ESPN NBA Basketball Review

Developer: Visual Concepts Publisher: Sega
Release Date: October 21, 2003 Also On: PS2 and Xbox

I have always been a big fan of the NBA 2K games since the originals on the Sega Dreamcast. Last year’s version was especially great and received an elite score of 9.6 from Game Freaks 365; now, with the addition of the ESPN title, you would expect a lot from this fastly growing franchise. Well, for this year anyway, that is just not the case. Basically, ESPN Basketball isn’t even the same game we have grown to love over the years.

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Visually, no basketball games can match up. ESPN Football was a big disappointment here, but basketball is a different sport and a much better seller for Sega. Players look more real than real. There is total bump mapping head to toe when it comes to clothing. You can pick out each individual thread and air hole in the jerseys. The crowd is still the best looking in any full scale sports title. (NHL Hitz 20-02 and 20-03 is the best on small scale) No real collision problems either.

There are no really big complaints in the sound department. The crowd gets into the game pending on how you play. Floor music is still around and helps the crowd kind of get back into the game if you are getting killed. Commentary has gone a little downhill though. NBA Live’s duo of Marv and Czar are catching up to ESPN’s announce team of Tolbert and Fitzgerald.

Gameplay is the area that really seems to be the big problem area in the game. The control just doesn’t feel right anymore. Movement is nothing compared to last year as players move slower when performing moves. Player interface is also nowhere close to NBA Live’s freestyle control. The passing stick, the right joystick, has been improved, but not that greatly seeing as you can still press up to pass the ball in front of you and it will pass backwards. AI is smarter and actually puts up a fight now when they are losing. However, now they tend to block and steal more than they really should compared to NBA averages. For example, I played a total of 20 games and the computer got about 15 steals and 12 blocks when the NBA average is around 10 stls and 8 blks. And finally, the one thing that pisses us off the most in the 2K series is the foul shooting. Even after 5 games, it hasn’t been changed or improved at all. It still is the most horrible experience when it comes to foul shooting.

Like in ESPN Football, NBA has a mode that kind of makes it stand out from EA Sports title. 24/7 has been introduced here and is played in REAL time. It makes you have to play the game all the time in order to improve your created player to make him get to the big time. Most importantly, ESPN has XBL play. Actually, it’s not that important since XSN doesn’t support it, XBL is only a plus.

Overall, the title of ESPN in the SEGA Sports games is really hurting the quality of them. Football was sub par compared to earlier versions and so is Basketball. 24/7 mode and XBL play will keep you into the game for a little while, but soon, you will just be wondering why SEGA ever added ESPN to the title and made the series start to stink.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8.7
Written by Shawn Review Guide

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