At least that is what I thought I would be playing when I broke the seal on 989's NCAA Final Four 2000. Unfortunately, it was not the game I hoped it would be. Let's get right to it.
The game begins with a flashy new teleplay that collages the recent activities at 989 Studios intermingled with highlights from the array of sports that they currently make games for. The excitement soon fades. While I perused the instruction booklet, I first noticed the controls. They were quite different from the controls I was used to. Troubled by this, I tried to figure out how to remedy the situation only to find that I did not have the option to do so. We move on.
You can choose to play the normal variety of game play options. You have the ability to chose from a huge sampling of collegiate teams. Finding your alma mater could be quite exhilarating. Take on your cross-town rival, your in-state rival or have a swipe at number 1. Anything can happen at the playground, but sometimes nothing at all.
The game is not very good. The players move abruptly and in straight lines, the graphics are outdated and even unintelligible at times. The players do not seem to be governed by the laws of physics which makes it hard to time your rebounding because the players jump up and fall back down at very different speeds. The detail is poor, with pudgy, uninteresting skins slapped on the ballers. This was a problem in last year's version as well...is anyone taking notes?
You'll also notice some minor graphical flair in animated referees and cheerleaders. Nice touch, but it hardly makes up for the lame on-court graphics.
The somewhat awkward control interferes with playing solid defense, but you can eventually get the hang of it. The biggest omission is the absence of a crossover dribble. I can't think of another game out there that did not include this essential ball handling skill, two years ago!
Quinn Buckner is back to handle the commentating. Quinn should retire from game announcing once and for all, as his quips are repetitive and annoying.
What the designers appear to have had in mind was a true team game. They included sharp passing with set plays that characterize the scrambling nature of the college game. Good intentions, but not very exciting. I enjoy a more individually precise game that does not feel like I am simply pressing a combination of buttons in sequence, but rather reacting to the game as it occurs. Athletes begin to get really creative with their play at the college level, and the game needs more examples of that.
989 has a reputation for creating games that bend the rules and the attitude of the sports they are based upon. These games are entertaining and fun, but are rarely very realistic. They tried to go the opposite route with Final Four 2000 bby upping the realism, but strayed to the far end of the spectrum.
With all the competition involved in the sports game genre, NCAA Final Four 2000 has a long way to go to keep up with the likes of March Madness 2000. It appears outdated and under-produced with nothing of real interest to set it apart. Division 1 ball is a spirited endeavor with atmosphere and excitement. Although team play is great for the cause of sportsmanship, individual players often dominate and that's what pushes them to the next level. Next time, let's see some showtime.