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NBA Shootout 2000 (PSX) Review

Publisher: 989 Sports
Release Date: December 1999

Background Info

Basketball is an area where the PSX has no shortage of titles. Between college, the pros, and arcade fare like NBA Showtime, consumers have seven recent hoops games to try and wade through to find one that they like. 989's Shootout series didn't make an appearance last season for various reasons, so it's been a long wait for fans of Sony's brand of NBA basketball.

Presentation/Graphics : 80
Visually, this game is solid, though it lacks a bit of polish. Players animate well and move very naturally. There are also a host of special animations that look very fluid and impressive such as behind-the-back passes, crossover dribbles, and, of course, the requisite variety of slam dunks. The player models themselves can seem a bit clunky depending on which angle they're viewed from, but for the most part they look good enough, and the players are also appropriately scaled to the correct size.

Every basketball game these days seems to flaunt an unnaturally shiny court surface, and NBAS2K is no exception. I have to give 989 a bit of credit for attempting to break the mold of the generic, splotchy crowd texture map in this game. Of course, the PSX can only do so much, but it's nice to see the crowd represented as individual people (faceless though they may be) - I do take issue with the fact that they sway back and forth constantly in an eerie, unnerving way, but I can at least appreciate the effort.

Presentation/Audio : 60
For me, audio is important to basketball games beyond the squeaks of the shoes or the trash talking of the players - it should feel like there's an actual living, breathing crowd at the game. NBAS2K falls a bit short in this area. The crowd is a general roar of white noise in the background with little relation to the actual action taking place in the game. This, unfortunately, saps NBAS2K of some of its energy. It's as though all of the games take place inside a giant seashell.

The commentary is fairly lackluster, as well. The announcer calls the action with short, to-the-point phrases, and almost seems bored. I generally prefer a more sparse commentary, but the overall effect in NBAS2K is that it just feels unfinished. The aforementioned squeaks and such - the actual sounds of the game - are OK, if a bit muted beneath the roar of the ocean. (:))

Interface/Options : 70
NBAS2K sports some clean, easy to navigate menus that are fairly stylish, as well. This isn't one of those games where the feature you're looking for is buried in some obscure submenu - finding what you want is a snap. But then, this game isn't exactly bursting with extra features and bells and whistles (more on that later).

Control schemes in basketball games seem to have reached a point where it's almost as though they're standardized through some government agency - pass, shoot, block, steal, jump, switch player, etc - play a handful of different titles and the buttons are probably mapped exactly the same. I like this, because it allows you to concentrate on how those controls actually perform, rather than shooting the ball from half-court like Meadowlark Lemon when you meant to just pass the ball in to the post.

And how do the controls in NBAS2K actually perform? A bit on the mushy side, but not too bad. Player movements feel a bit floaty, as does the pace of the game in general. The ball wafts lazily from player to player, and fast breaks seem to occur at a medium jog. There are also times when button commands to steal or switch players fail to register which can certainly lead to some easy baskets for the other team.

A feature that I love, in theory anyway, is the optional Touch Shooting. Pressing the shot button brings up a small, multi-colored meter - where the timing of your shot lands on the meter determines its chances of going in successfully. The only problem is that it gets a bit too easy to dial the meter in. In one game I went 10-12 for 3-pointers with my point guard in the first quarter. While it certainly is unrealistic for a player to take that many 3's in a quarter, it shouldn't be that easy to make them, either.

Gameplay : 70
Gameplay in NBAS2K is hurt the most by one major point - the ball physics suck. Rebounds never bounce with the energy that they should, bounce passes are just plain unnatural, and if you knock the ball loose during a steal attempt, it tends to roll a couple of feet on the court and then stop. Also, if you try to intercept an inbounds pass, the ball will pass right through your player. These are the most noticeable examples, but the overall effect is much more subtle and lends an unreal feeling to the game that ultimately spoiled my interest in the title.

Basketball is a game of scoring, and for the most part all basketball games play in a fairly similar fashion, so what sets one apart from the rest? Besides passing, shooting, and blocking with slightly different graphics, what makes one game good while another is average or worse? AI plays a big part of it, for sure, but judging how "real" the computer plays is almost as subjective as one's favorite team.

I would call NBAS2K's CPU opponents adequate, but there are also a few too many holes. I was able to take unchallenged 3 point shots almost at will on the first three difficulty settings. The AI is good at blocking you from driving the lane, and works the ball around fairly well when on offense, but it's far too easy to exploit shortcomings once you find them.

NBAS2K has the standard Exhibition, Playoff and Season modes, and other than that, the main draw (I guess) is a slightly amusing Create a Dunk mode, where you can adjust a player's limbs in as many awkward, painful-looking positions as you'd like during a dunk that you can then name and save to a memory card. In reality it sounds much cooler than it actually is, and after messing around with this feature for about fifteen minutes, I'd had my fill.

Replay Value : 75
If you like the gameplay, there are four difficulty levels and the standard play modes available to you. As I mentioned previously, I think the AI is adequate, but if you choose to use the Touch Shooting, you can rack up some highly unrealistic numbers in a short time by concentrating on 3 pointers. As with any sports game in this day and age, there's plenty to keep you busy if you like the base product.

Overall : 70
First, let me make it clear that I never make a point of playing all or even most of the basketball games that come out for the PSX each season, so this review isn't being written with prior knowledge of the competition. The plodding pace combined with the aforementioned lackluster audio gives NBAS2K a drab, almost sleepy tone. But this isn't a terrible game by any means, and many will probably like the gameplay, but it lacks polish and has an overall feeling of being incomplete, or at least inadequate. I'd highly recommend a rental to make sure that this one's for you.

By: Andy L. 2/23/00

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