The first time I played NBA
Inside Drive I hated it. I didnt have any control over the game. I felt
like I was playing with oven mitts on my hands. I am not a big sports
game guy. Not at all. Worse yet, Basketball games are my least favorite.
Still, I went into this game with an open mind. Better than an open
mind, I really wanted to like it. But that first game was just painful.
I take my fair share of blame
for the first game. I didnt really bother to look at the controller
setup until late in the game. I have been playing videogames since I was
five. I felt I ought to be able to pick it no problem. Sadly I was
wrong, very wrong. Watching me play, as I furiously mashed buttons, was
a little like watching synchronized swimming: My entire team jumping
into the air with arms outstretched, while the ball was in the other
teams hands on the other side of the court. I lost that first game (in
rookie mode mind you) 48 to 12. Ouch! If I had rented this game, as
opposed to having it for review, I probably would never have touched it
Instead I turned right around
and played another game. I found that I had picked up quite a bit in
that first game and this time I won, 45 to 42. You know what was even
better? I found out my roommate stunk at Basketball games even more than
I did. I walloped him 50 some odd points to 6. Now that is what I call
fun. My girlfriend picked it right up. She just barely lost her first
game to me, and frankly I was afraid to play her again (for the good of
all men everywhere, I couldnt let her put me down). The point is,
despite its imperfections, I was starting to appreciate this game. A
Basketball game that I would never even have realized existed if I
hadnt been sent a copy.
Whether Basketball games fans
enjoy NBA Inside Drive 2004 or not really depends on what kind of
experience they look for in a game. If you want something that looks and
feels realistic, then this is it. If you are looking for insane dunks
that are accompanied by flashing stars and exploding fireworks you will
probably be a little disappointed. Inside Drive is more like a sim game
than anything. It is a little like the difference between the more
realistic Amped and the wacky, over the top SSX. Both are great games
that satisfy different tastes.
The game has an interesting AI.
One minute you think your team is asleep and the next they totally amaze
you. Every time I knocked the ball out of the opponents hands I had to
run my little man to the ball to recover it. I got no help from the AI.
Not only did my AI teammates never pick up the loose ball, they didnt
even move in its general direction, or even seem to notice it. This was
very frustrating because it meant that many or most of the times I
actually managed to knock the ball loose it was just picked right back
up by the other team.
On the flip side of the coin
there were a couple of times when a shot would be off and instead of
waiting for the rebound my player would tip it in for me. I can forgive
a couple of lost turnovers for a nice bit of teamwork like this.
The graphics are fine. However, with so many ultra-realistic sports
games out right now it is hard not to be a little disappointed with
Inside Drives character models. The only thing that really bugged me
visually was the stats that constantly popped up at the bottom of the
screen. I understand what they were trying to do, but it seems wrong for
me for two reasons. First off, it makes it more like watching the game
on TV. Isnt the point of this game to give a feeling of being in the
game? Constant stats on the screen just jar you from the game back to
reality. The second reason it bothers me is because they are constantly
in the way. Many times while bringing the ball down court my player was
completely blocked by the stat box at the bottom. It seems to be a very
tough concept for developers to get, but it really freaking sucks
playing a game when you cant see your character.
The announcers are of course
annoying. They have a small bag of tricks and are repetitive within the
first game. Worse yet, the quips dont always seem relevant to the
situation. In NBA Inside Drives defense, I cant remember the last game
I reviewed that had decent voice work (outside of games I reviewed I can
only think of the DJ in SSX3 that was worth a darn).
The big selling point of this
game though is its online gameplay. It is part of the X-Boxs XSN that
keeps track of online leagues and stats. This is pretty shiny as long as
there is someone else online to play (the first time I got on there was
only one other player). For the most part it played just as well online.
There were a few spots where the game literally paused due to lag but
that is better than playing through glitchy graphics. You get ten
minutes of pause time a piece. There is a nifty little timer to keep
track. You can of course voice chat back and forth, which is essential
for realistic NBA trash-talking. Really the biggest shock was how badly
I creamed the person I played online. Once again, I found that to be
more than a little bit fun.
Since there are so many
Basketball titles out there this may be one you would like to rent. It
is solid and the online stuff has tons of potential. The biggest problem
is the NBAs players biggest battlefields are not available to play,
Im of course talking about the courtroom. Forget about Grand theft
Auto; here is your chance to play as some real criminals. Ever time I
played the Lakers I would pass the ball to Kobe Bryant, hit pause, and
search for the plead guilty button. That should really make the crowd
Matt James (12/27/2003)
Online playable with trackable statistics
Uninspiring character models. A less than
intuitive control scheme.