Review by StillOnBoard
"This game is not fantastic...."
NBA2K1. The name sends chills into the hearts of Dreamcast ballers everywhere. Yeah, it looks great. Yes, it's got realistic graphical and audio touches. Hey, it's even got the legends. But the question every gamer should be asking is: Does the gameplay hold up? Sadly, the answer is no.
Graphics look great, with all the polygonal models looking masterpieces. Animation leaves a bit to be desired. Oftentimes players have goofy looks on their faces, and don't seem to reflect the state or mood of the game being played.
It's important in a b-ball game to have proper commentary and appropriate crowd noise. While the game's sound effects are adequate, they certainly are not all they could have been. Crowds reacting to bad calls, play-by-play dealing with the player's personal stats, and verbal cues from players other than the standard-''Get him! Get him!'' routine so commonplace would be some great improvements.
In a sports game, gameplay is everything. I really want to love this game, but the gameplay is the one thing that cannot be overlooked. Last night I played as the Bucks. I executed two alleyoops, both of which failed. As a result, I was called for two offensive fouls. Computer regulated moves and calls are not this gamer's idea of a good gameplay system. I will get more into this failure by Visual Concepts later on.
FUN FACTOR: 5.5/10
When you cannot adequately control your team's actions and decisions, the fun factor is very negatively affected. Have you ever played a game that wouldn't let you foul at the end of a game? Yeah, that was Lakers vs. Celtics on the Genesis-10 years ago! I expect more from a next gen b-ball sim than pressing an awkward combination of buttons and hoping we get a foul in time. It's almost as if VC planned for this game to build up the frustration factor, not the fun factor. A horrible defensive system, the lack of observation of real NBA rules and patterns, and a poor ranking of players' abilities top the list of detractions.
When I first popped the GD-ROM into my Dreamcast, I was excited to see the cinematic intro featuring old and new players. I rushed into the beginning options, finding nothing really WRONG from 2K. But then, it happened. As I started an exhibition game, I noticed that the camera angles had changed drastically. I wasn't comfortable with the first/third person perspective, so I switched to side view, similar to an actual NBA game. The problem was, the closer I tried to get to a COMFORTABLE player height, the more the view of the opponents and the court obscured. Coming from a long tradition of the style and presentation of LIVE from EA Sports, this was needless to say annoying. So I finally settled on a zoom and width of 4, and started playing. I was shocked to see the amount of charges and blocks called. This was at first a great improvement from its predecessor. However, when playing a human opponent, I quickly discovered that even the slightest incidental contact on a fast break was called a charge. I tried to overlook this fault, but then I discovered quite a few more.
Open players cannot hit a jump shot often, if at all. Only shooting guards and small forwards seem to drain with any kind of consistency. Also, when even one man is covering you, and you pump fake him to get a good look at the basket, you usually miss anyways. The one exception I found to this rule of thumb is the three point shot. Usually if a player has a good three-point ranking, he will hit 9 times out of 10, whether double or triple teamed. Also, to give an extra boost to the shot going in, make sure you call for a pick or drive around one, then shoot.
Autoplays don't seem to work that well in this game. That's okay, since most of the successful teams in the game(Dallas, Sacramento, etc.)don't run many plays anyway in real life. I found defensive sets to be ineffective against human opponents. One big rule of thumb: If you want a job done right, do it yourself. If you can handle fouls being called on you frequently, control the defensive work yourself. If this means holding players in the backcourt to keep them from getting involved in the offense, so be it. And whatever you do, don't step in the way of a person driving to the basket. Even if you let off the D-Pad like the instruction manual says, you will still be called for a block unless you are underneath the basket, almost out of bounds. It doesn't matter if the person driving on you is Shawn Kemp or Shawn Bradley, they will get a three point play!
My biggest fault with the game is the shaky method of offense. I have had difficulty executing alleyoops from the get-go. When I do get a man in the vicinity to receive the pass, he is called for an offensive foul unbeknownst to me. This is frustrating, dispiriting, and can cause you to walk out on a human opponent. Also, on offense when you are running a fast break, it's best to pull up for a jumper or look for a cutter, since you'll be called for an offensive foul if you attempt to drive on an opponent. Somehow the computer is able to move quickly enough to step in front of you--no matter if it's a slow 7 footer or a guard with a ranking of 58 defensively. These unreal touches further lend credence to the idea that VC wanted a jumpshooting, three-point dominated game. Also, watch posting offensive fouls. I had my button off the turbo, and received a pass as Chris Webber. My defender was Juwan Howard, who had a foot and a half in the ''no charge'' zone. I dunked it (computer controlled-another frustrating aspect) and was promptly called for an offensive foul. The amount of missed layups only contributes to my dissatisfaction. I could have Charles Oakley shooting a 5-footer over Muggsy Bogues, only to miss it because either: 1) having a defender of any type constitutes a missed shot; or 2) I should have passed it to Vince Carter all the way over by the timeline, then had him run in and shoot the 5-footer for Oak. Hey, wait, Vince might miss that one too.
Did I forget to mention that there is no semblance of illegal defense called anywhere? Only in the most absurd of scenarios and most bizarre of circumstances (*like a 40 point blowout*) is illegal defense called. Hey, I know that illegal defense is a thing of the past in the NBA for next year, but we are talking about this game, here and now. Either enforce the call or don't even attempt to put it in the game.
As you can tell, these horrible inconsistencies ruin an otherwise superb presentation and roundup of players. I'll save my cash for 2K2, desperately hoping that the best b-ball sim since LIVE 2000 on the PS1 will arrive just in time for the Dreamcast's farewell party.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10
Fun is everything!
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/01, Updated 07/19/01
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