Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball Review (PC)
Gary Gorski and I have at least three things in common. We both have a fondness for the maize and blue, a keen interest in the finer points of the game of basketball, and we spend a ton of hours tied up in text-based simulations. However, while Gary’s time and effort parked in front of the monitor is producing a quality new gaming experience, my lost weekends seem to simply produce eye rolls from my wife.
If you’re not familiar with his work, Gary Gorski is the name to know when it comes to text-based hardwood action. About five years ago, we were introduced to Total Pro Basketball 2003, which was originally released by .400 Software Studios. After that, Gary and his code moved on to help form Grey Dog Software, where he would release Total Pro Basketball 2005 and, later, a college version, Total College Basketball, that he would take with him when he formed his new company, Wolverine Studios. Gary is kind of the Robert Horry of text-based sports simulations. He’s played for a few different teams, but they win everywhere he goes.
While the first effort under the Wolverine Studios banner was a very well-reviewed golf title called Total Pro Golf, most fans were anxiously waiting for Gary’s bread-and-butter game to be unveiled. That came just a few weeks ago in the form of Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball.
With Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball, the single player is going to find three different ways to play. The first, and the one I think most people will partake in, is what is being called “Global Control.” This mode puts you in the role of General Manager. Whether starting off with your dream gig or paying your dues in the Developmental League, in this mode, you call the shots. From your palatial office you can simply be the behind-the-scenes guru and see how it translates on the floor or you can actually even “deep six” your current head coach and take the reigns yourself. That’s not to say you are an omnipotent ruler. You do still have an owner to answer to.
Speaking of the real NBA, because Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball does not have an NBA license, you will find very similar teams out of the box, but the real logos and team names are not included. That’s not to say they aren’t more than a mouse click away. The beauty of the modding community reveals itself once more.
Your other two options for single-player action are basically the either/or version of Global Control. If you go with Local Control, you are either the GM or the coach and each one's duties are kept separate from the other. While I can see the appeal in this option, I will personally stick with the global option in my future careers.
When you get into the meat and potatoes of the sim engine, I was pleased to find a fast-moving sim that, in my experience, generated very realistic stats and situations. Every "simmer" is different. Some like to sim weeks, months, even years at a time and then dive into the stats. Others like the full on day-by-day approach. It’s safe to say that Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball should keep both of those groups happy.
The guys who like to get in there and watch all the action will be impressed by the title's in-game interface. You actually watch the action unfold with 2-D jerseys moving up and down the floor and into plays and defenses as you sim along. Of all of the sim titles that I am currently playing, four in total, DDS:PB does this part of the game the best. No one is going to confuse it with a game of NBA Live, but it certainly gives a nice graphical representation of the game as it unfolds. I think that this is the direction that more and more sim titles will be going in the future. Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball has a nice early lead on the competition.
It is important to point out that one of the most attractive parts of text-based sports simulations, online multi-player leagues, have yet to really get off the ground with Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball at the time of this review. I personally know of a handful of leagues in the early formative stages, but it’s too early to fairly judge the functionality until I am able to really sink my teeth into a league.
Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball is available for download via the Wolverine Studios website, where you will also find a bustling community of players and modders constantly working on the perfect basketball experience. And, if you’re concerned about this first release being buggy and unrefined, you’ll be blown away by the level of support that Gorski and his team are providing. The development team is constantly fixing and fine-tuning some of the small issues that have come up. Patches are coming out almost as quickly as issues are being posted. That’s a level of support and commitment that you don’t always see from a new release. Note: At the time this review went to press, they were already on v1.2.1.
I’ve always said that it takes a certain personality to be into text-based sports simulations. Baseball has such a natural coexistence with the genre based on the numerical base that the entire game is built around. Football lends itself well to the genre from an X’s and O’s perspective. You’ll still find skeptics when the topic of basketball comes up. To those people, I would strongly suggest that you - at the very least - give the demo of Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball a try. Not only does it do almost everything right that Gorski has been putting in basketball sims for years, it is pushing the envelope of text-based sims in terms of graphical interfaces. While you will not be quick to confuse this gaming experience with NBA2K7 on your Xbox 360, it has become so much more than simply reading lines of text and boatloads of stats.
Whether you view it as the birth of an exciting new franchise or the continuation of the solid work that we’ve seen from Gorski’s prior efforts, Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball is worth a look now and its value will only increase as online leagues start to develop and the talented mod community dives even deeper.