NBA Full Court Press
Windows - 1996
Description of NBA Full Court Press
The market is starting to become saturated with basketball games and Microsoft in their quest to take over the world have decided to add their own attempt to the list, courtesy of Australian developers, Beam Software. Spectrum users of old may well remember them, they produced the classic Horace series of games, amongst other titles - indeed, check out their Web site to download free versions for the various Spectrum emulators that are available and indulge yourself in some rather sad nostalgia. More recently they were responsible for EA Cricket (aka Ian Botham's International Cricket) and the updated 97 version. They are also soon to release Killed, Krushed 'n' Destroyed - a real-time strategy game in the mould of Command & Conquer. However, does Full Court Press match up to the then unrivalled gameplay of that early "sports sim" Horace Goes Skiing?
Installing Full Court Press was simple enough, I already had DirectX installed and for once with a Microsoft game I managed to avoid it trashing my Matrox Millenium drivers. However, on attempting to run it, I got a nasty message about running in 256-colour mode. This was not a good sign and was a black mark against Microsoft before I've even started playing. My Matrox card with the help of the Windows 95 Power Toy QuickRes can change from 1024x768x65536 to 1024x768x256 on the fly. But my work PC with it's Creative Labs 3D Blaster forced a Windows restart. Microsoft, why do we have to do this? It's a pain in the ****!!! As the leading proponent of Windows 95 and DirectX as the ideal PC games OS, forcing a bit-depth change is just not on.
Full Court Press offers the usual range of options, selecting which rules to have, adjusting the graphics and sound to suit the performance of your machine, choosing the quarter length and so on. Four playing options are offered - single game, season, playoffs or practice. DirectPlay is used to offer a myriad of multi-player options over modem, serial link and network. Alternatively you can gather round one machine using the keyboard, mouse and a joystick or two - Microsoft of course, recommends that you use several of it's Sidewinder game pads daisy-chained together. The controls should be familiar to the average sports game fan, with the usual turbo, pass, shoot and steal buttons
The gameplay is perhaps the best aspect of Full Court Press. In style, it reminds me of NBA Live 95, with proper (as opposed to Live 95 's zoomed-out mode) hi-res, if somewhat lack-lustre graphics. Most of the time it plays fairly smoothly, but lacks the real fluidity of a polygon-based motion-captured engine such as that in Live 97. The controls are redefinable and quickly become intuitive and easy to use. The AI which the CPU uses to select pass recipients is quite well done, as I have on a number of occasions made to pass to a player a metre or two away and the player launches a huge overhead pass to the guy standing unmarked at the other end of the court with a clear run to the basket. Timeouts can be called during the game to make tactical decisions and substitutions, selecting strategies from a number of possibilities. The CPU AI for your opponents seems weak, though. In only my fourth game, I beat the Lakers (rated 6th overall) with the Bulls (rated 5th overall) by 114 points to 54 in a 5 minute quarter game. This was on the Veteran skill level, the middle one of three, the others being Rookie and All-Star.
The graphical style is dated, one fixed perspective isometric camera view, albeit in hi-res, you can run at 1280x1024 if your machine can cope, but it doesn't look that much better. The animation is quite good, though, with a variety of jams, dunks, layups, skyhooks and so on as well as some ball trickery on the way to the hoop. The animation seems to jump occasionally though, particularly on a couple of the slamdunks. Whilst switching to and from full-screen mode and between Full Court Press and other applications, the palette would sometimes become partially corrupted. Another problem, although it may have been intended as a humorous "feature", is the mysterious changing hair colour of the Bulls' Dennis Rodman. This seems to change from one quarter to the next and even in the same quarter!!!!
The audio in-game is on the whole good. The commentator is manic, with a range of superlatives and a good variation of tone depending on how exciting the game is at that particular moment. The Sound FX are passable, with the usual little music clips, horns and the squeak of basketball boot on the court. A patch is available, with a choice of the 96 or 97 rosters and a replacement EXE file which fixes a few bugs and adds a new feature or two, the most notable of which being that the basket net "swishes" when the ball goes through it. This makes a big difference to knowing whether you've hit the net or not and thus whether you need to go up for the rebound. I had it crash pre-patch when exiting to the timeout screen occasionally but that hasn't happened since I upgraded. However, the CPU team often gets called for inbound violations, simply because the ball is just lying there at the side of the court - normally when I've switched between full-screen and windowed modes. Occasionally a computer controlled player from my team will face off with an opponent in their half and they will do nothing until the computer team is called for a halfcourt violation. The updated rosters feature updated data, but no pictures or commentary so the player gets called number X by the commentator and has a silhouette. Similarly, presumably for contractual reasons some of the big names like Shaq aren't actually named in the game. Incidentally, reading the back of the NBA Live 97 box EA proudly proclaim that Live 97 has Shaq.
Microsoft to head into the games market in a big way - I was filled with foreboding when I first heard this and the results I have seen to date don't make me feel any better about it. The major games companies probably aren't having any sleepless nights just yet. However, Microsoft has the marketing power, the budgets and some might say the insider knowledge of DirectX and Windows 95 to make a big impact. But to do that they need to come up with something more inspiring, innovative and ground-breaking than this. NBA Full Court Press is a very average product in many areas, with 1994 graphics in a 1996 game, now being played in 1997 and little to make it stand out from the crowd. It plays quite well though and has some nice commentary. If you are still interested, check out the demo and then make up your own mind, but personally, I'd say your money would be better spent on NBA Live 97 or maybe NBA Hangtime. One factor that may sway you towards Full Court Press are the requirements, I doubt NBA Live 97 will run well on a P90, but Full Court Press certainly will.
Review By GamesDomain
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