||Sega Sports NBA 2000
TWhat are they going to call next year's version? NBA 2K 2? NBA 2K+1? - Review By Subskin
Since I first played NFL 2K, I've been jonesin' for games from Visual Concepts. The "Other Scores" caption includes ads for NBA 2K and NHL 2K, hitting you up for another sale right while your drooling over NFL 2K. Finally, NBA 2K has arrived - but is it as good as the hype surrounding it?
Visual Concepts creates some of the best graphics in video games, bar none. No game in history has modeled individual players as well as NBA 2K. Faces are not only fully rendered versions of every actual player, they move to form facial expressions. It's amazing to see Reggie Miller look left, then grin as he puts up a wide-open three-pointer. On the next play, Tim Duncan might drive the lane, leap up while screaming with his mouth open, and dunk hard.
The graphics are awesome. Yeah, big surprise.
This level of detail is unprecedented, and it isn't limited to the ten players on the court. All the players on the bench are modeled and active at all times. Every NBA coach is rendered in life-like detail (although Larry Bird doesn't really look that professional). You have the same control to create your own players. After you pick a facial type, you can adjust the size of the nose and other body parts. You can tweak the size of the arms and set their muscles to normal or "ripped." It will probably take a little over a half-hour to create Dream Team I this way... and I intend to find out.
In additional to the obviously perfect graphics, NBA 2K boasts some great audio. You can hear everything on the court but players talkin' smack - and I'm hoping for a VMU download for that. The coaches speak up like the cornermen in Ready to Rumble - complimenting your good plays and ripping on your bad ones. There are a couple of announcers who are quieter than the pair from NFL 2K, but this prevents them from getting repetitive (although they run out of comments for the inevitable substitutions by the end of your second game).
NBA 2K's gameplay is original. At any time you can either do a quick pass by pressing A + a direction, or you can use Icon Passing by pressing Y. This may sound insignificant, but I quickly found it makes for a much better offensive game. If you aren't rushed you can use Icon Passing to set up a three pointer; if Gary Payton's guarding you then the A button will dish off the ball before he gets the steal.
NBA 2K also introduces a unique free throw system. Ever since Double Dribble for the NES, basketball games have required you to press a button when the arrow is over the hoop for free throws. In NBA 2K, you pull the analog L and R triggers in slight increments to try and aim two arrows at the same time. It's a difficult system to describe, but effective in the game.
The L trigger lets you post up on your man on offense. Take Shaq (please), hold down the L trigger to get your back up against your cover man, and push him to the hole. Or be the New York Thugs (or Knicks, if you like Criminals), and hold L to face up to your opponent and take a few swipes at the ball. This system gives you much more control to prevent charging and reaching in fouls.
The free throw system is certainly different, if nothing else.
Besides these two innovations, NBA 2K's gameplay is pretty traditional. The turbo button improves player performance, and drains away the longer you hold it down. Jump shots, rebounds, steals, and passes are all controlled with the four thumb buttons (A, B, X, and Y). Shooting accuracy is judged by the player's ability and how close he is to the peak of his jump when you release the ball.
The interface is the same as NFL 2K, which is pretty good. The interface works extremely well for the awesome player creation - it's easier to edit a 3D model in NBA 2K than in some $500 graphics programs! The gameplay modes are also the same as NFL 2K - exhibition games, play an entire season (didn't make it through 82 games in time for the review), or jump to the playoffs. You can also run a fantasy draft like NFL 2K, which usually makes all the teams equal.
Also like NFL 2K, there are a multitude of camera modes - side-view, vertical, isometric. Like most sports games, the vertical view quickly proves to be the best. From this height the graphic detail is hidden, but you can see enough of the court to know what's happening. (Note: I dare you to play a game in Cinematic or Action camera mode - you can't see anything but the dribbler's face).
Finally, the speed is nicely adjustable like NFL 2K. In a fast-paced game like basketball, it's nice to start out on the slow end and work your way up. By the time you get to high speed, you're ready for the lightning-quick passes and lay-ups.
I'm sincerely disappointed with NBA 2K. Eight minutes after I turned the Dreamcast on, a fatal error occurred and the system locked up in the middle of my first game. In the fourth game I played Grant Hill was dunking when the system "got stuck" again. After a minute and a half or so, the game suddenly started playing again at the same point in my Spurs - Pistons game. Because it is a Dreamcast game, it's unlikely that my specific machine is having conflicts with the game. I have not heard of anyone else with similar problems. Still, this copy of the game was bought at a retail store so many other NBA 2K discs could potentially have the same problem. (Or we could just blame it on Windows CE...)
The AI has some problems, expect quite a few passes to go out of bounds.
(Editor's Note: I personally didn't have any problems with my copy of NBA 2K, so I'm guessing these problems were just an isolated manufacturing glitch. Hopefully.)
Another, less important complaint: Visual Concepts thinks we're all rich. NBA 2K uses 185 Memory Blocks, basically an entire VMU. NFL 2K did the same thing. That's two VMUs that cost at least $15 each. To save anything from any other game, you need to add a third VMU. Sega of America needs to include coupons for VMUs in their Sega Sports games, or allow us to upload them using the Dreamcast modem to store on Windows based computers.
Third shortcoming: The AI in the game is particularly annoying. My grandmother's more aggressive than Charles Barkley in NBA 2K! Players will watch a ball roll out of bounds without attempting to dive for it. Even worse, the game will rarely let you change players to the closest guy to the ball. The same thing happens with missed passes; David Robinson will stand still for a toss, and if it misses him by six inches he won't even reach out for it!
Even the stadiums and court are realistically modeled. Did we mention how great this looks yet?
As if the AI being a wimp didn't cause enough out-of-bounds, the AI is a moron too! About 15% of the time you pass the ball to a computer-controlled teammate who is outside the perimeter, he'll be out-of-bounds and stay there. With over 1,500 motion-captured animations, Visual Concepts could have used one to illustrate a player diving for a loose ball to take care of the majority of this group of problems.
The fourth problem of NBA 2K: it uses the damn D-pad to call plays. You press the D-pad, then quickly hit another button to call an offensive or defensive play. When time is running out and you need a tré and then an intentional foul, good luck. The Dreamcast controller simply is not designed to accommodate using both the analog and D-pad at the same time.
The Final Word
NBA 2K does have the best graphics and some of the best features of any basketball game I've seen. I keep trying to convince myself that I must be wrong, that this must be an incredible game. It is fun to play, but the mistakes leave me with the feeling that production was rushed to meet the start of the season. Maybe I'm bitter because I expected so much after NFL 2K. Maybe I'm bitter because my Dreamcast keeps crashing in the middle of games. Maybe I'm bitter because I had to buy another VMU. No matter what the reason, I've got to call it as I see it: "BRICK!"
(Editor's Note: if it turns out that the "bugs" this reviewer experienced are just spotty manufacturing errors, present in only a small number of copies, then I'd personally probably add another point to the score)
Developer: Visual Concepts
Highs: Best graphics to date, authentic sounds, good gameplay.
Lows: Unstable! Requires an entire VMU to save, stupid AI, poor play calling.
Other: 1-4 players, VMU Compatible (185 blocks), Jump Pack Compatible, VGA Box Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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