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GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Sega Sports

Well, let's get this out of the way right away. NBA 2K1 is currently the most visually impressive basketball game on any platform, period.  It has detailed player models, smooth textures, and  fluid animation. But looks aren't everything, and NBA 2K1 also has entertaining gameplay and loads features and options. On the other hand, the game still feels a little too arcadey for us.  I mean, I know they don't play much D in the NBA, but it should be an option in this game--as it stands, playing defense is still more challenging than it should be, passing is a little too perfect, and rim-rattling transition jams are a little too easy to come by.

NBA 2K was a pretty good game, but NBA 2K1 improves upon it. First, NBA 2K1 features eight modes of play: season, exhibition, tourney, practice, quick start, franchise, network, and street—the latter three all new this year.  The graphics are also improved, with beefier player models and more detailed courts. The players themselves are amazingly detailed, right down to their matching tattoos and cornrows. Player animations are excellent—they move, block and shoot like the real-life pros. Even the generic commentators have been pumped up with a ton of individualized commentary that must have taken plenty of time to record.  Though commentary is usually pretty good, play-by-play can sometimes get out of sync--and there are instances when the action being described is totally inaccurate.

NBA 2K1's gameplay is similar to NBA 2K's, with the analog stick and button combinations remaining essentially unchanged. Players can still ride the turbo button with the right trigger and bring up plays with a tap of the d-pad. The most significant improvement to the offensive end of the hardwood is the ability to really play down low. Backing your opponent down is much easier, and collisions between players in the paint are much more realistic. Even better, new moves abound--the quick turn around, fade away jumper or baby hook moves are both simple and effective. However, the gameplay emphasis is still on speed, quick picks and transition offense leading to big jams. It's unfortunate that there are only four plays available at any one time from the coach's book of 26--and no way to practice them. Running a viable half-court offense is much tougher than it should be, and given the incredible amount of detailed dunks and slams, it's clear that developer Visual Concepts has designed a basketball game to be played mainly above the rim.

Hitting that perimeter shot is another story. Like last year's game, NBA 2K1 demands that players release the shoot button precisely at the apex of their jump or risk clanging the shot off the front iron. While it is reasonable that developers demand at least some skill from the player to hit a jump shot, we were surprised how many reliable shooters missed open jumpers.

NBA 2K1 gameplay also has some other minor quirks. After playing several games, you'll realize that there are some questionable charge calls being consistently made in the game. On collisions during drives to the hole, the defensive player usually gets the benefit of the doubt. All things being equal, there are far more charge calls than there are defensive blocking fouls - even in situations where the defensive player is clearly out of position.  Loose balls are handled with complete apathy at times, and it is extremely frustrating to watch a player head track a ball and not pick it up.

The game's new street mode is quite entertaining. It can be played both on real-life blacktops such as Goat Park in Harlem, The Cage on West 4th in New York, Franklin Park in Chicago, and Holcombe Rucker Memorial Park. The four street courts are re-created in high detail, with specific churches, buildings, and on-court trimmings that are easily recognizable. On these realistic courts, you can compete in a variety of matchups, from up-tempo two-on-two contests to the more traditional NBA-style five-on-five games. 

While not perfect, NBA 2K1 is still a very satisfying experience. The franchise mode is fantastic, and the inclusion of the all-time greats, special uniforms, and street courts really pushes NBA 2K1 into primetime territory.  If you're a basketball fan, there's no question as to whether or not NBA2K1 is worth it, because you probably already have it!  While not a huge technological leap from the previous title, the additional modes of play and tweaks help NBA 2K1 evolve into one of the best hoop sims to date.

Rick Fehrenbacher & Al Wildey


Ups: Looks fantastic, lots of game modes and features, fast, entertaining basketball game.

Downs: Might be little too arcadey for some tastes, some gameplay glitches

System Reqs: Sega Dreamcast


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