Microsoft and High Voltage Studios teamed up last year to bring their NBA Inside Drive game to the console for the first time after making an appearance on the PC platform. The was obivously not up to par in terms of graphics and options available since it was only their first attempt. However, this year is a whole another story. NBA Inside Drive 2003 is attempting to dethrone EA Sports' and Sega Sports' lock in the console basketball gaming genre.
Presentation/Graphics : 80
The game graphically is average in terms of player details and collison detection. For instance, blocking dunks is rather difficulty because sometimes you player's arm will go right through the hoop. The players' faces in Inside Drive are not specultuar looking, lagging behind NBA Live 2003 and NBA 2K3's facial graphics. If the collison engine can be fixed up a bit to prevent players' arms from slicing through the rim and backboard, the game can be improved by that much. Also sometimes it seems as if I deflect the game and it just goes right pass my defender. Out of the big three basketball games, NBA Live 2003, NBA 2K3 and NBA Inside Drive 2003, the latter seems to have the most cartoonish looking graphics, which is promiment shown by Microsoft with their cover art of Paul Pierce.
Presentation/Audio : 80
The in-game basketball sound effects are great. The crowd will cheer or boo accordingly. If your team goes on a long shooting and scoring drought, don't be surprise to hear the crowd boo your players. On the other hand, if your team gets some montetum going, cheers are let out by the fans.
The pre-game comments are good at trying to give a mini-analysis of the upcoming game. Just about all commentary gets played out after playing the game for a while. The announcers do a decent job for the majority of the time, although there are times where their comments leave me scratching my head. Comments such as "He has sat out most of the night" among a few others are really way off. I only took out my player for 3 minutes for the whole game on 8 minute quarters. Overall a decent job though in this department.
Interface/Options : 60
The create a player feature is really detailed. I like the idea of setting Artificial Intelligence for my player. This includes tendency to shot different type of shots, dunk or layup, how often like to pass, drive to the hoop, rebound or get out in transition, backdown, like to play in post or perimeter. You are given a limited number of skill points to use up.
The game also now features a career mode where you can play up to I believe 25 seasons. You are able to draft rookies, sign & release free agents, create a player and other normal career mode features. I do like how you are able to set the quarter sim and the actual length of the quarters for games you play. Also note that Yao Ming is in the game unlike the other b-ball games out.. The menus are bascially the same as last year. Didn't seem as if much effort and time were spent on them.
The controls are done nicely. You are able to call plays on the fly, although you got to press the right arrow first and then choose a specific play. This allows you to change your defensive set in less than 3 seconds if you decide you are in need of a full court press.
The stats overlay are good additions to the presentation. Statistics such as a player's 5th double double of the season, or even just a comparison of a player's that night compared with his season's average certainly add to the game. Some stats seem to be a little off though. For instance, Paul Pierce averaging 12 assists through 6 games? That average went down a bit as I went further into the season, but that number is still a bit too high.
Gameplay : 83
The gameplay seems as fluid as NBA Live 2003, and a lot more fluid than NBA 2K3. Running a fast break is possible because you are able to dish the ball off to your teammates while they are in their stride. The fast break sometimes stalls though when your own teammates pull up and stop instead of heading to the hoop. This can be adjusted in the sliders but this is something we shouldn't be adjusting on default settings. Any basketball player knows that you are suppose to keep running if you got numbers.
The fouls in Inside Drive 2003 were well implemented. On one occausion, Horry ran straight into Duncan and fell right to the floor and Duncan got a pushing foul called on him. Fouls are not called everytime a player falls down, which is a great touch. Injuries actually occur in-game as oppose to the other basketball games out. I had one instance where Tony Parker fell to the floor inside the key and kept grabbing his ankle. Definitely a good touch but why wasn't there a 3-sec violation called. :) You are also able to play with an injuried player on some occasuions depending on the severity of the injury, but will have to suffer decrease player ratings.
The CPU defensive AI is really good at collapsing into the key when you drive to the hoop. The computer is also adept at double teamming players who are hot. What needs work is they need to recognize mismatches and help out. One more than one occasuion, I posted up on opposing point guards with Shaq. The computer just went about playing their defense. Fortunately for the computer, it is rather hard to just back down someone, even if its Shaq on Tony Parker.
It seems to me that the computer has some sort of catch-up logic in the 4th quarter. I've played a number of games where it has been a back and forth game throughout 3 1/2 quarters and all of a sudden, the computer hits 5 of 6 3-pointers, while I can't hit a wide open 10 foot shot. That could be due to the difficulty of making a mid-range shot go in though. Fixing the gameplay sliders definitely improved my enjoyment of the game. I play on All-Star but forced to tone down the computer's shooting skills a little to keep games realistic. The game does run plays, such as isolating A.Walker from Bostom or T-Mac on the Magics. However, the play style of teams also need to be made more realistic. I tried counting the number of times Duncan actually posted up on me, and it was less than 5 times the whole game.
Replay Value : 90
The create-a-player feature is really what drives the score in this category. Even though I found the gameplay only to be slightly above average, the urge to make my created player improve in abilitiy kept me turning on the Xbox and booting up Inside Drive 2003 a number of occausions.
Overall : 85
On the surface, NBA Inside Drive 2003 does not look like it has changed over last year's attempt, but the new addition of the length franchise mode along with the addicting create-a-player portion of the game certainly makes the game more enjoyable.
Hopefully High Voltage can fix some of the AI issues and next year's game will be great. They key is to make sure you settle on the right slider settings for you and you will be sure to enjoy the game. Too bad the game does not support XBox Live this year or else it would have been a good way of getting people to continually play the game.
Of the three basketball games, NBA Live 2003, NBA Inside Drive 2003 and NBA 2K3, I'm really not too sure which one I prefer more. They all have their good and bad points. NBA Inside Drive 2003 lags behind the other two in graphics, but plays as smooth as NBA Live 2003. It does not have as much options as NBA 2K3, but is getting there. Keep in mind this is only their 2nd attempt. I suggest you give NBA Inside Drive 2003 a try if you are looking for a realistic game, it may well be the basketball game you enjoy the most this year depending on your style.