Fakin' The Funk On A Nasty Dunk With NBA 2K2 - by Retrovertigo
It has been rumored that Shenmue II will be the final great game for the Sega Dreamcast. However, as we all stand by the deathbed of arguably Sega's best console, all is not lost! The Dreamcast's last months will also be some of its strongest. We've already seen the release of highly anticipated titles like Phantasy Star Online Version 2 and Sega Sports NFL 2k2, both take advantage of the Dreamcast's online capabilities, something that no other console currently offers. Add one more anticipated title that you can "dribble" all over on the Dreamcast's court: Sega Sports NBA 2k2.
The sports genre has come a long way. I remember playing a 4-color one-on-one basketball game on an Apple //c computer back in 1985, and thinking that it was really impressive at the time. I couldn't have imagined that 15 years later, sports video games would be so detailed and nearly photo-realistic.
Visual Concepts, creators of the "2k" sports series, has become a huge force in sports games in a short amount of time, and has been able to rival currently established sports game giant Electronic Arts. It looks like they're going for one last slam-dunk before the Dreamcast is retired with Sega Sports NBA 2k2. One of the first great sports games for the Dreamcast, will also be one of its last.
It's hard not to get excited about the upcoming basketball season, especially with the recent announcement of Michael Jordan returning to the sport. Speaking of Jordan, many basketball video game fans will be pleased to know that Air Jordan himself will be included in NBA 2k2.
Visual Concepts' 2k series have always boasted some impressive graphics, although the graphics engine isn't promising anything new or revolutionary, graphics wise. Player models are expected to look slightly better than last year's NBA 2k1, and will be less blocky and rounded-off to give them a more genuine look. The visual aspect of the game does shine with a ton of new player animations for both the offense and defense, with some phenomenal improvements in NBA 2k2's collision detection.
One of my video game "pet peeves" is with 3-D engine games and the collision detection. It used to drive me crazy in games like Quake, when you'd kill an enemy and he'd fall against a wall and half of his body would "disappear" through the wall, or you'd kill a guy at the edge of a platform or staircase, and he'd be lying flat-as-a-board half way on the ground while the other half was suspended in the air like he was a dead David Copperfield. Even the PlayStation 2 suffers from some the occasional awkward collision detection in Electronic Art's sports game Madden 2002, where players will pass through other players like ghosts. Sometimes it's a slight foot passing through another player's leg, but at times a player will run right through a referee after a completed play.
Well, if you're like me and are sometimes irked by weird collision detection quirks, you'll be pleased to know that NBA 2k2 will feature some impressive improvements in this department. For example, when taking a shot, if an opponent charges you and comes in contact as you're about to release the ball, the ball's path will change dramatically. Players will also "bend" around each other when they come in contact, and will dramatically improve and make for some fluid animation, and give the player animations a much more realistic feel.
In addition, NBA 2k2 has improved the Artificial Intelligence (AI). The improved AI will allow for better team rotation and rebounding. Computer controlled players will fill the passing lanes and attempt to steal the ball with the new steal system.
Of course, what new sports game would be complete without updated team rosters? Did I mention that Michael Jordan will be included? I did? Well, I'll mention it again. The elusive Number 23, Michael Jordan, will be included in NBA 2k2, for all you kids anxiously anticipating Jordan's return.
If you enjoyed the cool outdoor courts that were featured in NBA 2k1, you will be excited to hear that NBA 2K2 will include new urban courts like the legendary Mosswood Park in Oakland, CA. You can also expect to see new sports arenas, authentic team uniforms, and signature moves for the new season.
What is a game without improved gameplay? Fans of the NBA 2k series will be pleased to know that the low-post game as been given a nice polish. You can make the defense feel like chumps as you quickly drop step around their slow asses. You can even force them to back down and do a nasty slam-dunk on their heads.
One of the coolest features from NBA 2k1 was the create-a-player mode. I tell ya, I almost had as much fun creating an interesting team of eccentric-looking athletes as I did playing the game. I can only hope that Visual Concepts did not forget to give some special attention to this portion of the game.
Sega promises some great online gameplay with up to eight people nationwide. Are you one of those gamers who brags about how good they are? Well, everybody will know if you're lying through your teeth, with the new online tracking feature which will display your wins and losses.
Speaking of online play, the Dreamcast will be the only dominating online console in early 2002, even though it will technically be "dead". The PlayStation 2 is scheduled to have online play with its release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, however that is the only game that will be supported if you shell out a large sum of money once the modem add-on is released. Microsoft's Xbox will be packaged with a hard drive and the ability to go online, but the online support will not be fully realized until next year, so the Dreamcast will still have the upper-hand on online console gaming even after it's no longer supported, and for $79 can you really go wrong?
I have to be truthful that I am a little skeptical about NBA 2k2's online play. Even though I owned NBA 2k1, I never tried it online. Based on my experience with NFL 2k1, which I did play online a few times, was that it was either quite good with a few stutters here and there, or was really bad. However, an average football play doesn't last more than a few seconds, but a basketball game is very quick and is constantly moving up and down the court, and there isn't a lot of time for a modem to "take a break and catch up". This is pure speculation, but I'm having the feeling that the modem will stutter a lot unless you're playing during time when the Internet doesn't have a heavy load.
There is no official word if Sega's infamous broadband adapter is supported for online play, but we'll be sure to let you know when we post the full review of NBA 2k2 at the end of this month. However, I wouldn't get your hopes up too much for broadband support, since I've been told that NFL 2k2 does not support it.
You can pick up your copy of NBA 2K2 for the Dreamcast on October 24. NBA 2k2 will also be released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 in early 2002, while the GameCube version will arrive in Q2 2002.
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