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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

High Voltage Studios

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

January 2002

 

 

- Decent b-ball action
- AI is a good challenge
- Good multiplayer fun
- Lots of moves
- A sign of good things to come

 

 

- Loads of moves can sometimes confuse
- The little things could have been improved
- God-awful announcing
- Loads of options for the anal-retentive
- Flawless rebounding enemy AI
- Only three play modes

 

 

Review: NBA Inside Drive 2003 (XBox)

Review: NBA Live 2003 (XBox)

 

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NBA Inside Drive 2002

Score: 6.8 / 10

 

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When someone describes a sports game as being “realistic” or “true to life” I always have a hard time reading the rest of the review without imagining the reviewer as some kind of amorphous blob – Jabba the Hutt without Princess Leai – who knows the sport because they watch it instead of actually taking part in pick-up games. For a sports game to be realistic I expect – nay demand – that I be able to tell what my opponent had for lunch, feel the smack as Shaq dunks a ball into the top of my head, and be able to run back to the locker room to ease my agoraphobia. While NBA Inside Drive 2002 (ID) doesn’t achieve this kind of realism, if I had the choice to play pick up b-ball with some friends or play ID, the XBox would be alone. Which isn’t to say ID is a horrible game – it’s just average.

ID is High Voltage’s first outing with the XBox and while it’s a good sign of things to come, it’s hard to recommend – at least to buy – for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it just doesn’t have any flash. The graphics are great, but the little touches are totally lacking. Obviously the crowd buys their clothes at the same store, or

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they’re all robots; there’s been no effort to at least spruce things up a little with close shots of the crowd, etc. The same can be said of the cameramen and coaches that are part of the court – they never move. Both combine to convey lifelessness. Where are the mascots? Cheerleaders?

The play-by-play and commentary by Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson is an attempt at injecting life into ID but

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all it does is come off as, well, crappy. Delivery is good but they just don’t have enough to say. Even playing 5-minute quarters you’ll hear repetition. Hearing Calabro say, “Boing!” five times during a game borders on lame. And Johnson has a vocabulary all his own. On more than a few occasions I paused the game to think about what the hell he was saying. There is some banter between the two, commenting on the game and what the arena announcer is saying, which is welcome but there aren’t enough of those moments. On the technical side, there are gaps between words to accommodate the cookie-cutter nature of sports announcing. On the more polished games sentences like, “Johnson passes to Thomas” come out smoothly but with ID sentences get broken up: “That’s three fouls for . . . [cough, cough, Hey can you can me those chips? Great, how about more soda?] . . . Johnson.” (I exaggerate a little, but you get my point.) The ambient noises are generally good and are affected (in terms of volume) by what camera angle you’re using during play.

To call the control good is somewhat misleading. The almighty “if” has to be used. If you can get a complete handle on the controls, it can probably be called good. Every button is used during the course of the game, but you’ll probably wind up using only three to any great affect. The computer AI might be fooled by a cross over, but against human opponents it’s just another animation to watch. Some of the options make sense, like using the directional pad to set up defense and offense, but lob passes – while accurate to play in the NBA – don’t seem to have an advantage over the traditional chest pass. (You can also call for screens, etc.)

 

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The basketball action itself is good. My only real complaint is that the AI on defensive (and to a large extent, offensive) boards is nearly flawless, especially on the highest difficulty setting. I may have four guys sitting in the key but if there’s one opponent anywhere near the area he’ll get the rebound 90% of the time. Play options aren’t as robust as other b-ball titles – ID has three play modes: Season, Playoffs, and Exhibition. After playing through 2 ½ seasons I can honestly say, Memphis truly does suck. The move from Vancouver did absolutely nothing for them. Accuracy, in terms of player models and stats (chances they’ll hit that trey, etc.), is good, but when it comes to ball physics – well, it’s mixed but this is, after all, a video game. (“Look Ma! I’m using Turbo!”) Overall, the actual playing part of ID is good with solid challenge from the AI. But some of the playing aspect depends on your choice of camera angles.

Some angles make no sense at all. An overhead view? Why? Get comfortable with one angle and stick with it. Every angle has its pros and cons – the pop-up information windows during play can block your view, which is a problem mostly because the onscreen text is tiny so you have to choose to slow the game down to read or ignore the info.

Most players won’t even touch all the configurable options, including the GM mode, but they are there and I suggest you delve into them so you don’t have the computer AI go crazy with intentional fouls even though the point spread might be 30+.

Multiplayer is a lot of fun. It supports up to four players and on a cold rainy day it’s good diversion. I found the post game (yet another set of buttons) to be way more effective against human opponents. The computer AI doesn’t let you get away with much. Again, you’ll have to find a comfortable camera angle when playing with three other people.

NBA Inside Drive is one of those games that will be sprung on the gaming public every 11 months or so. This isn’t a bad thing. High Voltage can take what they’ve learned from the initial installment and improve things. But that doesn’t help for Inside Drive 2002, which lacks the polish of more established franchises. The broken speech, the repetitive color commentary, the crowd effects, the boarding infallibility of the AI, only three play modes, and the use of every button to really confound the stubby-fingered player, just doesn’t elevate Inside Drive 2002 to “must have” status. Though if you’re a sports fan, it’s a safe rental.

- Omni
(February 15, 2002)

 

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