I have loved basketball games, especially those released by EA Sports over the years. This time round though, Microsoft are aiming for the slam dunk (hohoho). So do they get the three points or have they settled for just the two.
Installation, Settings and Loading Speeds
NBA Inside Drive loads up very fast, well fast to the first in terms to getting to the main intro movie. There are a bunch of settings you can fiddle about with in the game if you want to, ranging from how long you want each quarter to last to transferring of players.
The main problem with the game in my view comes in this section, the loading times for each match are about a minute at a time, it doesn't ruin the game what so ever but it does spoil it just a little, but when you consider how much detail there is going into the game, you can't really complain.
I'm sure most of you already know the basic rules of Basketball so I won't delve into them too much as there would be little point in doing so. To start with there are varying different difficulty levels to choose from, depending on how much more realistic you want the game to be.
If you want to get down to a quick game then just select the Exhibition mode and then pick the two teams you want to take part in the game. But if you want the main part of the game go for the full season mode...Which can take ages to get through, then finally we have the Playoff mode, which takes you right down to the final games in the season.
As I have already mentioned, the main part of Inside Drive is the season mode, once you have selected this game style it is down to you to pick which team you want to play on, then basically you should decide on the set of plays you would like to be your main line up. You can also trade players/swap players during the season if you feel like it so you can develop your team better.
The further you delve into the game the more you can find in terms of coaching and management options. Not only do you get to controls the players in the game but you can also call formations and different plays during the game. Certain players will tire out as the game goes on, so you will need to substitute them for a bit, there are lots of different line ups you can choose from. Various players will be good defensively, others at 3-point making, speed etc so you can see who is best at what and then make the changes accordingly.
When you are finally on the court it is time to get down to the real enjoyment in the game, and that is playing it. The game flows very well, as it should do with basketball when scoring is done so regularly. Certain players who have racked up a number of points in the game show up with special icons underneath them to show that they are running a "Hot Streak" while other icons such as "Hot shooter", "Star Player" and others are show to give you an indication of who are your best players on the court.
So the game plays smoothly, scoring is very easy to get used to, passing is good and very easy to do. So what are the problems? Well there is a heck of a lot of fouling in the game, admittedly you can change various settings so that there is less coming from you're AI controlled players, but fouling is very easy to do and happens far too often. Towards the end of a game when you are leading, it is almost a certainty that you will win due to the computer constantly doing deliberate fouls to try and get the basketball off of you
Lastly in terms to bad points is the fact that some of the AI controlled players are not the most intelligent, for example i'd prefer that my main center player did not stand under the basket a lot, not moving and making it easy to pass to him, but almost impossible to score.
I was worried that the amount of controls in NBA Inside Drive 2002 would overwhelm me, but thankfully I was wrong. The game is very easy to control right from the start. The left stick moves you player around the court while the other buttons such as A, B, X, Y control passing, shooting, crossovers, switching players, stealing, blocking etc depending on whether you are in offence or defense.
This is one of the strong points in Inside Drive, you can have great fun playing on either the same side or against each other. I racked up some mighty fine wins against my brother and various friends (along with a few batterings myself too). Up to four players can take on each other at the same time (only three on my consoles as I only have three controllers!), just try not to argue over who should be getting the basket shots.
Graphics & Sound
At first I didn't feel that impressed by Inside Drive's graphics, but once I got down to playing I really noticed just how detailed everything was, from the courts down to the little logos on shirts and on the basketball net areas themselves. You really have to be impressed by the way Inside Drive looks, reflections are perfect, nearly all of the players in the game look like they do in real life.
But despite all of the fancy graphics the game can sometimes jerk around quite often and doesn't always feel as smooth as it should do. But this is a rare thing and doesn't distract you from what is actually a very good game. Finally for graphical bad points we have the usual bad looking crowd animations, mixing 2D and 3D is never a good thing, please take note for the next version of Inside Drive.
I have to say I was surprised how good the sound is in Inside Drive, this is the first time in probably 2 years that I have been impressed by how good commentary can be in a game, the players names are all read out, little jokes are made during the game, announcers can be heard while you are playing, little quips from the players and then we also get regular score updates and player stat updates throughout. Overall I have to say the sound was excellent.
I really enjoyed Inside Drive, and to say I am still playing it even though this review is just about done is a big credit to the game, but that doesn't mean that the game is without its faults, there are certainly too many fouls, the computer AI isn't the best, but in saying that it doesn't distract from the immense fun you are likely to get from the game, and that is all that really matters. Role on Inside Drive 2003.