NBA 2K2 Review (PS2)


Today Jim Cook and Jim Kelly breakdown NBA 2K2 for PS2 in their full review.

Anyone familiar with the Dreamcast versions of this series, knows that Visual Concepts has set the bar in Basketball games with its graphics. No difference here as the game boasts a variety of detailed and varied player models and stadiums. NBA Live may have improved player models from a year ago, but they still pale in comparison to those seen in NBA 2k2. However, if you have played the Dreamcast version of NBA 2K2, you won’t notice a big difference in the look of the PS2’s players. That’s not a bad thing as they were pretty good to begin with on the Dreamcast. Most players closely represent their real life counterparts in nice detail. The courts themselves are beautifully rendered right down to the grain on their parquet flooring. Lighting and reflections are noticeably improved on the PS2. Animation and movement are also smoother and more life like on this next generation version. On the Dreamcast, it seems the players run generic patterns on the floor, but in this version their movements seem more varied and they seem more determined to drive the lane, hide behind screens, and cut toward the basket. Overall this game just looks and runs better on the Playstation 2.  For that matter it is the best looking basketball game on the PS2 period.
I love the look of NBA2K2, this game is full of color and life. While playing one game with the T-Wolves at the Target Center, the light’s reflection off the floor was so real it was almost distracting. I have been playing games with a variety of teams and stadiums and this is the first basketball game where you actually may notice a difference in the stadiums. Most stadiums seem to have their own atmosphere.
In a lot of ways it looks similar to the DC version but the detail of the players, stadiums and sidelines is better. Playing a game against Seattle in Seattle and the Green of Seattle’s uniforms was just great to look at. I am all about Gameplay, but I enjoy the brightness of NBA2K2. The players look pretty good and a lot of animations have been added from previous versions. You will appreciate most of them because they add to the realism of the game. A few animation’s look a little odd, these usually happen when you drive to the hoop and take an out of control shot, sometimes, the arm angle on the shot looks pretty awkward. I appreciate the attempt to add animations that have players reacting to what is happening around them, but they need to make a couple of them slightly more realistic. These are NBA players, not guys at your local “Y”.
There are moments in NBA2K2, which are some of the best moments I have had while playing a video game. Trying to guard Steve Francis, he is standing just inside the 3pt line, he gives a little fake like he is going to drive, I backup, he starts to look like he is going to shoot, I try to get up on him. He pulls the ball down, fakes to the hoop again, I backup, he pops the jumper. Other times he might drive. The point is you really feel like you are trying to out think Steve Francis on the basketball court.
NBA2K2 feels like real basketball, most of  the nuances of the game are here. Hitting the open man as he comes off a screen and popping the jumper is a great experience. You can read the plays and movements of the other players and anticipate who might pop open, and hit them with a pass. When you are playing well, offense is fun you are hitting open shots running your plays to perfection. I particularly enjoy the post up game and not just pulling a spin move to the hoop. One of my favorite moves is to spin towards the baseline but then pull up and hit the 10 foot jumper.
However, there are moments that you feel like you can’t do anything right, no one gets open, you can’t post up on anyone and even your open shots don’t fall. I am not sure if this is some built in, but unseen momentum meter, but it can be frustrating. The controls suddenly seem sluggish and unresponsive, what looks like an open lane to the basket is closed up before you can get your man to drive the lane. Of course in some ways this is realistic, all teams and players go through streaks and play with different amounts of effort. The problem for me is you keep feeling like you are doing something wrong. The problem for some others is they decide the game is too hard and give up.
Don’t give up, the depth of this game is great. You of course have man to man defense as well as variety of zones, although my pride won’t let me use them. You can also call plays both offensively and defensively on the fly. You can set your defensive match-ups and amount of pressure you want applied, as well as double teams.
A good rebounder reads the shot and determines where the ball might go off the rim. In NBA2K2 as the shot goes up, you read the shot and try to move your player in position.
