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NBA Inside Drive 2000
(PC) Review

Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: August 1999

Background Info

Non-NBA Live fans should be happy this year. There is another PC basketball game out: Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2000 (Inside Drive). Even NBA Live fans might be interested in checking out this title. After years of the NBA Live engine, some gamers might want a change.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
Inside Drive's graphics are not innovative by any means. There is nothing special about the graphics that we have not seen in EA's NBA Live games except one thing. I am pretty sure NBA Live 99 did not have any referees running around. If this statement is incorrect, let me know. Inside Drive actually has the striped guys running around. They are actively involved in the game just like in real life. They get the ball on out-of-bounds plays, free-throws, etc... The refs do not just stay in one place. They move around like the ones in reality. All the NBA arenas are included. Players' faces are distingushable and likelike. The game does include head-tracking, meaning players' heads follow the location of the ball.

High Voltage should have done a motion capture session with at least one "big guy." Not to say that High Voltage did not do a good job with Ray Allen, but he is a shooting guard. Shooting guards and centers do not perform the same moves.

Presentation/Audio : 95
The commentary and play-by-play in Inside Drive are very enjoyable and real. The announcers, Marques Johnson and Kevin Calabro, do not talk like robots. They have emotions. Hey, they even sing! Can't beat that.:) The two guys actually sound like they had a real fun time recording for Inside Drive. You can feel their enthusiasm for the game of basketball. The duo keeps the game fun and entertaining. That is not to say you do not experience a little repetition, but hey, what game does not have any repetition? Also, all the sounds such as the basketball bouncing on the ground, the crowd cheering, and the referee's whistle are in the game.

The commentary is sometime inaccurate though. For instance, when I was using the Lakers playing against the Raptors, and Shaq missed some free-throws with two minutes left, the announcers said something to the likes of, "He should have made the free-throw. The Lakers might have one more opportunity to win the game." This isn't the exact wording but you get the basic idea of it. Nothing wrong with the statement you say? Well I had a 10 point lead. The line the announcers used does not seem too appropriate for the situtition. Time for my second example. The first quarter buzzer went off and I had a 12 point lead against the Spurs. The game went to the stats screen and the announcers said, "The big difference so far has been the bench scoring. The Lakers need more scoring from the bench." Again, not the exact wording. If I had a 12 point lead, the announcers should not have said what they said. Maybe if I had been down by 12 points, the line would have been appropriate.

Overall, Marques Johnson and Kevin Calabro sets a new standard in the play-by-play and commentary area of sports gaming. Nothing compares to these two guys.

Interface/Options : 80
The menus in Inside Drive are pretty easy to navagate. The team schedule screen could have been changed a little to signify which games are at home or away. Other than that, there are no major faults in the menus. Players are able to select to control a player throughout the whole game, control the ball-handler, or control a person till you press the switch button. Personally, I found controlling a single player throughout the game easier since you are free to roam around and make cuts to the basket. Users can also customize their buttons which is pretty much a must-have in a game these days. I was pretty shocked to discover the game does not have direct passing. It is frustrating when you have a man wide open down low but can't get the ball to him.

Inside Drive does not allow users to save a game in progress. So users have to make sure they have enough time to finish a game. Unlike Microsoft's other new sports game, NFL Fever 2000, Inside Drive does track player stats and league leaders.

There is no trading engine in Inside Drive. Meaning you can just put all your favorite stars onto your team in a matter of minutes. Inside Drive does not offer many options compared to EA Sports' NBA Live series. For instance, players can't change the number of games in a season. The development team chose to focus on the actual gameplay. Inside Drive does allow you to compete 1-on-1 with your friend in a street atmostphere. Inside Drive does offer the same package as the NBA Live games in being able to turn on/off rules, change quarter length, change graphical settings and other such things. Nothing special here, but not much missing as well.

Gameplay : 92
NBA Inside Drive 2000 feels like basketball. No other game has made me feel like I am playing real basketball. The game does have some bugs, but overall, the gameplay has been unmatched. Inside Drive requires you to work for the basket. It is not as easy as running down the court and walking past the defensive guys. You also can't just toss up a 3-point shot and expect it to go in. I personally feel making a 3-pointer is a little too difficult. Using Glen Rice, I shot 12 3-pointers, making only 2. That is very unlikely. Although, when simming a season, the numbers are very accurate. The post game in Inside Drive is very realistic. Shaq will almost always use his strength to back up almost any center in the league, while using Derek Fisher against Shawn Kemp will not provide the same results. Some of you might be thinking, why not just throw the ball downcourt to get an easy basket instead of posting. Seems like the longer the distance of the pass is, the higher chance of the pass being stolen. I am really glad Inside Drive included this feature. This prevents a game where you trade dunks.

