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Inside Drive 2004
Score: 7.5 / 10
Iíve always found it peculiar to see how
first party sports titles struggle when compared to third party titles.
It seems like a reoccurring pattern, since third party publisher,
Electronic Arts (EA), has dominated the last decade. It seems like the
first party sports titles are gaining some ground on the competition,
but not enough. NBA Inside Drive 2004 (NID) like NBA ShootOut 2004 (on
PS2) relies heavily on simplicity. The simplicity is one of the reasonís
why the game fails to achieve its full potential, when itís got so much
going for itself.
There are only a few game modes to choose from, which include Quick
Play, Season, Online and Practice. The game play is more simulation than
arcade and the tempo of the game is good. The game play engine is solid,
but everything that encompasses the game play seems to have lacked the
developerís attention. In the
season mode you can choose from different
teams and take your team(s) through one season and see if you can win
the Championship. The Season mode is basically a Career mode in which
you can play up to 25 consecutive seasons, including the draft and
player progression, etc. (word has it that this combo will be separated
with next year's iteration).
Like I mentioned above,
the game play engine is solid, but not perfect. There are some
noticeable problems with the AI. One of my biggest gripes is the
unbalanced AI of your teammates. There are instances where I would be
dribbling down the court and my center would set up outside the key,
usually around the three-point line and wait for a pass. In most other
basketball games your teammates usually are kind enough to set up
screens for you. This happens rarely in NID. Instead youíre usually left
calling for a screen instead of the computer recognizing the situation.
(Of course, this can depend heavily on what kind of plays you're
running!) On defense itís even worse, as your teammates often leave an
open man under the basket leading the way for easy points. Other times
the AI shines as theyíll set up for alley-oops and pick up any rebounds
that come their way. The AI also shines when it comes to chasing balls,
which are going out of bounds. You frequently see the computer dive for
the ball and try their best to keep it inbounds.
The rebounding in the game is nicely balanced, as you wonít see too many
offensive boards. Playing offence is concise and easy as well and is way
more fun than playing defense. For example, it's difficult to stop
players who post up near the basket. Hook shots are the worst. They are
impossible to block and most of the time they go in. It would be nice if
your teammates would set a double team on the fly, but unfortunately
that doesnít happen.
The game incorporates player streaks, which are determined by a playerís
performance throughout the game. The player cursor will change color at
certain times depending on how well the player is doing. If your player
is on a shooting streak then his icon will turn red. It reminds me of
the good old days of NBA Action 95 on my old Sega Genesis. In this
yearís game you can now use the right joystick on the controller to do
freestyle moves. You can carry out different types of crossoverís, post
moves, dribbles, etc. The free throw system is very simple and finally
makes the art of shooting a free throw simple, rather than complicated.
The graphics are a mixed bag. On one hand the player models are
excellent, but on the other hand the player faces need work. Some of the
most noticeable players in the NBA like Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Gary
Payton donít look fully like their real life counterparts. There are
some similarities, but not a whole lot compared to what other basketball
games have displayed. The player animations seem to come up short as
well. Some of the regular player movements such as jogging or running
seem a little awkward.
Other problems: the commentating is terrible, slow and boring with too
many dumb jokes. The only bright spot for the audio is the player
intros. The crowds act realistically when players are introduced and
cheer louder for certain players.
NBA Inside Drive 2004 is a solid basketball title that has the general
mechanics down pat, but everything else still needs work. NID lacks the
replay value of its competitors (although with a Live subscription
you're pretty set), which makes it difficult to recommend as a purchase.
NID is a good rental and should appeal to those who were fans of the
previous games of the series.