Since it’s beginnings on the Dreamcast, the NBA 2K series has really separated itself from the competition with it’s stellar gameplay. Again the transition to the PS2 is a smooth one. One element that has greatly improved this year is the crossover. In past years, the crossover was based less on functionality and more on aesthetics. Last year if you performed a crossover it usually equated to nothing more than a steal. This year skilled ball handlers will find the crossover can be an effective tool to blow past a defender at times. Additionally, there are some new unusual animations for jump shots. One that comes to mind is an unorthodox shot, where the shooter sort of twists his body while in the air and does an off kilter one-hander. It happens during close contact in the low post and is testament to some of the unique attempts at realism in the game. While the jumpshot does have a nice feel to it, some of the other low post animations stutter a bit. It’s not a big problem but when you execute some dunks and hook shots there seems to be an instance where the animation takes over and the user has little control until it’s completion. Momentum is adequate although sometimes it felt like my player was being vacuumed towards the basket as he dunked the ball. Even with those minor quirks this game still offers the best and most realistic low post and rebounding gameplay to be found on the PS2. Cook’s satisfaction of executing plays to perfection mirror my own. It’s a lot of fun to back your man down and either kick out to your perimeter players or spin past for the dunk.
In most basketball games, a lot of people will simply pass the ball down the court to the open man.  While that still is somewhat effective in NBA2k2, you will find it beneficial to learn some set plays after you cross the half court line. Setting picks and running back door plays are good ways to keep the CPU guessing and they help free your man for that open shot. In the Dreamcast version of 2K2 three pointers were successful at too high of a shooting percentage. In this version that is not the case. While some great shooters will shoot the lights out at times, the percentage is quite a bit more realistic overall. The game speed leans on the methodical side of things. Game speed can be adjusted, but it still is definitely not a run and gun type of game. Fast breaks do happen in this game, but a lot of the fundamental approach is breaking down the defense in the half court. If you learn the strengths of your post and perimeter players and implement them properly in some set strategies, you should enjoy an adequate level of success in this game.
Defense!! That should be the battle cry of NBA 2K2 this year. The reason for a slower tempo game this year is because the CPU has declared that the lane is closed this year. The AI does a great job closing a lot of easy drives that occurred in past renditions of this game. They will even double-team a hot player if you try to continually exploit them in repetition. Steals are not as frequent as years past, but they are more realistic and make sense. For example, if you are frequently posting up with your Center, they will bring a guard down on the double team to try and strip the ball. On offense the CPU is equally clever. They will run picks to where the ball handler will run behind the screen and launch a jumper. Like Cook said earlier, it really seems like you’re battling with the personalities of the real NBA players at times. Can’t tell you how many times Reggie Miller would launch multiple treys on the run like he does in real life. The CPU also likes to post up and kick the ball back to the perimeter player you are guarding if you leave him to double team.  It’s this type of competitive nature that really makes the strategic element of NBA 2K2 fun.
At first glance one might be a bit concerned with the apparent high shooting percentage achieved by the CPU. It is a valid concern in two particular areas: the low post and open shots. The CPU in the low post can be impossible to stop at times. Shot blocking for the user still is futile in a lot of instances. Open shots are never missed by the CPU. While it is true that most NBA players will drain an open shot more often than not, 100 % is not at all realistic. Thankfully, perimeter play is not automatic for the CPU as long as you get some pressure on the shooter. Sometimes they will hit even if you are in their grill, but often they won’t. If you play good perimeter defense you will keep the CPU’s shooting percentage to more bearable numbers. Unfortunately those numbers may remain skewed, as the CPU’s inside game is difficult to stop.
I have never had this much fun trying to figure out how to play Defense in any game let alone a basketball game. It is almost like a game within a game, like my personal battle with Steve Francis, you start to learn teams tendencies and can attack the passing lanes and sometimes be rewarded with a steal. When you thwart a pick and roll or break up a play it is very satisfying. Not only did you have to have gaming skills but your knowledge of basketball is tested as well.
You can choose to double team a player through a menu option for double teams set to never, always, in the paint or auto. Beware if you double team a good player more often then not he will find the open man, who will probably dunk on you. I finally decided to set my double teams on Never and then just double team when I wanted to, you can do this by hitting L2 to call for a double team.
Also on D, you really need to come up with a plan to guard pick and rolls, if you hear your guy yell switch, you better switch or you just gave up an easy 2. You have to decide to go “on top or over” the screen or underneath the screen. If you choose underneath, there is a good chance the player you are guarding will pull up behind the screen and hit the jumper. NBA2K2 knows how to play fundamental basketball. It is rewarding experience if you play fundamental basketball as well.
