In 1994, EA Sports released NBA Live '95 and at that moment my basketball gaming had begun. Many years have passed since that time. The NBA Live series moved onto the PlayStation and 989 Sports welcomed the arrival with a basketball game of their own: NBA ShootOut. As was the case with almost every 989 sports game, the promise and potential was there in the earlier versions of the game.
Yet for some unknown reason, the games hit a snag and tumbled towards mediocrity. NBA ShootOut 2001 was a mediocre game and a question presents itself; can ShootOut 2002 change the string of mediocrity on the series in its last appearance on the PSOne?
Presentation/Graphics : 55
When reviewing a game on the PlayStation, the toughest part of the game to review is the graphics. If you are a gamer that owns any "next-gen" console (PS2, Dreamcast, X-Box, or Gamecube) your expectations for a game's visuals are undoubtedly pushed very high. So when I popped ShootOut 2002 in my PS2 and fired the game up, my first impressions were quite low. The harsh 2-D sprites took me by surprise (in a negative way). However, after reacclimating myself to the PSOne's capabilities I was able to reassess my opinion. The graphics are still not anything to brag about, but they aren't terrible. For fans of the series, you will be disappointed because the graphics did not change at all from last year's game.
The stadiums are portrayed quite nicely, but everything else is second-rate at best. The player's heads have that "toy block" look and the bodies aren't much better. What you get is a player model that is rigid and lacks any smoothness. At the default camera view, the players do not look that bad. The camera view is pushed back and you cannot see the details of the player. The closer you get to the action, the worse things look.
For the most part, heights are factored in correctly and some of the game's biggest stars' faces are mapped into the game.
Presentation/Audio : 80
My first impressions of the play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle were very poor. The rash of corny phrases that would be said immediately turned me off. In the first game alone, I heard classic one-liners such as, "Can I have some peanut butter with that jam!" and "He is spreading the jam on thick!" I thought to myself, is this a basketball game or the national peanut butter and jelly sandwich convention?
After playing ShootOut extensively, I have to admit that Eagle has grown on me. I have found that his announcing is pretty dead-on and there is enough variety to keep you from stuffing your ears with cotton balls. When your player executes a spin move or a behind-the-back dribble, expect Eagle to call it out. Eagle also comments on a player's bad shooting night and in between quarters gives tidbits of information on one of the teams.
I would rank Eagle up with the announcers from NFL 2k or NBA 2k if it were not for his lack of emotion. His announcing may be right on, but his style comes across as dry. The only time his voice uses any emotion is when he blurts out one of his corny phrases. Also, some of his lines come late and after the announced action has occurred. I can recall on a couple of times when I scored a basket and did not heard Eagle announce it until after the ball had crossed half-court. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to put Eagle in the upper echelon of sports gaming announcing.
The rest of the audio is not as solid. The in-game music and crowd noise is terrible. The crowd noise is completely ambient. The cheers never increase or decrease in intensity. It was quite a bummer to not hear the fans from Salt Lake City reach ultra-high decibels. Even if you tweak the sound settings so the crowd noise dominates everything else, the results are the same. Maybe it is a good thing that Eagle never shuts his mouth.
Interface/Options : 25
In this day and age, sports games must have a variety of gameplay options. NBA ShootOut has very few and is comparable to a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis game. There are only three game modes: exhibition, season, and playoffs. The season mode is not even a multiple-season mode either, so you can only play one season. That omission amazes me.
One neat feature worth mentioning is the "create-a-dunk." You don't create your own dunk, but rather edit a pre-existing one. You can tweak the bend, twist, and tilt of the arms, wrists, elbows, legs, neck, and waist. My most enjoyable times playing this game were creating my own dunks. It is very cool to see your newly created dunk in a game.
Sports games must have plenty of bells and whistles. Yes, gameplay is important, but without a solid replay value and a certain level of depth, a sports game can be very boring. NBA ShootOut for whatever reason, lack of space or time or money, decided to rid itself of all the normal gameplay modes and intricacies.
Gameplay : 50
I would think that NBA ShootOut is trying to find its niche as the bridge between a pure simulation such as NBA 2k2 and a true arcade like NBA Street. While ShootOut succeeds in some aspects, it fails in others.
To sum it all up, the gameplay is sluggish and choppy. I thought that I would adjust to the slow gameplay pace, but I never did. 989 Sports has a reputation for having fast, exciting gameplay, but I just don't see it. Players don't move with grace and feel like they are moving in cement. It's not that there is a big problem moving in a straight line, but when you want to make a sharp turn you run into problems. Even with a jitterbug like Allen Iverson, you still feel like you are running around with Oliver Miller.
The high number of bounce passes that are used in the game does not help the sluggishness. The bounce pass is a useful pass in basketball, but it is not used so much in real life! It was not unusual to see a cross-court bounce pass. The pass also bogs down gameplay as the selected player goes through a lengthy animation when completing it.
Another gripe I had with the gameplay was the suspect AI and the default sliders. It was not uncommon for your third string point guard to enter the game and go 7 for 7 from three pointers. It was too easy to light it up with a mediocre player. I about threw my controller out the window in a game I played against the Washington Wizards (who do not have a certain un-retired player). Jahidi White is a respectable NBA player. He uses his big body well and is a hard worker. But what he is NOT is the second coming of Dominique Wilkins! After White completed his fourth or fifth 360-degree dunk I simply turned the machine off. When John Stockton did a tomahawk dunk from the free throw line I knew something was terribly wrong.
The rim physics are also quirky. When a ball hits the rim you have no idea where it is going. I like to compare it to one of those rims you see at the carnival.
As is the case with many sports games, the default sliders are unacceptably bad. When I played my first game without tweaking anything, there were only four fouls the entire game. In this day of the "Hack-A-Shaq" and a style of play that resembles jail ball, four fouls in a 32 minute game is crazy. The crazier thing is that those four fouls were all charging fouls.
As I mentioned above, the CPU players are very efficient at dunking. It's very frustrating to know that the guy you are guarding can dunk on you at any time. Since there are no many fouls, the number of free throws in a game is also skewed. Also, every team seems to play with the efficiency of the Utah Jazz averaging about three or four turnovers a game. Jason Williams averages that in one game by himself.
I also noticed that despite the new rules concerning zone defense, you could not select to play one in your defensive strategy. The rebounding is also slanted as your number of offensive rebounds usually equals that of your defensive ones.
Despite all this, the gameplay does become enjoyable. The pace is slow and the things happening around you are not very realistic, but for some reason the game is fun. The animations of your player driving to the basket, shooting a leaner, or battling for post position is great. My problem is everything in between those animations. I did have a lot of fun using the "touch shooting." Instead of pressing the X button and releasing at the height of your jump, you must time your pressing of the X button in coordination with a meter.
If you can overlook the inaccuracies of the game, you may actually enjoy the style of play that is portrayed in ShootOut.
Replay Value : 35
There is none. With no multiple-season feature available and only three styles of gameplay, I would say that NBA ShootOut's shelf life is very short. The game may be appealing to play with your friends, but the single player experience takes a while to get used to.
Overall : 45
ShootOut 2002 is very similar to ShootOut 2001 in almost every way. With that said, the overall score of the game will be about the same. Ian Eagle provides stellar, but emotionless, announcing, but the rest of the game is not much to cheer about. Even for fans of the series, I would not suggest to buy the game. The improvements are not great enough to warrant a purchase. You would think that 989 Sports after all these years on the PSOne would know all the tricks of the trade in making a basketball game. Until 989 wakes up and smells the coffee and they will continue to dwindle in mediocrity and play second fiddle to Sega Sports and EA.