NCAA Final Four 2004 Review

Developer: 989 Sports Publisher: 989 Sports
Release Date: November 11, 2003 Also On: None

With the end of the college football season drawing near, college hoops is about ready to start. Get out your banners and wave them proudly, because the road to the Final Four starts now, with the release of NCAA Final Four 2004, exclusively for the PS2 and developed by 989 Sports.

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Each year, a sports franchise is recreated over and over, with new rosters, better graphics, and improved features. I’ll gladly admit that I’m a newcomer to the NCAA Final Four series and 989 Sports brand as a whole. Since the beginning of the Sega Dreamcast, I have been loyal to Sega Sports and none other. This week, that all changed when I received Final Four in the mail.

Prior to the release of Final Four, the Big East saw a large expansion, making it one of the biggest powerhouses in the NCAA Division 1. Over the past year, there has been more shuffling of teams than of cards in Vegas. If you crave the excitement that comes along with college basketball, Final Four is probably a good game for you to pick up. It has an excellent tournament mode, consisting of the top 64 teams; your goal is to see if you can beat all other teams on the bracket.

Aside from the tournament mode, Final Four 2004 offers plenty of different modes to offer sports fanatics and casual gamers alike. First, the practice mode is where you can improve your skills to play more effectively. Don’t have much time? Play quick start, where you can instantly jump into action against CPU or your pal. Exhibition mode allows you to go head-to-head with two teams, allowing you to choose which team you want to be on, while selecting the CPU’s or if you are playing with a friend, they get to choose for themselves. Arcade mode is a faster paced version of exhibition mode and also features more wild moves, not found in the rest of the game. Season mode will allow you to play through an entire season with any of the dozens of teams available.

Dynasty mode allows players to manage scheduling, rosters, injuries, etc, while trying to go all the way to the National Championship. If you want to coach your team, career mode is highly recommended. This is where you can start of at a small school as an assistant coach with the goal of becoming the head coach of a college of choice. If you improve your stats, you will be offered to join another university or you can continue the one that you currently work for.

The biggest blemish that I found with NCAA Final Four 2004 was the controls. Most of the game, controls are responsive and characters are smooth, but other times, they throw away the ball, perform plays that you didn’t make, and go “up and down� instead of shooting the ball. In basketball, precise controls are called for, 989 needs to improve this aspect of the game by next year.

While NCAA Final Four 2004’s graphics don’t blow you away, they are suitable. The lack of detail in players and in the audience isn’t acceptable. The animation isn’t very impressive either, many of the players move robotically, making me feel more like the Terminator or Robocop on the court.

Things that you would hear at a college game are present and in full force, such as fight songs. However, commentary is a drag, not only because not much is said, but it gets repetitive promptly. Whether it be running, slam-dunk sounds, dribbling, or grunting, it is all present.

NCAA Final Four 2004 is also available for online play, but since I don’t own a PS2 Network Adaptor (that’s a hint to you Sony), I can’t comment on this section of the game. Nonetheless, Final Four 2004 is a fine basketball title that will have a hard time competing with the likes of other b-ball titles, but it is worth picking up once the price goes down a bit.

Graphics: 4.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 6.8
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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