NBA Inside Drive 2000 was a huge hit on the PC with some basketball gamers, including myself. Ever since, we have been wondering when High Voltage will work on another basketball game. The time has come. For the past 18 or so months, High Voltage has been hard at work developing a Microsoft Xbox-exclusive title, NBA Inside Drive 2002.
Presentation/Graphics : 90
The player animations are well done. Shaq shoots free throws like Shaq. There are a variety of dunks, such as a 360, one-hand, reverse, alley-oops and a few others. Probably not as many dunks as NBA Live 2002 or NBA 2K2, but it gets the job done. There is a minor collision problem. No, it's not the force field problem from the NBA Live franchise. The collision problem is really only apparent in replays where a player drives into traffic and does some sort of dunk or lay-up. Other than that, everything is all good.
Graphics are detailed down to the stadiums. You are able to see the speaker systems high above the court in the 76ers' arena. Each player is easily distinguishable in terms of facial, height, and weight. The cut scenes are well done. Player reactions are great. The blocked shots are done very well in the game. It is very satisfying to see someone go up with a lay-up and then your guy sends it into the stands.
The framerates do slow down a little sometimes while using the Drive cam. The slowdown only occurs for a split second and comes back to normal. This is attributed to the lowness of the Drive cam, which allows for more of the crowd to be in the view. The other camera views seem to run smooth as silk at 60 frames a second.
Presentation/Audio : 97
The commentary is very good. Ranks right up there with Sega Sports' games in commentary. I personally prefer NBA Inside Drive 2002's commentary. The lines are not cheesy. They are insightful, yet humorous at times. Keeps you in the game. Not much repetition goes on. In addition, at the end of the game, Akemi Takei does a good job at summarizing the game in a few lines while talking about the key players. In one of my games, Takei blurted out, "Kobe Bryant had so many turnovers it's like he bet against his own team." Can't beat that. In addition, the crowd cheers and boos at appropriate instances. The sound effects do their job as well. Overall, High Voltage's audio team did a good job at representing the sport of basketball through audio.
Interface/Options : 80
A big drawback with NBA Inside Drive 2002 is the lack of a franchise mode. Since this was High Voltage's first basketball game for the Xbox, they focused on the gameplay and AI. As a result, we are left without any sort of franchise mode. There is a season mode that allows you to play a 28-, 52- or 82-game season. Note that once you start a season, you are not able to adjust the quarter length. Would have been nice to have two options for quarter length. One for when you play, and the other quarter length for the simming of games. The game tracks down the major statistic categories. League leaders include overall leaders as well as just rookie leaders. A very nice touch. The game also includes player awards such as Player of the Month, All-NBA, All-Rookie, and All-Defensive teams.
The season mode allows users to trade players with other teams. Only equal player trades are allowed in the game. Meaning, you can do a 1 for 1 trade, but can't do a 3 for 1 trade. Up to three players from a team can be traded at once. Other roster management features include the ability to sign and release players from your team. Inactive player slots are included for teams wishing to move any injured player in exchange for a free agent. There is neither a create-a-player nor create-a-team feature. The computer does an adequate job at offering trades to the user, as well as trading between itself. Also, you are able to set your line-up for six different situations: Starting, Defensive, Fast, Big, 3-Point, or Rebounding.
Icon/Direct passing is also included in the game. This is done by holding the Y button and then pressing a corresponding button. I found this feature difficult to utilize with the button placement. Intentional fouls are in the game. You can set it on auto and the computer will automatically foul when time is running out and you are behind or you can use the 'BACK' button to perform it manually.
The various statistics that flash on the screen while you are in the game are a very nice touch. Some of the statistics include the team's winning/losing streak coming into the game, the game's high score, stats of players involve in a recent play, scoring runs/droughts, individual player shooting streaks as well as team shooting streaks and more.
Set plays are also in the game. You are able to call plays on the fly. In the play management screen, you are able to change the following on offense: plays, play list, default screen play, subs, fast break, half-court tempo, rebounds. On defense, you are able to change the team defense, one-on-one defense (force outside, inside, off-hand, straight up, etc). In addition, you are able to change how a player in the post is defended. You can have your defensive player try to force the offensive player to the inside or outside, amongst other options.
Also, something worth a mention, there are no options available to tweak the different aspects of the AI. In addition, you can't save games in progress. Got to play the whole game. Sad to see this feature left out.
NBA Inside Drive 2002 also features an advanced injury model. Players can receive minor as well as major injuries. Minor injuries allow users to leave their injured player in. An injured player does not perform as well if you leave him in. If he hurt his leg, he might be seen limping. The major injuries force the player to sit out multiple games.
Gameplay : 88
NBA Inside Drive 2002 is a challenging game. I consider myself to be an above average videogamer, especially when it comes to basketball games. After an easy win on veteran setting, I bumped it up to All-Star. Five games later, I still haven't won a game. I lost two games off last second 3-point shots by the computer. In my game against the Bulls, I took the lead with .4 seconds left on the game clock after Kobe hit a 15-foot shot. The Bulls called a timeout, and in-bounded from half court. I didn't even bother to play D, as I figured you couldn't get a shot off in .4 seconds, let alone make a shot. Well, Artest drilled a 3-point shot and it counted. I lost by one. I thought there had to be .7 seconds left on the clock in order to get off a shot? Other reasons why I lost was because of the AI. The AI is very good at recognizing open holes and they aren't afraid of taking it to the rack. The computer regularly shot close to 60% in the games so far. Most of the shots are from inside the paint though. I think I just need to get more comfortable on D and not allow the computer to get the ball so close to the basket so easily. Furthermore, another byproduct of the plethora of shots in they paint by the computer is the inflated number of blocks. In a game with 5-minute quarters, I had 22 blocks and 10 with Shaq. Our team motto for the game, "What goes up, must go out." I guess that balances the game a bit. This is the beauty of Inside Drive. The game makes you play D. On the offensive side, I was satisfied with my shooting percentage. I tried forcing dunks on two or three defenders on a few occasions and either had it rejected or missed the dunk with the ball bouncing off the rim.
