NBA Inside Drive 2002
As the catalogue of XBOX titles continually grows, the fans of different genres and sports etc. wait for the established titles to arrive. Basketball is no exception to this and fans of the game will have been waiting for titles from the likes of Electronic Arts and SEGA to arrive on the XBOX. However with all new consoles there are surprises and with EA's NBA Live 2002 being nothing short of a disappointment, gamers thought that SEGA would be the ones who would provide the game they have been looking for. Microsoft may have upset the apple cart though with NBA Inside Drive 2002. Inside Drive, developed by the very capable High Voltage, has surprised everyone in the US with it's addictive and realistic gameplay.
The most important characteristic of Inside Drive is the superb AI. Playing a game feels like you're in a real basketball game. I've played about thirty or so games and not once has my opponent not given me a real gutsy contest. Even if you're plenty of points in front your opponents still continue to come at you. Your players, and your opponents players, have off games and games when they are on fire. With the exception of Pro Evolution Soccer I have never seen such a high calibre of AI. Players get injured with sprained ankles, broken noses etc. and sometimes have to go off for part of the game or even have to miss many weeks of action.
Of course the first thing you're going to notice is the quality of the graphics and let me just say that they are easily the best ever seen in a basketball game. The players look fantastic and animate superbly. The courts are complete with the teams motifs and sponsorship logos and the whole atmosphere of the game feels right. The one flaw though has to be the crowd. Whilst the players looks superb the crowd look like cardboard cut-outs which is a shame given the capabilities of the XBOX.
Control is all important and Inside Drive does not come unstuck on this account. Spins, crossovers, dekes and many other moves are easy to perform (although the quality of these moves is dependent on the skill of the player). Shooting has been handled sensibly too. You have the option of easy shooting, where you simply press the X button and the quality of the shot is dependent on the quality of the player or you can use normal shooting where you press X to launch your player and press X again when the player is at the peak of his jump to achieve optimum results. Player ability will again determine the quality of the shot. One of the things I liked the most was the icon pass feature. Whilst you are in possession you can press the Y button and various icons of the gamepad buttons appear over the players heads. To make the pass you simply press the appropriate button that is over the desired players head.
The game offers an Exhibition mode for those one off matches, Playoffs, if you want to get straight to the main action, and finally a full season mode. You can even use a Fantasy Draft that enables you to go through twelve draft rounds in your bid to sign the best players. One disappointment though is that the game doesn't feature a dynasty mode in which you play through a full career of 20+ years with new players continually coming through (this is going to be in next years version though).
You can handle as much or as little of the coaching as you want. Substitutions, choosing the starting line ups, matchups, and time outs can all be automatically done for you if you wish it so. This is a nice touch. Initially I found myself not wanting to get involved with the coaching but to really excel at the game it pays to get involved with the elements that you feel could do with improving as well as signing the players that you think would improve the team, if you are in season mode.
The downside for the deaf gamer is that you're going to miss out on the excellent commentary. It isn't subtitled but it probably would get in the way of the action if it was. The important information appears as text on the screen. Details of a player's injury will appear on the screen as will information such as if a player is on a cold streak or how many consecutive baskets he has scored. The only parts where there is just verbal information is before the game where the teams are being announced and after a game when Akemi Takei gives you a rundown on the games stars.
NBA Inside Drive 2002 is a must for all basketball fans. This is not a light hearted arcade representation of the game though but a genuine quality simulation of the game. Newbies shouldn't be put off though because the game allows you to play and enjoy yourself without having to know every detail of the game. This is definitely one of the best sports games on any console to date.
Overall Game Rating: 8.9/10 NBA Inside Drive 2002 is probably the finest basketball game to date. Gutsy, challenging AI and realistic gameplay make for a cracking gameplay experience.
Deaf Gamers comment: It is a shame that deaf gamers miss out on the excellent commentary but there is more than enough here for the game to be thoroughly enjoyed.