The AI in Inside Drive is incredible. It is the most realistic basketball AI to date on the PC. The AI will burn you if you leave a guy wide open. The computer usually passes the ball around till there is someone open. Often the open guy is because of me. It is tough following your guy that you are suppose to cover. Should you choose not to do so, the computer will find the open guy and he will either get an easy dunk or a wide open jump shot. I no longer could just leave my guy and double the ball handler. The AI will find the open guy and he will burn you. On defense, the AI is just as good. You can no longer just drive to the hoop with ease. The computer will just stuff the lane with defensive guys and force you to pass.

Most of the points in the game will go to the big people; centers and power forwards. I did mention before that the post game is realistic, but I forgot to include an exception. The turn around jump shot from the post is too accurate. A regular jump shot does not seem to be as accurate as the turn around jump shot from down low. As a result, most of the shots will be taken by the big people, unless you always leave one of the guards open for some reason.

There are a couple of gameplay issues that Microsoft and High Voltage (the developer) should have tweaked. Blocking a dunk/lay-up is way too difficult. Granted, blocking dunks/lay-ups doesn't happen all the time in the NBA, but in Inside Drive, you would be lucky to block 2 dunks/lay-ups in a game. Also, offensive rebounding should have been tweaked. The ratio between offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding is a little off compared to the NBA. Another thing that could have been tweaked is your teammate's intelligence. When I leave to double team someone, the computer passes to the open guy. Nothing wrong with that. But the fact that my teammates would not pick up the open guy and instead let him have an open lane to the hoop rather than leaving their guy to help out, is a little hard to believe.

There are also some other things in Inside Drive that should have been fixed during the beta stages, the first being an error with the stats tracking. In the NBA, when a player blocks another player's shot and gets called for the foul, he does not get credit for the block. In Inside Drive, this is not true. This error should have been caught before the game went gold. Another error is a little more hidden. Many of you probably watch or know about basketball enough to know that substitutions often happen between the first and second free-throws. Well, I did the same thing while shooting free-throws with Bo Outlaw from the Orlando Magic. I moved him to either shooting guard or point guard just to see if I can recreate the bug. I did what I tried to do. Outlaw ended up shooting a free throw from around 35 feet away. Although it does not seem like the distance mattered. The computer thought it was just a regular free throw. Maybe it is just a graphical glitch. For those of you interested in seeing a guy shoot a free throw 35 feet away, click here for some screens.

Some extras that were left out of Inside Drive are rim-shaking dunks and taunting. Rim-shaking dunks are in the game but none of the dunks actually shake the rim. Also, there is no taunting. So after a player jams right over someone else, we don't see any mocking. We also don't see Mutombo's finger taunt after he blocks a dunk or shot. Inside Drive also does not allow users to perform a cross-over, between the legs dribble or other "special moves" with the touch of a button, such as in the NBA Live series. However, if you keep on pressing the turbo button, the player will sometimes perform a cross-over.

Overall, the gameplay is the closest thing to real basketball I have seen. True, there are some issues that should have been fixed, including the plethora of steals, but nothing before the pre-Inside Drive era felt like basketball.

Replay Value : 80
Inside Drive does not have a career mode, but you cannot expect that in Microsoft's first offering. Maybe next year. Also, the season mode in the game does not allow you to adjust the length of a season. You can just sim any games you wish to skip, but the chance of losing or winning is no longer in your hands. It then lies in the hands of Inside Drive's simming engine. So for those who want to decide whether they win or lose, will have to play all 82 games. Maybe it is a tactic by Microsoft. Playing 82 games should take at least a month, playing 20 games a week. The game should last you for a couple of seasons.

Overall : 85
High Voltage did an excellent job with Inside Drive, especially for their first offering. Where was High Voltage a few years ago? The basketball gaming genre could have been really pushed to its best had High Voltage come onto the court a few years ago. In terms of gameplay and audio, there is no game that tops Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2000. The game, especially for 20 bucks, is a must-have for any basketball gamer.

By: James C. 8/25/99

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