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NBA Basketball 2000 (PSX) Review

Publisher: Fox Sports
Release Date: November 1999

Background Info

NBA preseason basketball is in full swing, and with it comes the usual slate of basketball games for the video gamer. This year Radical Entertainment and Fox Sports Interactive jump into the fray with NBA Basketball 2000 for the Playstation. Past PSX basketball games have been good for the most part, but usually a fatal flaw kept each one from achieving greatness. Will NBA Basketball 2000 (NBAB2K) be the game that finally gets it all right?

Presentation/Graphics : 80
The first thing that most gamers notice is of course the graphics. That's not to say that graphics are the most important part of games; they are decidedly not. But they are usually the first impression you get of a game, and as the commercial says, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So how does NBA Basketball 2000 look? In a word, dated. The players are modeled pretty decently, but they do not have the polish of today's better PSX games. There is a definite lack of detail that will be hard for today's gamer to take. The hands, in particular, look pretty awful, especially when going up with the ball; they often seem unattached. Some players look pretty much like their real-life counterparts, while others really do not. You can tell when you are controlling Latrell Sprewell (chokehold not included, by the way), but other times, star players simply look like generic player models. Given the limited power of the PSX, this is somewhat understandable, but other games, most notably EA Sports' NBA Live Series, do this much better.

Player movement is done pretty well, even if it has been done better in the past. Players look okay getting up and down the court, and the passing and shooting animations are fine. There is no slowdown, and the animation is very smooth for the most part.

The courts are very nice, with the appropriate logos and markings.

Presentation/Audio : 70
Doing good audio for basketball games is not very difficult. I mean, how much is there to it? You have the crowd noise, the squeaking of sneakers, the swoosh of the net and the clang of the rim. Play-by-play is becoming the standard, so that is a must have, and probably the most difficult part of doing audio for any sports game. The play-by-play in NBAB2K is done by Greg Papa and Doc Rivers, and it is pretty standard fare. As in most sports games play by play, there is a lot of repetition; it won't take long before you have heard everything that Papa and Doc have to say. On the other hand, they do a pretty good job of keeping up with the action, something that many sports games cannot claim.

The crowd noise is mediocre at best. They never seem really into the game. The other sounds are serviceable. Players will grunt as they battle for position at the post. The sound of the ball on the hard wood sounds fine. During breaks in the action, the PA system will play loud music, just as in real life.

Interface/Options : 83
The menus in NBAB2K are easy enough to navigate. There is a bit of a pause between menus as they are loaded, which can get tiresome.

There are plenty of options to tweak in the game. Anyone familiar with the NBA Live series will feel right at home. The rules can be set up as you like, meaning you can turn off the 24 second clock, the backcourt rule, or even out of bounds infractions. There are 3 different skill levels, so gamers can adjust the challenge as they see fit. There is a "slide bar" that allows you to adjust the frequency of foul calls. One disappointment is the options for the length of quarters. Rather than having the option to adjust them in one-minute increments, the players is limited to either 4, 8 or 12 minutes. This is pretty unacceptable in today's game market. There is a pretty decent stats engine that is easy enough to use and gives you a good amount of information.

The game allows you to adjust the lineups of each team, so that if the default rosters have inaccurate starting lineups, you can remedy that problem. The standard create player feature is included, allowing you to create a custom player to your liking. You can determine his physical attributes as well as his ratings at certain skills. Trades between teams are also possible.

There are 3 different modes of play. Players wanting to jump right in can go to Exhibition mode, where you can pit any two teams against one another. Playoff mode lets you set up a playoff tree to your liking. Season mode allows you to control a team throughout the season, playing the NBA's 1999/2000 schedule.

The control of the game is (again) standard stuff, and will be quite simple for seasoned gamers to pick up. One disappointment is that rather than have separate controls for dekes, crossovers and other special moves, there is simply one button, and the CPU will determine which move the player will execute. I prefer to have complete control over my player. Playcalling is very simple and can be done on the fly by pressing the L1 button. Icon passing is present for those who prefer it.

Gameplay : 75
Up to this point, you are probably thinking that NBAB2K sounds like your average PSX basketball game. Well, the gameplay is not going to change your perception. In fact, it may disappoint you even further.

There is one big problem I have with the game, and that is the control; it is simply too sluggish. There is nothing worse than playing a video game that requires quick reflexes and having the controller input keep you from doing the things you want. It simply leads to an incredible amount of frustration. The player movement is responsive enough, but there is a noticeable lag when trying certain maneuvers, such as stealing the ball. You hit the button at what should be the appropriate moment, but the ball handler is already past you by the time your defender actually goes for the steal. Unless you are clairvoyant and know where the ball handler is going before he gets there, you are in for some real frustration. That's not to say that all of the controls are unresponsive. As mentioned, players move around the court pretty well, and they get off their shots and passes just fine. But the lag that occurs at certain moments is definitely going to frustrate some gamers beyond belief.

The CPU's AI suffers a bit as well. As with far too many basketball games, you will often be left scratching your head when a CPU player with an open lane to the basket passes the ball off to someone else. The CPU seems to pass just for the sake of passing; there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why they move the ball around so much.

The CPU defense will also leave you wanting more. This game will remind many gamers of NBA Live 98, where you could simply drive the lane and score at will. It is far too easy to take the ball to the hole with a guard or a quick forward. And in a similar vein, your center or power forward will have little trouble muscling his way to the basket, as the defenders simply back up, allowing the easy close shot. This leads to inflated shooting percentages, though to be fair, I have yet to see a basketball game that replicates shooting percentages accurately.

Playing defense is especially frustrating as well, given the unresponsive controls. The lack of a hand check button allows the CPU players to simply scoot around your defenders too easily. And as mentioned earlier, going for the steal against a player on the move is suicide. The CPU will light you up the same way you torch it; by slashing to the basket for the easy dunk or lay-up. You are virtually defenseless against this, unless of course the CPU ball handler, for some unknown reason, dishes the ball off on his way to the hoop.

Replay Value : 80
With three levels of difficulty, players will be able to find a challenging game. As in most sports games, part of the challenge will be facing increasingly superhuman players when the difficulty level is cranked up. Average and mediocre players will perform at Jordanesque levels when you play at the highest difficulty.

Season mode is nice and will keep gamers occupied, though a franchise mode, allowing for player aging, retirements and drafts would be the ideal way to increase replay value.

Overall : 75
Despite the overall tone of this review, NBA Basketball 2000 is not a bad game. Were it not for the sluggish controls, I would rate it as an average PSX basketball game. But that is also part of the problem; it is simply another basketball game that adds nothing new to the genre. There is no improved AI, no improved game physics, graphics or audio. And with the lag, the control is below average. Two or three years ago, this would have been a very solid basketball game. But by today's standards, it is simply behind the times.

By: Jim S. 11/10/99

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