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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

High Voltage

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Plenty of extra features packed in
- Create Player and Create Playbook options well designed
- Good franchise mode

 

 

- Much slower-paced game tempo than other titles
- Controls need to be more tightly responsive than they are
- Graphics arenít polished the same way as either NBA 2K3 or NBA Live 2003
- No online play

 

 

Review: NBA Inside Drive 2002 (XBox)

Review: NBA Live 2003 (XBox)

 

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NBA Inside Drive 2003

Score: 7.4 / 10

 

nba-inside-drive-2003-1.jpg (41836 bytes)         nba-inside-drive-2003-2.jpg (33374 bytes)

 

Microsoftís second effort at a basketball title for its Xbox, NBA Inside Drive 2003 (ID2003), fares in similar fashion to the second rendition of its football franchise NFL Fever 2003: the game is much improved over its predecessor, but even with all the changes for the better and despite being a solid overall product, Sega and EAís titles in each respective sport (NBA 2K3/NFL 2K3 and Madden 2003/NBA Live 2003) are better titles to spend your money on.

Itís not that ID2003 doesnít have a bunch of good features. Just that the competition has practically the same features and does them better. Itís hard to criticize a game that actually is fun to play, but unfortunately in the sports gaming market Sega and EA have the decided advantage of years of developing high-quality sports games, especially basketball.

Having their very good products on store shelves makes it hard for another

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developer to seriously compete. Still, Microsoft must be commended for at least trying and they should have no shame in their solid title finishing behind the sportís game giants, because a lot of companies (989 Studios, Konami) would eat Kobe Bryantís jockstrap to have a hoops game as good as ID2003 in their lineup.

So what does the game do well? Where ID2003 excels is in the off-the-

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court extras that help create a deep gameplay experience. Thereís a 25-season Franchise mode that includes all types of flexibility and creativity as you become a teamís general manager building a winning (and hopefully championship) team for the long haul. Also included are a Season and Playoff mode, and a Practice mode to hone your skills. Many different coaching options are available, including designing a personalized playbook.

The Create a Player feature is done in a way that places the created playerís development in your hands. This is unlike NBA Live 2003, which allows you to boost every ability to 99 immediately. In ID2003, the created player develops with the incentive progression by playing well in games and reaching goals like getting a double-double or hitting for over 30 points. Attaining these goals gives you points that can be used to add to individual skills, so that over the course of a few seasons, the created player can develop into a superstar to be reckoned with.

One realistic touch is the players on the court being directly affected by their energy level. ID2003ís players get tired if they are on the floor too long. Too much time running up and down the hardwood diminishes the on-court ability of a player (especially in relation to scoring opportunities). Youíll actually notice a player that is exhausted too, because heíll start to slow down and put his hands on his knees while huffing and puffing. Taking this in consideration, there is the need to strategically game-plan like a NBA coach and use your bench to your advantage. With these features, ID2003 has a lot of reasons to keep playing season after season.

But there are some developed aspects that donít allow ID2003 to rebound over the better competition. The most evident weakness is the controls of ID2003, which arenít as tight and responsive as they need to be for the fast-paced game of basketball. There seems to be an ever-slight (but noticeable) delay from your button pushing (particularly on spin moves and with fancy dribbling) to the corresponding action being performed by the virtual player.

 

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While thereís a good selection of controller options to relay to your players including icon passing, it can be frustrating getting used to the slow response of the gameís controls. And ID2003 moves at a slower pace too. No blazing run 'n' gun action here. Because the players donít really move that fast on the court, you are forced to rely on a half-court offensive attack to get your points. This slower gameplay is really noticeable if you play a game of NBA Live 2003 with its much more frenzied court-action.

Also, the gameís AI isnít the brightest around, especially on the lowest settings. If you boost up the challenge level it gets harder to win, but once you get used to the nuances of ID2003 you can be victorious on a regular basis no matter what the setting. The best way to score is to stay away from jump shots and feed the ball constantly in the paint to the big men. Or if you have a quick-footed player such as the Philadelphia 76ersí Allen Iverson, playing an in-game version of the lay-up drill can net a good amount of easy baskets. Lastly, slam-dunks are a part of the game, but not as much as you would think.

Unless youíre playing with Shaq on your team, even on an uncontested drive to the hoop smaller players often will not be able to get the sure points of a dunk, instead attempting to lay the ball in the basket. Both for yourself and the CPU opponent, blocking the ball isnít made easy. Shooting jumpers gives a lot of rebounds to the CPU team, which seems to have an almost-unfair advantage on the boards. A better threatening AI along the lines of what is present in NBA 2K3 and NBA Live 2003 would have made a big difference in ID2003ís overall quality.

Another area where ID 2003 falls short of its competition is the graphical presentation. While the arena crowds are done much better than NBA Live 2003, the player models themselves arenít nearly as polished as either of its two rivals. Both provide better-looking on-court appearances of the NBAís players, and both provide more fluid player animation. ID2003 certainly has decent visuals but not as nifty as the other two games.

I have to say my single biggest disappointment with ID2003 is that it lacks online support for Xbox Live, Microsoftís recently launched gaming service. What makes it even a bigger letdown is that NFL Fever 2003 is online-compatible. After playing NFL Fever 2003 and its often laggy and disconnect-prone gameplay, maybe Microsoft was wise in skipping online compatibility for this yearís NBA title. But considering that Segaís NBA 2K3 is now available on Xbox Live, it has to be seen as a major letdown that you canít do the same with ID2003.

NBA Drive 2003 really is similar to Microsoftís NFL Fever 2003: they both arenít bad games, and present a lot of nice features, but just donít have the more complete package of their direct competition to be the top draft pick for Xbox gamers. ID2003 doesnít even have online play among its features, somehow allowing Segaís superior NBA 2K3 to be the only Xbox Live compatible hoops title. Xbox owners wonít be bitterly disappointed if they chose ID2003 as their basketball game this year, but NBA 2K3 and even NBA Live 2003 are better overall choices.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(November 27, 2002)

 

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