Some people are naturally born athletes. Whether the spirit of competition is in their genes or it is something they become inspired to do from watching the great athletes from the United States and from many different countries around the world. There are then those, like the armchair quarterback who enjoys watching sports from the comfort of his living room, or the beloved sports fans who purchase seasons tickets and love to be in the stadium surrounded by thousands of others who share in their enthusiasm and their sorrows. Then there are the video game sports fans, who enjoy a bit of both worlds. Assuming command of their favorite teams and players, hoping to lead them to victory in a virtual world of sports.
With the video game industry focusing more and more on the realism of
sports games, it's almost like watching a real-life game of football or
basketball unfold before your eyes. This is only the beginning. As technology advances, it allows developers to create more detailed stadiums, with better athlete models, and realistic physics, bringing the gap between fantasy and reality closer and closer by the day. As the Dreamcast retires from the video game world, Sega Sports NBA 2k2 developer, Visual Concepts will pass the torch onto the next generation of video game consoles. However, will
NBA 2k2 be remembered as one of the last great Dreamcast sports games, or will it fall by the wayside, as a rushed product and an insult to a dying console?
There's nothing better than a good first impression. When I fired up the game, and immediately started an exhibition game, I was pleased at what I saw. Visual Concepts has always gone out of its way to make games that play great and look great as well. However, people looking for a huge leap between 2k1 and 2k2 will be a little disappointed. Player models, look very realistic, complete with distinguishable facial texture maps, respective body shapes and sizes, something that really separates NBA 2k2 from it's football counterpart NFL 2k2.
The individual basketball stadiums are quite detailed, complete with tons of animated texture maps, for digital signs and rotating courtside advertisement billboards. The audience themselves, while still two-dimensional, seem more alive in 2k2 with cleaner and smoother animation, which really gives the game a higher sense of realism. No longer do they look like cardboard cutouts.
Player models are also reflected in the shiny floor, complete with realistic shadows -- so it's not only the PlayStation 2 that can produce some impressive reflections.
Getting a sense of the controls was a bit tricky at first. I hadn't played NBA 2k1 in quite a long time, so picking up the control scheme, much like any sports game, can take a few tries to master. I wouldn't recommend it, but you could do what I did: fire up the Dreamcast without even looking at the manual, and dive straight into an exhibition game, with only a faint remembrance of the control scheme, and proceed to get stuffed 21-3 by the computer in the first quarter. Ouch! You should have seen me at one point, button-mashing like an idiot, hoping to steal the ball, and having the success of a button-mashing newbie playing against a veteran gamer in a game of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. If you're smarter than me, you'll definitely want to brush up your rusty virtual basketball skills in the practice mode, where you can practice passing and shooting, as well as practicing low-post offensive moves.
The player animation is smoother, and the collision detection improved tenfold. One thing that irked me about NBA 2k1 was how the arms and legs of some players would pass through the bodies of others, as if they were ghosts. Even though it was a small cosmetic problem, it really irritated me. In NBA 2k2 the collision detection problem has been addressed. Players no longer pass through each other like a bunch of six and-a-half foot tall "Casper the Friendly Ghosts".
One of the biggest benefits from the improved collision detection, is reflected in NBA 2k2's low-post game. As your player approaches the net, you can turn your back on your opponent and back him down, pushing him closer and closer to the net, and if you're good enough you can twist around and stuff the ball in his face when you dunk on him. It's one thing to read about the improvements made to the low-post game, and be impressed, but it's another thing to actually see it in motion. It brings in a better sense of realism, and makes for a more enjoyable game.
What is a great-looking game without good gameplay? Well, NBA 2k2 has improved on the already great gameplay that has been featured in previous versions of the series. As mentioned earlier, the low-post game has been greatly improved, as well as a better ball-stealing system. If you were a fan of NBA 2k's or NBA 2k1's gameplay, then you'll really enjoy the improvements that have been made to 2k2.
Visual Concepts has always been good with the commentary for their games, and NBA 2k2 is no different. The play-by-play is accurate, and never seems to lag behind like it has before in earlier versions of the NBA series. Every few plays there is some color commentary thrown in for added effect. Another great touch is how the commentators interact with each other realistically, addressing each other by name, in addition to reporting on the plays. Overall, the commentary is very good.
NBA 2k2 has several different game modes that you can play, and I'm going to go through those right now and let you know what NBA 2k2 has in store for you.
The EXHIBITION game is more of a quick start option where you choose 2 teams, and take it to the court immediately. This is good if you've got 30-45 minutes to kill and need a quick game of virtual basketball. It's also good to help you get a feel for the team you might like to play with, as you get to see how your team of choice works against another real team (as opposed to practice mode where you have no opposition).
When you've picked your team of choice and are ready to sit down and seriously commit yourself to a real game of NBA 2k2, the SEASON mode is where you'll want to go. Fortunately, you don't have to play through an entire 82-game season (but you can if you really have the time and energy to do so). You can choose to play a 14, 28, 56 or an 82-game regular season. If anybody actually plays through an entire 82-game season, send us an e-mail, I'm curious to know how long that would take. If you're good enough in your season, you can proceed to the playoffs and the NBA Finals. Once you've selected your team for the season mode, you can set your options and customize your plays, players, and teams.
For rusty virtual basketball players like me, practice is necessary! If I don't practice, my gameplay will be affected, and there is an increased likeliness of me using my Dreamcast controller as a "basketball" to see if I can if I can rebound it off the "backboard" - the concrete wall of my apartment! In extreme situations like this, NBA 2k2's PRACTICE mode comes in handy. Once you've selected "practice" from the game modes menu, you then choose your team and head to the court. From there you can practice shooting from a variety of positions, and the "shot rater" will help you perfect your form and timing by telling you how early or late you're releasing the shot.
If you're into a tournament style of gameplay, then the TOURNEY mode is right up your alley. Gather together some of your baskeball gaming buddies, or play against the computer for each of the 4, 8, or 16 teams that will be participating in the tournament.