Sure it may be the playoffs and this review is long overdue, but that doesn't mean you still can't play your virtual hoops. ESPN NBA 2 Night 2002 was a late-season entry to the PS2 basketball lineup, and Konami used the time to package a game that's a mix of arcade- and sim-oriented ball. Featuring a multi-season franchise mode, quick gameplay, a substantial fatigue model, and the best graphics of all the basketball games to date on the PS2, this game has a little something for everyone.
Presentation/Graphics : 88
To me N2N looks the best of all the basketball games on the PS2. NBA 2K2 is too washed out and the player models are bland. The only other serious contender (and that's a stretch) is NBA Live. The overall graphics of those two games pale in comparison to the detailed player models of NBA 2 Night. The players almost look like the actual counterparts, particularly on instant replays. While the player models are fantastic, the animations are erratic. Animations lack the smoothness of NBA 2K2's as players often run in place if guarded or simply move too quickly in spins and side steps. This is mainly due to the fast game speed that unfortunately can't be changed. However, the ball animations are some of the best around as balls bounce repeatedly off the rim on some shots.
One problem area with the game is the camera. I prefer to play my ball up and down the court. The view found in NBA 2K2 is one of my favorites, and while N2N has a custom camera available I just can't get the perfect view. One problem I have consistently is a poor perspective when near the basket. I've had many shots hit the back of the backboard simply because it was impossible to tell where I was relative to the rim.
Presentation/Audio : 50
Stuart Scott and Brent Musberger do the play-by-play and color commentary in the game. If it were simply up to Brent's calls, the game would be almost tolerable. But Stuart Scott's interjections are stupid, repetitive, and just plain obnoxious. Awful stuff that makes me cringe each time he opens his mouth. The basketball sounds are a bit exaggerated. The clank off the iron is overdone and the other sounds are a little out of balance.
Interface/Options : 85
Once you get past a somewhat confusing menu structure where options are toggled with the O and square buttons as opposed to the traditional way using the stick, you'll find a game with a decent set of options. On the gameplay front there's an exhibition mode, season mode, playoff series, and a franchise mode that allows up to 25 seasons of play. During franchise play you have full control of front office moves.
The play options are numerous. Some of the key options include difficulty (from easy to super hard!), quarter length, sim quarter length, injuries, player condition (player health can change from game to game), foul settings, and a few rule settings. The latest rules are implemented; you can't park your center in the paint guarding nobody and expect to get away with it.
Gameplay : 65
During my very first game of NBA 2 Night, I was amazed at how well both teams shot the ball. During the first few minutes neither team could miss. As fatigue set in the shots eventually turned to misses. But still shooting percentages are on the high side on both sides of the ball. I even saw the CPU take a shot from nearly midcourt and drain it with no problem (and it wasn't a desperation shot with the clock winding down). Defensive rebounding can be tough as the AI is a little too smart on the offensive boards. The box out isn't as effective as NBA 2K2 and this leads to an unrealistic number of offensive rebounds in the game.
Another quirk in the game is passing which isn't terribly smart. If you have an open man underneath the basket and point the stick in his direction and pass, many times the ball ends up on one of the baselines. Expect to blow many open shots due to unresponsive passing. Another sore spot is fouling, or lack thereof. Fouls are few and far between and you'll be lucky if there are even a half dozen fouls combined during a game. Most games are foul-free. Top on the list of complaints, though, is the unadjustable speed of the game. The game's pace is too quick and it detracts from some of the fun that could be had.
However, despite some problems there are some good points. The AI is aggressive. If you pass the ball to one of your forwards or your center and just sit on the ball, double teams quickly arrive and more times than not the ball is stripped. The AI defense rotates with the ball effectively. On offense, the players you don't control move with the ball intelligently as well. If you blow an assignment there will usually be another player there to cover you. Another positive is that the CPU teams mix up their shots. There's plenty of scoring in the paint, but the AI also has an effective long and midrange game.
Replay Value : 75
NBA 2 Night is a “pick up and play” basketball game. If you don't want the overhead associated with a deeper game like NBA 2K2, this game fits the bill. I don't know about other gamers, but if I don't play NBA 2K2 consistently, my skills diminish and the CPU whoops up on me. NBA 2 Night, on the other hand, is more of an arcade game that can be played at many skill levels and with no need to practice. If you are looking for an arcade style (fast action, lots of buckets, lack of fouls) game with some sim elements (diversity of CPU shots, nice defensive AI, fatigue and condition model), this is a good choice.
Overall : 71
NBA 2 Night 2002 retains much of the presentation of last year's version of the game but improves the overall gameplay somewhat. There are still some issues keeping the game from being the best basketball game on the market, but it has a solid foundation. The significant issues with the game are well balanced with the positive aspects. For overall quality, it's stuck somewhere between a rock (a solid NBA 2K2 title) and a hard place (the underachieving NBA Live 2002).