NBA 2K2 Review (Xbox)
NBA 2K2 XBOX: Patience Pays Dividends
Since the series’ 1999 debut on the Dreamcast, Visual Concepts has set and exceeded the standard for basketball games year in and year out. This year is no exception as NBA 2K2 was a very good game for both the Dreamcast and the PS2. Xbox owners unfortunately had to wait until late February until this series arrived on that console. The good news is that they were rewarded with the most refined edition of the series to date. While some people like to cast the word “port” in a negative light, that interpretation may not apply here. If this game is a port, it’s a nicely enhanced one. After playing this game many Xbox owners will probably be glad they had to wait.
As has been the trademark of this series, the gameplay is solid and very responsive. The jumpshot is super smooth, the crossover improved, and the post game well done. There are several types of shots taken by players, depending on their court location and proximity of defenders. They even have an unorthodox looking shot where the player twists his body while in the air. It occurs a little too often but is cool when you first see it take place. In the Dreamcast version of this game, it seemed both CPU and user controlled players could drain most shots even with a defender up in their grill. Thankfully, that is no longer the case with NBA 2K2 Xbox. Shots are altered on where the defender is positioned in relation to the shooter. Shooting percentages for the user are fairly realistic. So don’t expect to be winning a lot of games if you shoot an excessive amount of three pointers. You will definitely experience times when a player seems to have a hot hand, but there are an equal amount of times where the same player is struggling. Just like in the real NBA you’ll need to learn to utilize scorers and complementary players in their proper roles if you wish to be successful.
Overall collision detection is better implemented within the structure of this game. That invisible shield that plagues a lot of basketball games isn’t much of a problem, and lanes seem realistic. I really like being able to use the crossover to get separation from the defender and hit the open jumper. Backing down the defender in the post is well done, although sometimes it seems the animations for the hook shot take over and you don’t feel in control. Most of the players utilize the correct type of “jimmie” they would use in real life. However, it is a bit disturbing to see a point guard backing down and using a hook shot like a big man in the low post. Goaltending is still called a little too excessively during the course of a game, although some of that can be alleviated by properly timing your jump. Once in a while, your player will unfortunately be standing out of bounds when you pass him the ball. Even still those are minor complaints for a game that has a plethora of nice jumpers, hook shots, lay-ups, alley oops, etc.
The speed of the game seems realistic, although it may seem slow and deliberate to people with a “run and gun” mentality. The transition game does exist, but for the most part you’ll need to use different strategies in order to drive the lane or penetrate the low post. This is largely due to the ability to put up an adequate defensive front on both sides of the ball. Overall the game is a nice realistic balance between tempo and player control.
The first thing that is very noticeable when playing NBA 2K2 Xbox is the resolution. Although this game was ported over from it’s PS2 build, the higher resolution and smoother textures make this one pretty game. Unlike some of those washed out looking colors that appeared on NFL2K2 Xbox, the developers have nailed the colors for Arenas and player uniforms in astonishing detail. Using my trusty Interact System Selector, I was able to bounce back and forth between the PS2 and Xbox versions of this game. Details that stood out were more detailed player muscle builds, better reflections, and a smoother frame rate with the Xbox version of this game. The light sourcing in this game is unrivaled by any other basketball game on Xbox.
The player models in the NBA 2K series have always been pretty good. Nothing drastically has changed this year other than more subtle items such as muscle tone and players mouths moving from chewing gum or showing some emotion. They are fairly accurate in resembling most of their real life counterparts in both size and facial detail. Shaq looks like a menacing behemoth and Sam Cassell looks like the alien mugged little point guard that he is. Nice little details like the ribbon representing 9-11 on player jerseys and some very detailed tattoos further enhance the realism in player appearance.
Arenas are well done and feature some nicely textured floors. In Street mode you also have some vastly different gyms and playgrounds to check out. The crowds aren’t anything to scream about, but there is some movement within them, including those pesky streamers to try and distract the opposing team’s free throw shooter. I really enjoyed some of the animations such as the rim bending while a player hangs on it, or those sweet alley oops that end with a sweet finger roll as the ball descends into the twine. The graphical quality in this game can be breath taking, and there is very little difference in actual gameplay resolution to that shown in the instant replays. There really isn’t a lot not to like regarding the graphical quality here, other than wondering how future versions will look like if Visual Concepts actually builds a graphics engine for Xbox from ground zero.
The CPU is fairly astute in trying to keep you from exploiting them with a particular player or strategy. They will begin double-teaming you down low if you continue to burn them in the post. Conversely, they will send a body out to the perimeter if you are throwing up an unusual amount of treys. On offense they like to use back door screens or will back you down and kick out to the perimeter if you attempt to double team in the low post. Additionally, certain players will try to beat you off the dribble and will either blow past you or kick to the open man if you try to double them. It really is a lot of fun when you start to recognize these tendencies and try to stop them using various tactics.
It’s a relief to see open CPU players sometimes miss open jump shots. This was a problem in the PS2 version, as they never seemed to miss. The overall CPU percentages are a little high at times, but if you play solid defense you can keep them down to reasonable numbers. I have experienced some games where the CPU will shoot 70% in a half, and others where I have held them to 40%. Just seems that you need to get after the CPU players and keep a body on them to keep them in check. The real life tendencies for players are also pretty well implemented here. Reggie Miller will be more apt to bomb you from beyond the arc if you let him. Although he’s a big man, don’t be surprised if Raef Lafrentz decides to shoot the trey as well. It all boils down to using your man-to-man, zones, and double teams to keep those hot scorers in check.
FEATURES AND PRESENTATION
The weakest part of this game is the commentary. Although it’s fairly accurate to what’s happening on the court, it’s repetitive and hasn’t changed much from last year. It’s OK if you’re new to the series, but those who aren’t are going to find it a bit on the stale side. The various playable camera angles available in this game are extremely customizable and very good. My personal fave is using the press camera with the Fov/Zoom on 4, and the height on 3. I get a nice looking game of basketball in the half court setting, and also can see my cutters toward the rim.
There are a lot of different game modes that you can choose from including Practice, Exhibition, Street, Season, and Franchise. Practice mode is great and allows you hone your shooting and to work on your plays and fundamentals in a scrimmage type of environment. Street mode is for those players who wish to escape those arenas and hit the blacktops and recreation centers. What’s fun is using legends like Larry Bird or Dr. J and watching them tear it up in against today’s players in a nice friendly game of three on three. The Franchise mode is good, although I wish you could alter your season length. Playing a full 82 game schedule is fine if you have the time, but not everyone does. Seeing that player statistics are mainly based on per game averages, it wouldn’t seem to be a problem to have shortened schedules in the Franchise mode. The CPU trade AI seems decent, as you usually have to give up something good to get something good in return. The only drawback is having to trade players on a one for one basis. That can become a problem if you try to emulate an unbalanced blockbuster NBA trade involving multiple players. Also you cannot trade a player for a draft pick. A player must be thrown in with that pick. Overall it’s can still be enjoyable to draft that first round pick and see how he impacts your lineup.
It’s great to be an Xbox owner if you’re a hoops fan. Whether you like the run and gun style of Inside Drive 2002, or the accurately simmed style of NBA 2K2, you really can’t go wrong. Visual Concepts has started their series on the Xbox in outstanding fashion. If you are looking for the best the series has to offer, I suggest you go out and get this game.