Review by abengzon

"Better than last year, but..."

First of all, this game is much MUCH better than NBA 2K. That game seemed very rushed. This one looks like they put a lot more work into it. Having said that, I think there's an awful lot more they could have done to improve things.

GRAPHICS
The graphics are top notch, with (mostly) fluid animation and an incredible assortment of dunks, power moves down low, swat blocks, and driving layups. Character detail is much better too. The crowd looks very fuzzy and flat, but that doesn't deter from the eye-candy you get looking at the court and the players.

SOUND
The in-game sound effects are a lot better than the commentary; the commentary is extremely repetitive. Sometimes, they'll say the same thing three times in a row. It gets old, quick. However, the crowd noise is great and really simulates the experience pretty well.

GAMEPLAY
Very similar to last year's effort as far as last year's game. I will admit that I was not a fan of the steep learning curve required to hit free throws, but after a couple of games, you get the hang of it pretty well. After you get used to it, you'll hit 90% of them without any problem.

PLAYING OFFENSE
The control is mostly good. Icon passing works as well here as it does in the Live series. One gripe I have about the offensive sets is that the point guard too often retreats to far into the backcourt after setting a play. If you run a play and it misfires (double team, can't get in position, etc..) and you have to reset your offense, your point guard is usually too far out of position, especially with the clock running down. A couple of times, I got called for a backcourt violation because he went so far back that when my center passed out. He was halfway to the opposing team's basket!!! Perimeter play is alot better than last year. You can actually make 3-pointers with some degree of consistency. Open ones are pretty much gimmes, unlike 2K where it was a mixed bag. One of the things they really improved was running a fast break after a made basket or a defensive rebound. In NBA 2K, it was very hard to run because the post players could not pass downcourt without over throwing the pass. Also, many times whoever caught the pass from the point guard would stop instead of slashing to the basket. In 2K1, this play is so seamless that it's a joy to behold.

Unless you botch the layup, of course. I have big issues with this; the number of missed layups is mind boggling! Especially when they're uncontested. This happens far too frequently. Jump shots notwithstanding, you are extremely limited when it comes to offensive moves. You have no control over what your player will do, whether it's a layup or a dunk. There should be some what to guarantee a dunk, especially with your big men. There's no reason for them to be missing dinky little layups when they can just slam it home for two points.

The AI is REALLY good. They will key in on your best offensive player, especially if its a guard. Every time he has the ball, they will double team him. They do this from the start of the game, which means they know your team's stats, which is pretty cool. Also, if you beat someone off the dribble or a pump fake, they will switch defensive assignments so you don't have a guaranteed dunk. Blocking isn't as ridiculous as last year, but dunks are blocked way too much by the computer. If your player (especially post players) are airborne, there is no way that they should be blocked as frequently as occurs here. Post play is more difficult in this game also, mainly because they will double team you in a hurry and swipe at the ball to get the steal.

PLAYING DEFENSE
This is the reason this game gets a five out of ten. Playing defense in this game is horrendous. Your teammates are absolutely clueless as to what is going on in the defensive end. Blocks are almost impossible now, which is frustrating considering how easily the computer pulls it off. It's possible to get swat blocks, but you have to be the one to be controlling your player; if the AI is controlling your teammate, they won't even attempt to block the shot, which is a stark contrast to how aggressively the computer team AI plays defense. There also needs to be Icon switching to players. Because your teammates don't pay attention, if you get beat on defense, no one will come to bail you out. As the guard is slashing to the basket for a layup, your center or PF is standing right next to him with his back turned while you frantically mash on the switch button to get control of him. By the time you do, it's too late.

It's almost impossible to block jump shots too, regardless of what kind of defensive matchup you have. I've had Mugsy Bogues make threes over Sabonis' outstretched hands. Sorry, but that should have been a block. Unlike the computer team, which aggressively goes for the ball, your players pull their hands back as they jump up, resulting in almost never getting a block. Different animation for computer team and your team. Lame!!!

Animation is horrible when you're trying to play defense. First and foremost is collision detection, which is the worst I've ever seen in a basketball game. I don't remember this being a problem in 2K, but it renders 2K1 virtually unplayable sometimes. How can you play defense if they can pass right through you when you're guarding them or playing post defense? The players also moonwalk with the ball, an animation that is a contrast to the fluid animation of your players on offense. The animation is very jerky, and combined with the collision detection problems can lead to a lot of thrown Dreamcast controllers. The collision detection is also horrible when it comes to screens set by the other team. The field is so big that you really have to go way around them to get past a screen; sometimes, you're being pushed back and the player who set the pick is pretty far away, but you can't get around.

Speaking of screens, it's hard enough getting around the offense's picks, but it gets really frustrating when your own teammates start setting them too. Nothing is more frustrating then trying to stay with your guy only to have your teammate (usually post players) shove you out of the way to chase some plodding center to the three point line. Or if the computer sets a pick, your teammate will follow him and in essence set a double pick. Again, combined with the collision detection this becomes very annoying.

Finally, you have no control over your defensive sets except when playing transition defense. You can set a half court or full court press. Whoopee. I like to play straight man to man defense, but sometimes one of your teammates will decide to help you defend. Not when you need him to, mind you. On those occassions he'll either set a pick on you or have his back to the guy with the ball. Usually, the center does this. And there's no way for you to send him back to the guy he's supposed to be defending. The very clever point guard will then toss the ball into the low post so the unguarded center can get an uncontested dunk while you center sits yet another pick for you to try and squeeze around. This becomes a problem because you're not expecting the defensive switch, but the computer can see it coming from a mile away and will quickly take advantage of it. If you do notice it and send your point guard to defend the opposing center, one of two things will happen: the first scenario recognizes the mismatch and quickly passes the ball inside. By the time you call for a double team, it's too late. Probably because you're other teammates are busy setting picks on the guy trying to come in and help with the double team. The other scenario has your center taking on the opposing point guard one on one, in which the point guard promptly passes through your ghost center due to the lousy collision detection and scores. Again, another thrown Dreamcast controller.

OTHER
I can't comment on the online play because it's not a big deal for me. The street mode is mildly entertaining, but it's eye candy at best. The stats screen can use a serious lesson from NBA Live. Mostly, you can't just get your team's stats, like leading scorer, rebounding, etc...You can go to the All Players list and sort by team, but it's very cumbersome and doesn't list top to bottom.

FINAL ANALYSIS
I hated NBA 2K. Period. I thought it was a horribly overrated game that garnished much praise based on looks and not on gameplay. While NBA 2K1 fixed a lot of the bugs that plagued 2K, it also created new ones that were just as annoying. The complete helplessness that one feels when playing defense cannot be ignored. This game would have easily scored a 10 if your computer controlled teammates were as savvy as the computer team's. This disparity leads to a very frustrating experience. It's a shame that Sega screwed this one up; obviously, they had the capacity to create a triple A game but really fell short instead. I refuse to jump on the Best Basketball Game Ever bandwagon given the huge number of bugs and problems in this game that can't be ignored and seriously detract from the overall enjoyment of playing this game. If you plan on playing with a buddy, it may be worthwhile. if you plan on trying to play through a season, get nice sturdy controllers that won't break should you have the urge to throw it.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/14/01, Updated 01/14/01


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