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Sega Sports NBA 2K2 (Xbox) Review

Background Info

Xbox Screens(15)

Sega Sports' NBA 2K2 was Xbox's 3rd basketball game. Prior to the release of Sega Sports' title, gamers only had the choice of NBA Live 2002 or NBA Inside Drive 2002. Many Xbox owners were looking forward to NBA 2K2 because of Visual Concept's good track record with previous NBA games in the series. With NBA 2K2 now available in stores, was it worth the anticipation?

Presentation/Graphics : 95
Graphically, NBA 2K2 outshines NBA Inside Drive 2002 and NBA Live 2002. Player models are well done although their eyes look a little like zombies. The detail of the players and jerseys are well noticeable, especially on the instant replays.

The motion capture in the game does not disappoint. The fluidity of the game just looks amazing when you move the ball around and are able to hit a teammate in stride for an easy jam. The dunks and shot animations are great. The customizability of the camera angles suits gamers well. The collision engine does not have any major problems. Hardly ever do you see players going right through each other.

Presentation/Audio : 60

The sound effects and crowd noises are inline with what you would expect for a NBA game. The commentary in the game is the weakest part of the game. For those who have played NBA Inside Drive 2002, NBA 2K2 is way behind NBA Inside Drive 2002 in this department. Not only does the commentary get repetitive quickly, it is also inaccurate a number of times. For instance, when I deflect a pass out of bounds, the announcers start talking about another turnover and me not taking care of the ball.

In addition, the amount of repetition is a bit too much. I can't count then number of times I've heard, "Bob, if I were coaching, I would want a guy like that on my team." Man, you don't have room for 20 players to be on your team if you were a coach. The commentary is also inaccurate. There were numerous occasions where I've had the announcers tell me that one of the teams has been on a 7-0 or 10-0 or some sort of run even though the opposing team hit a field goal or a free-throw no less than 10 seconds ago.

Interface/Options : 85
NBA 2K2's game mode includes exhibition, season, franchise mode as well as a street ball mode. The street ball mode allows you to play 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 1-on-2 or whatever you decide. The game does not allow you to set the length of the quarters when you decide to sim. The franchise mode does allow you to draft players and see how they can help your team out. The game also includes most of the NBA awards for players.

Just like in NBA Inside Drive 2002 and NBA Live 2002, there are no AI sliders to adjust any computer tendancies. There are only options to adjust the rules, and options. You are able to adjust your team's strategy, tempo, double teaming assignments and other good stuff.

The controls and button layout are well designed for a basketball game. Nothing special.

Gameplay : 80
Everything comes down to the gameplay. NBA 2K2 definitely does not lack in this area, nor does it even come close to perfection. The game does take a few games to get comfortable and familiar with. It is important to not double-team the computer too often as they are almost always able to detect when a double team is coming their way. During my first few games, I was constantly trying to double team when the CPU had possession within 15 feet of the basket. That led to the CPU getting 80 to 90 percent of their points in the paint, while shooting over 70% since most of their field goal attempts were lay-ups and dunks. I laid off the double teaming and adjusted the defensive settings to turn off double team except occasionally set it to 'paint,' for a key CPU player. This strategy reduced the CPU's FG percentage to 40 to 60 percent. The computer still put up an unrealistic amount of shots near the basket, but now they weren't getting wide open looks and actually missed some of their shots.

On the offensive end, no matter what difficulty setting, I was usually able to get near the basket by passing the ball around, driving or posting up. As a result, I was usually able to get a pretty high shooting percentage. The ease of the post up game needs to be fixed. It's too easy to simply toss the ball into the post to your center or power forward and get a high percentage shot.

The crossover has both positive and negative aspects to it. I've done crossovers where I created around 5 feet of space between the defender and me. Watching the replay of your player doing the devastating crossover tops it off. However, half the time while performing the crossovers, it feels as if my player is out of control. Granted, the crossover won't work all the time, but the game shouldn't represent that fact by making your guy end up out of bounds.

The CPU feasts on the pick and roll. In fact, they went to the pick just about every single time down the floor. They also used the back door on a number of occasions. The key is to try to anticipate the pass and jump to deflect it. I liked the way Visual Concepts designed deflections and interceptions. Although intercepting the ball occurs too often for the user, the number of deflections along with the different variations is done right.

The satisfying feeling of rejecting a lay-up or a dunk attempt goes back to everyone's younger b-ball playing days. Nothing defensively better to do than swat away a lay-up. In NBA 2K2, even just blocking a regular jump shot is rare. In the 30 or 40 games I've played, I think I've accumulated fewer than 10 blocks. At least 6 of those 10 blocks came when the CPU was trying to get the ball up for a shot near the hoop, but resulted in my player's getting a hand on the ball while the CPU was trying to get it up. The game does have problems with goal-tends. Often it appears the players swipe the rebounds cleanly but the result is a goal-tend call, and in other cases when the players were a bit too premature in grabbing the ball that didn't result in goal-tending calls.

Visual Concepts did a great job with the block and charge calls in the game. If your feet aren't set, you will end up with a blocking call, but if you can get proper position, charging calls are called as well.

Alley-oops in the game have to be tweaked. There is no way a player can be on the receiving end of an alley-oop from half court, catch the ball, and dunk it, without even turning his head back once to know if a ball is coming his way or not.

The AI is far from perfect. Visual Concepts need to spend a bit of time in this area for next year's game. While the computer does switch up on picks, the computer constantly fails to recognize mismatches. While playing as the Bucks, Sam Cassell ended up having to play the post against a bigger center or a power forward, yet the CPU rarely recognized this mismatch and chose to pass the ball to another player. In addition, the CPU does not utilize their star players enough. Playing against the Timberwolves, KG ended up with only 5 shots attempted the whole game. Furthermore, facing the Lakers, Shaq did not get the ball even remotely close to the number of touches he gets in a real NBA game. The shot selection by the CPU also needs to be fixed. The CPU takes way too many shots in the paint, even if they are covered. The mid-range jump shots are almost absent from the CPU's shot selections.

The AI time management is also a mixed bag. It is good to see the computer wasting down the clock when they are up with only a few minutes to go. The auto timeouts are poorly implemented. For instance, in one of my games where I opened up the game on a big run, the computer attempted to cool off my team by calling timeout. After 5 or 6 timeouts later, all called by the computer, I was just simply amazed at what had happened. Other timeout miscues happened when I had 2 timeouts left, while down by a basket. I called a timeout after the CPU had just scored, and then the CPU goes ahead and calls another timeout for me. There went my last timeout. Also, another thing that needs to be fixed is the auto fouling at the end of games when the games are clearly out of hand.

Replay Value : 80
With the franchise mode, the game does offer a good amount of replay value and time in your Xbox. However, some of the frustrating points with the AI definitely decrease the replay value of this game. I was able to play a few seasons with the franchise mode till I had enough of the game.

Overall : 80
NBA 2K2 is a average basketball game. The game does certain things better than Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2002, but also is second to Microsoft's offering in other areas. If you have enjoyed the last few Sega Sports NBA games, you should also enjoy this year's title, just don't expect a huge change. I prefer NBA Inside Drive 2002 gameplay more than NBA 2K2; however, the amount of features, graphics, and motion capture are much more preferable in Sega Sports' game.

All in all, Visual Concepts didn't really push the bar too much as they've done in previous versions. Sega Sports NBA 2K2 is still an enjoyable game to play, although it seems if Visual Concepts had a few more months, it could have been that much better.

By: James Chheng 5/3/02

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