This game is fast. Before I forget, zone defense is not implemented in the game. Unfortunately, there are no options or sliders to tweak the game speed. I've gotten used to the speed and don't mind it too much, but I still wish High Voltage would have included some sort of customization for the game speed since people play with different speeds.
Try not to play run and gun too much as the computer will end up intercepting the passes. You can try to use the lob button to get the ball into traffic. Would have been nice if you were able to control the speed and trajectory of the passes.
The cross-over is great. Not as extreme as the crossover in NBA Street, but serves its purpose very well. I was able to fake out defenders with Kobe's crossover and take it to the rack as well as create space for a jump shot.
Obviously, rebounding can get frustrating if you don't have anyone underneath the hoop. I learned that when I was playing run and gun and then popping a 3-point shot or a mid-range jump shot. Don't expect the ball to take long caroms off the rim. As in the NBA, most rebounds end up in the hands of someone with inside position by the hoop. Inside Drive 2002 could have used some more variations in the physics of the ball hitting the rim. I have yet to seen the ball bounce over the backboard.
In the past, the majority of basketball games have failed miserably in recreating the fast break. Inside Drive 2002 does a very good job at pushing the ball up the court after gaining possession. You need to get back on D quickly or else you will end up falling behind in a matter of minutes. As I mentioned before, not only will the computer push the ball, but their players will take it to the rack and deliver a facial instead of just pulling up and stopping as in past basketball games. High Voltage did an excellent job at making the gameplay flow. This is very evident on fast breaks when you are able to pass to a player who lays it up or dunks it while running in stride. Also, the game is good at allowing continuation when a foul is committed. Also, there are an abundance of steals in the game if you are careless and pass into a crowd of defenders. The game also does a good job at having defenders in front of the offensive player on a long pass.
There is also a back-down button, allowing your player to post up. The post-up game could use some work. The game includes hook shots as well as fadeaways. You can also use a spin move while posting up. The drawback is that you are somewhat limited by the direction of the spin move. I kept on trying to spin towards the baseline but was only successful on one or two occasions. Also, the game doesn't seem to factor in leverage too much. I had Shaq posting up from about 15 feet out on Maggette of the Clippers. Shaq is a monster and Maggette is 6'6" and weighs around 220. Shaq should have been able to back Maggette till he decided to stop. What happened was that after close to four seconds of backing down, I finally decided to try a jump shot. I turned around with Shaq and put up a shot. Maggette became a shot blocker and sent Shaq's shot out of bounds. Fortunately, there isn't too much of a problem similar to what I just described. This only happens when I try posting up from too far away from the basket. The post up works fine if I'm a few feet closer to the hoop. Bottom line though, Shaq should be able to move a PG from anywhere. In addition, another detail of the post game that is absent is the lack of aggression from the defensive player being posted up upon. Very unlikely you will see a defender try to tip the ball when it is lobbed into the post.
The offensive AI also is good at finding the open man. I don't know how many times I took control of another player to double the ball-handler up, and the computer got rid of it, then I tried to double team with a different player, and the computer passed the ball around and found an open guy for a shot.
Another plus with the AI is its ability to recognize the need to start double teaming a particular player if he starts hitting a bunch of shots. For instance, I faked the defender out on a few plays with Kobe, hitting some jump shots and dunks, and then a possession later, I saw an extra defender attempt to double me up. On the contrast, the AI can be improved to recognize a defensive mismatch and provide help. It's not unusual to see Shaq posting up on the computer's PG and see that no help is coming. Poor PG.
The free-throw shooting system relies on reflex. There is a horizontal meter with two circles, one for power and the other for accuracy. The speed will vary depending on your player's free-throw rating. You press the X button to start the meter, then press it again to stop as close as possible to the power circle, then press it again to stop at the accuracy circle. I found this system does what it's supposed to do.
Other notable features, include follow-up tips and able to run along the baseline after an opponent scores.
Replay Value : 78
Of course not having a franchise mode takes away from a game's replay value. The game does feature a season mode. Hey, that is not a total given these days. Look at EA Sports' March Madness 2002, no season mode. Some will argue that a franchise mode is not necessary since there are 82 games in the season, while others will argue that it's not the same without a franchise mode. You don't get to see players progress/regress, draft rookies, and other franchise mode actions. It is understandable, though, that High Voltage decided to focus on making a solid foundation in its gameplay engine along with good AI.
Overall : 87
Well, with NBA Inside Drive 2002 lacking a franchise mode, the game can be
an instant turn-off for some. However, besides not having a franchise mode
and some minor gameplay gripes, NBA Inside Drive 2002 is good at everything
else. The game provides fast, enjoyable basketball that can put all the
excitement of the NBA at your disposal. A very challenging game with
the computer constantly hitting clutch shots when the game is on the line.
Even though this happens more than it should, NBA Inside Drive 2002 is still
definitely a game worth getting.