Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball 2 Review (PC)
Most sports text-sims can be broken down into essentially two sections: the front-office management and the on-court management. Likewise, much of this review about Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 2 (DDSPB2) will discuss those two aspects of the game. The game is an amazing, if overwhelming, representation of the former. The latter, however, leaves much to be desired.
On and Off the Court Action
When you first fire up DDSPB2, you are given all the options to build and customize your game's universe as you see fit. Before you begin, however, you must choose whether or not you want to create (or load) a league or play an exhibition. As far as I can tell, you must have a league already in place to play an exhibition. It seems like a semi-useless feature, but I suppose the more options the better.
Once you choose to create a league, you are taken through a three-step process that shapes the universe in which your league presides. The first step requires you to choose between imported rosters or default NBA ones. You can also decide whether or not a European League is in play, whether you want to start the season pre-draft or at the beginning of the season, and whether you want a full or a limited financial model.
But let this be a warning to all you Trade Machine wizards on ESPN.com, only pick a full financial model if you intend on becoming the general manager of an NBA team someday. This model would make David Kahn's head explode (actually it probably already did). The full model uses every financial restriction, exception and rule that is in place with the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. The limited model simplifies this a bit by excluding things like bird rights and and restricted free agency while implementing a hard salary cap.
The second part of this process gives you a few more options that deal with how the league shapes up, including whether or not to allow foreign and high-school draft entries. It also gives you the choice of being able to be fired for doing a poor job (a box Chris Wallace did not choose to click). It will also give you one of the most important choice to make: whether to play as an all-encompassing figure in your organization, minus being the owner (global control), or to exclusively play as a general manager or head coach.
The final option is an extremely long, drawn-out way to determine the difficulty (think sliders in NBA 2K). You can choose how adept you are as a coach at different areas such as offense, defense and player development. You can also choose the coach's philosophies, which are how he manages the game on the court (crash boards, zone/man defense, and so on). All of the options here can be changed at any point in the game as well. Finally, before you head into the season, you can choose what fictionally named squad to be on.
Throughout the season and offseason, you have completely different duties that correspond with your job to improve the team, sign draft picks, cut payroll, etc.
Of course you will always have to be contending with the owner who checks in via phone. The phone feature is pretty neat because you can call your players and tell them what it is about their game and attitude you would like them to change. At one point the owner called me up to see what kind of team to expect, then asked what the luxury tax ramification would be. He said not to go over a certain amount, but that he still expected a winning effort.
The game itself has its moments, but an NBA coach has a much more limited impact on a game than, say, a football coach. You are given the options to work/yell at the ref, change the strategies and decide who is on the floor at any time. The rotation can be automatically set in the main menu, too.
During the games you get to see the floor and a live box score, as well as basic text "describing" what is happening. These are pretty much phrases like "O'Neal has the ball" or "Rondo makes the pass."
If you hope to make an actual impact on the floor, you can call plays for certain players and change up your defense on the fly. Still, there is just not much to do here, and I could not bear to sit through a 48-minute game of these little square icons that represent players skating around on the hardwood.
No one plays a text-sim for its graphics, but that doesn't mean that the presentation is moot. DDSPB2 has designed very clean off-court/front-office menus. It is very simple and clear where to go to do certain tasks, and it is a far cry better than some text-sims such as Out Of The Park Baseball.
The basic and important statistics, standings and team information is cleanly displayed for the user. A neat little league menu has standings, leaders, news, finances and an almanac. On the other side the team menu has an office, roster, staff, schedule, info and team history.
The e-mail feature is very helpful when it comes to informing you of what should be done, but I often find myself searching for where to do what needs to be done -- and if I'm ever good to move on (and even how to move on).
There are not many sounds worth mentioning, but there is an option to add them. As always, the more options to customize, the better.
Speaking of customization, it is almost effortless to create all the teams names, logos and colors for your own perfect slice of the NBA. That way, the Boston Irish are not picking up banner 18, but the Celtics are.
A big issue with the presentation is how long it can take to generate and load certain things. Also I had to create several different save files, and I even had to play through an entire one without exiting out because the game would not let me load into the files that I had saved. If I had done anything wrong in saving them, the game was not clear in terms of what I should have been doing.
As touched upon previously, you can play an exhibition or play in your own league. There is also a vast difference between GM mode (which is simply choosing to be the GM), Coach mode (choosing to be the coach) or the combination of them both.
You can play a multiplayer mode, but good luck finding enough people. You need to have a password from the league commissioner, too. I was unable to review the online play for these reasons.
If you don't plan on playing the on-court stuff, and instead you want a real basketball sim that challenges your financial knowledge (though there is a 63-page PDF manual that helps you out), your team-building knowledge and your patience, then this is a solid title to examine. Just don't plan on skating through even the smallest parts of building a successful franchise, especially if you end up being the general manager because it is the most difficult, yet rewarding challenge the game has to offer.
Gameplay: If dunking and 3-pointers are what made you an NBA fan, don't bother with this number-crunching sim. It is very solid off the court, but it feels as if you are simply a spectator as a coach.
Visuals: The only time that the graphics are really necessary is when the on-court action is taking place, and the game does not do much to impress during those times. It can be a real drag watching these numbered squares slowly pass an orange circle back and forth. But the menus are clean and easy to navigate, which is a must in a text-sim.
Audio: Since you can import and customize all your own sounds, there is no reason to complain here. However, the same crowd noise made for every home basket on the court is mind numbing.
Entertainment Value – If you are looking to test your NBA knowledge as a front-office man, then this game can keep you playing for hours at a time -- and that will just get you through the first month of the offseason.
Learning Curve: The learning process is enormous if you want to play with all the bells and whistles of heading up an NBA team.
Online Play: Good luck finding 30 buddies who own this game to start a league with you.
Score: 7.0 (Good)
Three pluses –
Great representation of NBA front offices
A fun war room for drafting
Clean and easy to navigate menus
Three negatives –
On-court "action" is brutal
The finances can be overwhelming
Immediate tasks can be clearer