, the graphics in Final Four 2003 are well below average. The player models are inadequate and there is a lack of polish and smoothness at every corner. Each player is roughly the same size and muscle tone and detail isn't quite as high as other games on the market. The lighting effects are the one upside, as both the court and player jerseys exhibit a nice amount of variation. However, this doesn't do a whole lot for the game, since other aspects overshadow the few good points.
Animation effects are nowhere near as good as 989 Sports would have hoped, as the flow of the game gets somewhat abrupt at areas. The presence of excitement and variation are lacking in the majority of cut-scenes, with the dunk animations suffering the most. Shooting is constructed rather well, but the gameplay portions strongly take away from this area as well.
The game modes in Final Four 2003 include Quick Start, Exhibition, Season, Dynasty, and Career. The three aforementioned modes are about what you'd expect, but both Dynasty and Career are actually rather deep. Dynasty allows you to take a team through the course of many seasons and Career places you as a Graduate Assistant in hopes of obtaining a head coaching position at one of the top colleges. Your record plays the largest role in whether you are offered openings in the college atmosphere. Once you make it into the head coaching job, there are such options as workout regiment and practice schedules that you can control. Most of these choices and abilities sound somewhat intriguing, but they end up being nothing very spectacular.
The shooting and passing mechanics are quite frustrating at times. Both are correlated in to a "Touch" system and end up falling short of anything productive. By tapping the controller button you will throw a lob pass while pushing it down hard will rifle the pass to your teammate. The shooting scheme involves a gauge each time you shoot and is based around timing. As soon as you press shoot you must let it go at the appropriate time in hopes of scoring. Player statistics and other factors come into play, but the majority of your makes will simply depend on timing.
One of the main problems with Final Four 2003's gameplay lies with the camera angle. When driving to the hoop it appears you can dunk the ball or simply lay it up, but many times the shooting gauge will pop up leaving you stunned and often missing the shot. A closer shot is needed, opposed to the far away angle that leaves you know idea how close you are to the hoop. However, even driving to the hoop is usually impossible. Player AI is a brick wall in terms of allowing you to attack the rim, and hardly any juke moves work against the computer. With this aspect, you will usually have to rely on outside shots and mid-range jump shots.
The control in the game is what makes the gameplay so poor, and I'm honestly getting tired of this factor in 989 Sports' games, especially basketball titles. The players do not move smoothly and tend to be somewhat jerky when attempting to make impressive moves. The passing system also made me quite angry and at times the ball would go nowhere near the player I intended, or even in the right direction at times. Also, players do not respond as quickly as needed, especially concerning defense.
The sound in the game is about average, with far better announcing than seen in 989 Sports' NBA Shootout 2003. The game sounds are what they need to be, with accurate crowd noise and in-game action. They aren't over-the-top or anything amazing to whip out your Surround Sound, but at least everything is in order. Although the commentary can get a little repetitive at times, it does the job well.
Replay value always depends on the gameplay aspect of the title, so without surprise it receives a rather low score as well. I did find both the Dynasty and Career modes rather interesting, so that is something the game has going for it. If every other area would've been able to follow suit, then maybe Final Four 2003 could be considered enjoyable. However, in the end what you're left with is some decent game modes with no gameplay to be incorporated.
After playing far more of NCAA Final Four 2003 than I would recommend, I can safely say this college basketball title falls into the bottom of the competition. 989 Sports delivers another average sports title and almost every area of the game has serious flaws. With a complete overhaul next year, maybe this title could have some potential. However, at the current moment NCAA Final Four 2003 is what we consider in the videogame industry just another sports game.
1/13/2003 Matthew Stensrud