NBA Starting 5 Review (PS2)
Now I step away from the basketball glory that is NBA 2k3, Inside Drive 2003 and surprisingly NBA Live 2003 and see what Konami has planned with their basketball effort this year. Here’s a history lesson folks. Konami was the company that created the preeminent game of my youth, Double Dribble. Next to Lakers vs. Celtics on the PC, there was not a game that I found to be more enjoyable when I was young. Sure there were only 4 teams and no real players. Who cares that you could always make three pointers from the corner and there was no way to block dunks. At the time, that game was basketball heaven. So when Konami came out with the ESPN NBA 2 Night series a few years ago, I was excited. Minutes after playing their first version of the NBA 2 Night series, I realized that maybe time had passed Konami by when it come to making basketball games. Things didn’t get any better with the second version of the 2 Night series. The AI was still shotty and unresponsive and the graphics still did not hold up to the competition.
ESPN abandoned the series (which was a good move) and moved to Sega. So does Konami abandoned the series and focus on the other games they do well? NO! They release NBA Starting 5 based on the 2 Night engine and I have the pleasure to review it.
I’m not a “graphics whore” or any kind of person who obsesses over graphics in a game. Most of the time if you do a decent job with the faces, arenas, lighting, and player models, than I’m happy. To be honest I had no idea what a “jaggie” was until coming to this site. Well if you don’t know what jaggies are, just rent NBA Starting 5 because there are tons of them. Player’s shoulders and some heads look like they have small spikes coming out of them. Now when a person like me who pays no attention to graphics notices a problem, you know it must look pretty bad.
The player models are average when compared to the other major basketball titles. They actually appear to have taken a step back from the first version of NBA 2 Night. There is no excuse for the poor job done on the player faces and models as Konami has had three years to improve the models and all they have done is go backwards.
Al Albert does the commentary and it’s not very interesting. The commentary gets very repetitive after about 3 or 4 games and while repetition in commentary occurs in all sports games, the game should have more than three game worth of material. C’mon it’s Al Albert. It’s not like you have Marv Albert, John Madden, or Bob Costas recording the commentary. It’s Al Albert. Are you telling me they couldn’t have had Al Albert record his commentary for two or three days and made it complete?
The in game sounds are decent and the crowd reacts at the right times and with the right amount of noise.
Blocks are too common in this game and the lack of sliders and/or player ratings adjustments prevents this game from being playable. I am willing to accept a game that punishes you for taking bad shots or for not running an offense by allowing the big men on the CPU’s team to get blocks. However, I can’t accept a game that allows blocks on plays where the defender is out of position or where the defender jumps late. I have seen blocks by players where the replay shows their hand was nowhere near the ball. There seems to be a collision detection issue and with no way to correct that it makes the game very difficult.
Player movement also seems to be a problem. Basketball is a game where player movement is key to being able to run an offense. The problem in Starting 5 (also a problem to a lesser extent in NBA 2k3) is that there is no player movement unless you call a play. In the real NBA, plays are not called on every possession and hate that you must call them in order to get any type of player movement.
Rebounding is another problem that plagues this game. 1 out of every 4 rebounds will touch the floor before anybody grabs it. Rarely does a rebound touch the floor without someone touching it in the NBA. It happens 20 times or more in Starting 5. This is something that could have been fixed even before beta testing and its ridiculous that this is in the finished product.
My final gripe has to do with the speed of the game. While Konami got the passing speed right, they failed to get the running speed right. Pressing the turbo button does not really speed up the players at all and seems that the defensive players are much faster than the offensive players. So this causes problems when it comes to running a fast break because the defensive players get back to fast.
Here are a few positive things about the game. The shooting percentage is well done and has been greatly improved from past versions of the game. I used to average around 65-70% shooting in the 2 Night series. In this game I average in the low 50s which is good. Many of the animations are done well. Starting 5 has better dunk and layup animations then some of the other games. Starting 5 does have one of the best free throw meters in the business. Instead of the T meter or using the shoulder buttons. To shoot free throws u must, pull back on the analog sticks until the indicator turns green and then release the sticks. It sounds easier than it is and it makes free throws challenging.
The franchise mode in Starting 5 is forgettable. The CPU will accept practically any trade, makes ill-advised roster moves and questionable draft picks. Also the sim engine needs a little work, as some of the scores were too high.
You know what the most difficult thing about reviewing this game is? It’s that I have now played Live, NBA 2k3, and Inside Drive and I have seen everything that they have done right. None of those three games are perfect but they all do good to great jobs simulating pro basketball. In my opinion, Starting 5 doesn’t even do an average job in simulating real basketball. Too many blocks, no sliders, and bad rebounding AI are just a few of the things that cause this title to be sub par. The sad thing is that other games like Shootout have weak gameplay and graphics but at least Shootout has a career mode that is at least inventive. Starting 5 just has a bunch of modes that the other games do much better.