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NBA Basketball 2000 (PC,PSX)
Hands-on Preview

Publisher: Fox Sports
Release Date: November 1999

Click here for the fact sheet of NBA Basketball 2000.

Fox's first NBA title for the PC looks very strong. The early version I've previewed has comparable graphics to NBA Live 99, with slightly smoother animations. Basketball 2000 is very fluid. The players move very naturally. The game has an impressive range of motion-captured animations - players take off-balanced fade-away jumpers, bank shots in off the drive, and cut through traffic to deliver a sweet finger-roll. The ball physics in this game are outstanding. Some shots brick hard off of the rim, others wobble and drop gently into the hoop, while some shots are hideous air-balls. The speed, movement, and rotation of the ball all look realistic. All in all, the game does a great job providing a smooth, well-animated graphical environment.

Fox also does a great job integrating their broadcast look-and-feel to the game. The on-screen graphics, stats, and transitions closely resemble an actual Fox sports broadcast. Camera angles are plentiful and adjustable, but the game also makes camera switches on key plays, such as cutting to an immediate close-up of a power dunk. My favorite graphic feature in the game (PC version only) is an innovative touch between quarters, where the game shows snippets of highlights from the real action in the previous quarter on a small screen. It's a lot of fun to see little flashes of your own in-game highlights during a pause in the action.

The play-by-play and color with Doc Rivers and Greg Papa are well done. The announcers react well to unique situations. For example, if you turn the ball over at the start of a quarter, Rivers may say something like "you hate to start a half with a stupid turnover like that!" The variety of comments are limited in the current version of the game, but the developers promise a much wider range of comments and play-by-play will be in the final version.

Basketball 2000 features some nice innovations. First off, the game has a rebound marker that helps you spot where you need to move to grab a rebound, adding more strategy than luck to a successful rebounding performance. Second, the game has "go-to guy" option, which allows you to designate your team's go-to guy, and then allows you to use a button combination to quickly pass to him for a big shot. Finally, the game does an excellent job integrating head-tracking into the game - players' heads follow the ball and react to the action on the court. On replays, this is especially impressive, as you can see the players watch and follow a long three-point shot with their eyes.

I won't go far into any possible weaknesses of the game, since the version I have played is relatively early in development, but the area that will most need improvement is in defensive AI. From this early version of the game, scoring is just too easy. Hopefully, they will tighten up the computer AI before a final release.

The PSX version shares most qualities with the PC version - impressive graphics, quality announcing, great animation, and realistic ball physics. Predictably, the graphics are not as sharp or detailed as the PC version, but they are still well done. They players are well-animated, though a little fuzzy. They compare favorably to the player models in Live 99, but it's not clear how they will hold up against this year's Live or Shootout.

By: Matt P. 7/7/99

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