NBA 2K Review

For Dreamcast

Rating: Average
   Like NFL 2K, NBA 2K is an innovative game that has way too many major 
flaws to be worth buying.
   NFL 2K's initial "wow factor" came from its incredible graphics, but 
this isn't really the case with NBA 2K.  While the graphics in the instant 
replays are amazing (right down to true-to-life faces), it's the innovative 
gameplay that makes NBA 2K so impressive right off the bat.  The ability to 
post up (dribbling the ball with your back to the basket while muscling 
your way inside) is something that should be in every basketball game, 
especially when you consider the big role that posting up has in the real 
NBA.  It's also nice that you can use tactics that work in real life to 
your advantage in the game.  Getting in the shooter's face as he's shooting 
the ball significantly decreases the chances that he will make the basket, 
even if you don't block the shot.  It's also realistic that if you're 
particularly strong at a certain position and your opponent is particularly 
weak in that position (or vice-versa), this can be exploited by constantly 
giving the ball to the more-skilled player.
   The brand-new free throw system seems weird at first, but it's very cool
once you understand it.  The problem is that it's not clear how (or if) the 
game makes it harder to shoot free throws with players who aren't good at 
it in real life.  There's not a lot of difference between Reggie Miller and 
Shaquille O'Neal at the foul line in NBA 2K, while EA's "T" system clearly 
gets faster and more difficult with players who have low free throw ratings.
   The sound is horrible.  The play-by-play commentary, PA announcer, and 
player chatter are all decent enough at first, but eventually each one of 
them becomes overbearing, and you'll probably decide that the game is more 
fun with all of them turned off.  The constant chatter of the commentators 
fits much better in a football game when they can talk in between plays.  
In basketball, the action takes place so quickly and on such a non-stop 
basis that the commentators can't possibly keep up, and they inevitably 
come across as stupid and robotic.  The crowds look nice, but they show 
about as much enthusiasm as Pat Summerall, and they seem just as robotic as 
Summerall when they do things like start chants of "Defense! Defense!" 
right after the final buzzer of the game sounds.  
   It's very clear that when Visual Concepts made NBA 2K, they spent the 
majority of their time worrying about the offensive side of the game.  An 
offensive-focused game wouldn't be that big of a problem if the defensive 
side of the game was also decent, but it's not in NBA 2K.  The best way to 
describe the defense is "loose," since it's much harder and much more 
futile to attempt to play tight defense in NBA 2K than it is in other 
basketball games.  Trying to steal the ball will result in un-avoidable 
reach-in fouls being called much more often than actual steals taking place.
   There are way too many un-called fouls in the game, and that's on the 
Simulation setting with all of the rules turned on.  Other than reach-in 
fouls, the vast majority of the fouls that are called are when an offensive 
player dunks the ball and blatantly knocks over a defensive player in the 
process, and the foul is inexplicably called on the defensive player who 
just got the bejeesus knocked out of him.
   There is also a crippling bug in the game that only surfaces when you're 
on defense and the ball is near the basket.  The Y button is programmed to 
make you jump, and it's necessary to block shots or at least get in the 
shooter's face.  This bug isn't always present, but it's present enough to 
be annoying and frustrating.  What the bug does is make it so that when you 
press Y to jump, the game registers your input as if you told it to switch 
control to the nearest defender.  Continuing to press Y on these occasions 
will only cause the game to continue to change the player that you have 
control of.  The result is that all of your defensive players will be 
standing around rather than playing defense, and your opponent will make an 
easy dunk or lay-up.  At first I thought that this might be my imagination 
or I might have been pressing the wrong button, but I have now played the 
game long enough to be sure that neither is the case and it's a real bug.
   One of NBA 2K's biggest flaws is the massive leaps in difficulty level 
that occur when going from one level to the next.  Rather than easing you 
from one level to the next, NBA 2K's computer opponents get drastically
better with each jump in difficulty.  I found that on one difficulty level,
I could try to lose a game and still win by more than ten points; and on 
the next level up, I got my butt whipped for days by the computer.  What's 
frustrating is that the computer doesn't get better thanks to cleverly-
programmed Artificial Intelligence, they get better because they magically 
gain the ability make 80% of their shots and blow past your defenders with 
   Whether you're on offense or defense, it's much too easy for fast point 
guards to fly past their defenders for an easy lay-up.  Forget about 
strategy; just run around like a fly on crack until there's nothing 
standing between you and the basket.  Also, the frequent deflections and 
errant passes make the game feel more realistic at first, but end up being 
more annoying than anything else.
   It would have greatly increased the game's entertainment value in my 
eyes if the developers had added someone named "Player" to the Free Agent 
list with ratings suspisciously close to Michael Jordan's.  It's easy to do, 
it's not illegal since he wouldn't be called "Michael Jordan" or even #23, 
and it's something that other companies have been doing for years.
   Crunch time AI is something that any good sports game should have, but 
it's almost non-existent in NBA 2K.  When the fourth quarter is coming to a 
close and the game is on the line, NBA 2K's AI isn't even smart enough to 
call time-outs in order to move the ball half way up the court.  They do 
commit fouls to stop the clock, but if you really want to, you can run 
around in circles and they'll never catch you.  Also, the computer never 
seems to say to itself, "We need three-pointers now, let's go for three's."
If they're down by three points in the final possession of the game, odds 
are they will still go for a two and lose the game.  Sure, that gives you a 
win, but it's a cheap and un-satisfying win.
   NBA 2K's innovative gameplay elements could have made it a revolutionary 
game if it had been more polished and balanced.  As it is, NBA 2K is 
nothing more than a decent weekend rental that doesn't take long to get old 
and boring.

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