I haven’t quite enjoyed any NBA games in a while. Either the graphics are crummy and the control sucks, or the opposite. EA Sports has held the line for a long time, but now there’s a new game in town. Sega’s NBA 2K is simply amazing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its faults.
Let’s parcel it off, the good with the bad. Okay? Alright then.
The first thing I noticed was all of the nice options. Season play, make your own team, trades, build a player, and so much more. This definitely adds to its lasting appeal.
Then I selected my team, which was LA Lakers since I hate to lose, and I was off. I almost flipped during the pre-game show as the players were announced. Amazing. This runs me right into the crowd noise, coaching, and the announcers. The crowd noise is moderate and I never quite listened to it. It was sort of white noise. The coaches actually coach. However, it’s often annoying and after the fact. Like when I’d take a stupid three-point try with Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson would tell me not to waste shots like that. Worse is when you get dunked on, the coach will tell you to play some defense. Hello? I think I’ve figured that out as I’m picking my player up off of the wood. Then comes the play-by-play. It’s interesting, not as good as NFL 2K’s, but better than some games of the past. I can’t stand the nicknames used over and over again by the announcers. I was sick of them calling Shaquille O’Neal ‘Diesel’, and even more annoying was the announcers calling Damon Stoudamire ‘Mighty Mouse’. Give it a break. But I like the game more than I dislike it, so that’s a good thing.
Next is the look. Wow. When they show the up-close looks of the players’ faces, you will be stunned to see the face actually looks like the real player, not some plain faced Joe Schmoe. Visually, it’s a knockout.
Now let’s skip to the most important aspect of the game: the actual game play. The feel isn’t great. Somehow they expect you to use not only six buttons, but also both joysticks. Now if I had another arm this wouldn’t be so tough. The problem is one joystick moves your player and the other picks your plays. One is more important than the other so picking your plays will certainly suffer. I opted for Coach Jackson to just figure out what play my team would run.
My biggest beef with the game is the picking of players. First you have to push a button to see what button you need to press to pass to a certain player. Sound confusing? Well, it is at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. But it seems to me that this game either needs two more buttons or some more options. I would have liked the option to keep the buttons over the players’ heads or else have the players circle with a certain color coordinated with a particular button. Then comes the problem of passing to the player with button X. Here is why: button X is also the button you use to shoot. So sometimes you will accidentally pass instead of shoot. This can drive you crazy, especially when you are right under the hook with only seconds left in the game to win. Speaking of passing, I was also going crazy when I would have a guy out in front for a fast break and throw the ball down court and the player would stop, catch the ball, and then try to return to motion. Too late. The crowd has caught up to him and my fast break is over. That is lame. I figured out that you must hold the button down in order to hit the player in motion, but this isn’t always the case. This just might be the most annoying aspect of the game, especially when my team is built on the fast break.
Then again, I love the big man down low. I had Shaq, and if I posted him up for a rebound between the hoop and the other team’s big man, I knew I was going to get the ball. The other center wasn’t going to somehow go through my guy and grab the ball. The fact that I can back Shaq into the paint and spin off another center only to dunk on his head is so realistic that I just couldn’t decide whether I wanted to let Kobe Bryant glide to the hoop or let Shaq get nasty. The problem however is that the big man gets stripped just a little too often for my taste. And Kobe gets blocked just a little too much. If my man is going in hard with the dunk, I don’t know that many guards, or forwards for that matter, who are going to stop Kobe from throwing it down. But it happened over and over again. That was annoying. He even got rejected on many lay-ups. We all know Kobe is just a little too skilled for this to happen repeatedly.
The players get hot and cold, but that doesn’t mean I should miss a five-foot jumper. That’s cash for an NBA player, especially when it’s uncontested. So this takes me into the defense. Be prepared to get a beating on occasion. Sometimes I wouldn’t even want to take a player on because if I lost my man I knew I was going to get burned. Don’t double team and don’t even think about taking off for a fast break. Defense isn’t optional in this game; you either play it or get beat. This game is tough and that is its biggest asset. The problem with games like NBA Live from EA Sports is that you can destroy even the best teams if you so choose. NBA 2K is smart. The artificial intelligence is tops and is always a challenge, even at the rookie level.
Even considering the game’s negatives, I have to say that this is one of the most enjoyable sports games I’ve ever played. The only game that tops it is NFL 2K. So don’t be surprised that the same company, Visual Concepts, made both. If you haven’t had reason enough to buy a Sega Dreamcast, NBA 2K just might be enough of a reason to toss your worn PlayStation aside.