NCAA Final Four 2004

NCAA Final Four 2004

Another run-of-the-mill installment of the Final Four franchise or a truly reworked game with distinct potential? You decide.
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: October 7, 2003
For years, 989 Sports and EA Sports have been competing in order to create the premium videogame for each particular sport, year after year. And with SEGA now getting in on the action with their ESPN-branded sports titles, the competition has stiffened even more. Unfortunately, 989 has been at the back of the pack for one too many times, typically due do a noticeable mishap in the in-game action, whether it be an extremely tough AI or an unreliable defense. Lucky for us gaming journalists and you gamers, though, 989 Sports has shown strong sign of improving their sports franchises in the last few years, especially now that the PlayStation 2 feature online capabilities. Taking advantage of such is this year's installment of 989's college basketball franchise, NCAA Final Four 2004, which shows surprising potential, due in most part to its deep online mode and plethora of gameplay tweaks and improvements. With that said, let's take a look at what's in store with this year's installment of the franchise.

Taking after its "big-brother" basketball title, 989's NBA ShootOut 2004, Final Four 2004 will feature an incredibly new and immersive Online Mode. What can you expect out it? Lobby features will include tournaments (either 989 Sports or user hosted), message boards, user mail, buddy lists, and stat-tracking, in addition to a live sports ticker, which will constantly be keeping you updated with the latest scores from around the league. 989 Sports has made sure that players will always have instant access to communicating with other users, and of course, senseless bragging.

As deep as its Online Mode may be, NCAA Final Four 2004 features various other gameplay modes, each offering their own enticing innovation, and all making use of the game's 303 Division IA teams. Looking to get used to the whole college hoops shindig, or to sharpen your skills a bit before diving into the midst of the game? Practice Mode is there for you. Or maybe you'd prefer to start from scratch, recruiting freshmen and building your team to become the ultimate college team? Final Four 2004's Dynasty Mode is already a step ahead of you. And for those who prefer to judge the action from the sidelines, the game's Career Mode allows you to work your way up from a small-time, regular Joe college basketball coach for a small school to the head coach of the biggest team in the nation. Season Mode, Tournament Mode, all of the immense modes you'd expect from a sports title all make a star-studded appearance in NCAA Final Four 2004.

For most sports game enthusiasts, the on-court gameplay action is what really counts, and the team at 989 Sports has valiantly stepped up to the plate to deliver this year. In Final Four 2004, we're talking brand new gameplay and artificial intelligence, with the new gameplay elements ranging from more intuitive controls to cleaner transitions. The right analog stick will now grant gamers full control of their players' dribbles, behind-the-back moves, and so forth, while the game's new motion blending will insure that each move you see on the court is crisp and seamless. Another rather nifty new addition to Final Four 2004's gameplay is the player icons, which will be displayed for each player as a rating, showing you who's been speeding around the opposition, who's sinking their three-pointers like butter, who's... well, you get the point. For those looking to go fancy, you can expect to see 30 fresh new dunks, such as reverses, follow-ups, and tomahawk jams, but beware: it won't be so easy getting passed the upgraded AI, which will now pull of wise moves such as double-teaming star players and providing extra coverage where its needed.

With all of this intense college basketball action taking place on your screen, it's got to look pretty, right? Alas, NCAA Final Four 2004 has that too, with its newly reworked graphics engine to make it one of, if not THE most gorgeous college basketball games to hit the consoles. We're also talking intense detail in this year's installment of the Final Four franchise, for the tons of player specific details will include headbands, goggles, afros, "corn rows," tattoos, and more. Not only that, but NCAA Final Four 2004 will feature total college basketball authenticity, with areas packed with mascots, cheerleaders, fight songs, and all other home team advantages for the... well, home team.

So there you have it. Some may look at Final Four 2004 as being simply another installment of the franchise with updated rosters, but hopefully most will see it for its reworked graphics, gameplay and overall content. Will NCAA Final Four 2004 stand up to the nearly-flawless college hoop titles from SEGA and EA Sports? Probably not, but it will no doubt be a solid rental for those looking to experience college basketball authenticity to the fullest.