I have had a lot of fun playing defense, sure they will hit some high percentages on you, but as you get better, the cpu field goal accuracy will go down. Plus with all the different defensive settings and plays you can have a lot of fun figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Let’s be serious, how many guys really want to shoot 40% for the season? I can accept higher shooting percentages as long as I feel like I have some control over them.
The AI overall is very smart, cause it will take advantages of your weaknesses and it will adjust to your strengths. However, an extraordinary amount of points will be scored inside the paint by both you and the cpu. You know this because the graphic keeps telling you. I think part of this is the way you choose to play defense, if you play aggressive man to man the cpu will most likely go inside. If you give a shooter some room, the cpu will take and hit a great percentage of those shots. For the videogamer the points in the paint can vary, depending on what team you are, with the Bucks and Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen,  I have had plenty of outside points, but with other teams I can’t seem to hit many outside shots. I honestly haven’t played enough to say whether this is a flaw in the game or with me.
I have noticed that if you run your play as designed, your shooting percentage will go up, whether from the inside or outside. Also if you learn your players strengths and weaknesses your productivity on offense will improve. Points in the paint is an area that VC will have to look at.
Most of the standard sights and sounds from an NBA game are present in NBA 2k2. On the court you’ll hear player chatter, sneakers squeaking, coaches yelling and of course crowd noise. The only notable difference in this version is a less pronounced swish noise when the ball falls through the hoop. The commentary is good but isn’t as varied as it is in NFL2K2. There are some nice replays that will usually be shown at a couple of different angles. The statistical overlays are nice, and this year they include a real picture of the NBA player featured in the stats. There are several useable and customizable camera angles from which to choose. The zoom and height features really are great for getting that perfect perspective on the court. In the end Visual Concepts does an adequate job delivering a decent TV style atmosphere, but it seems this area is the least changed from past editions of this game. This series has room for growth in this particular area.
Pretty much every conceivable mode of play is present and accounted for in this game. One nice addition within the practice mode is being able to run scrimmages. It’s a great way to utilize your offensive/defensive playbook and work out the kinks in your gameplay. The practice mode itself is a great tutorial for gameplay fundamentals and really helps you hone your individual skills on the court. The Franchise mode is very similar to that in NFL2k2 in structure. There is a college draft, free agent signings and player retirements. It’s not as deep as NBA Live’s in negotiations but it is tougher on trades. It still is relatively easy to build a decent team via drafts, trades, or free agent signings, but the CPU doesn’t give a star player for a scrub either. Although the Franchise mode could have been deeper, it still should have enough elements to keep the interest of multi-season gamers.
NBA2K2 offers many camera angles most of which are playable to a certain degree. I prefer the Follow camera, with the height set to 5 and the zoom and fov set to 4. This allows me to see up court at all times and even in the half court game I can see most of the court.
The replays and screen overlays add to the overall visual effect, although some of the little notes like the Bucks are on a 15 point run are not accurate, since the cpu doesn’t think you making free throws qualifies as stopping a run.
One thing Jim Kelly didn’t mention is the Street mode, yes Sega had this before NBA Street. Street mode offers, multiple legendary playgrounds and you choice of playing anything from 2 on 2 to 5 on 5.
You can also play as many of the greatest players from the 60’s,70’s and 80’s. Bird, Magic, Chamberlain, Russell, West and many more. They didn’t seem to miss any of the truly big stars.  They bear some resemblance towards their actual selves.
I messed around with the franchise mode and simmed through three seasons with the Bulls, in my first year, I drafted that superstar point guard William Day, he quickly became my best player and helped the team go from 15 wins to 34 wins to 42 wins and the playoffs. The players attributes fluctuate during the season and the more you play younger players their ratings seem to increase.
At times, I was thinking this is one of the most fun and realistic games I have played. At others, when you continually get dunked on, or miss “gimme” jump shots, frustration sets in and you start to wonder if it is me or the game? I am having a lot of fun finding out though. I would like to score it higher but the AI involved in the streakiness of the game and the large majority of points scored in the paint are going to cause me to drop my score out of the 90’s for NBA2K2.
NBA 2K2 is a very good basketball game that performs well in the areas that count: graphics and gameplay. While it isn’t perfect and has room to grow in future versions, it is easily the best basketball sim to date for the PS2.

NBA 2K2 Score
out of 10