NBA Inside Drive 2000
Windows - 1999
Description of NBA Inside Drive 2000 Windows
Where's the season?
I can't wait till the NBA season gets well under way (just a week hardly counts) for the simple reason that I want to get a clearer picture on how current teams fare. With serious experience in Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2000 under my belt I want to take in some games on TV to see and feel the difference between this game and the real deal. Fans of computer basketball who have played incarnations of the NBA Live series may ask why bother? The answer is simple enough: because Inside Drive plays the best basketball ever seen on the PC and it's the first time in years that I have to get a close look at the real deal to tell if there's any difference at all.
To the tech lab we go...
The developers of Inside Drive have obviously decided to focus on the core gameplay. Fittingly, this pretty much sums up the whole package, as you get very good, detailed on-court action. What you don't get is features. Stuff like career mode and a player editor are non-existent, as is internet/network multiplayer. These design issues may scare away a good number of potential customers from this title. To those people I can do nothing but say that if you're interested in drafting players or playing with friends over the internet, don't buy this title.
Menu screens in ***Inside Drive*** are a snap to navigate.\ Still, at least eye candy fans won't have to make compromises. Technically speaking, the game offers solid Direct3D hardware acceleration. The players look good, if not eerily like their real-life counterparts, and the floor, stadiums, and crowds are good even if the game lacks the mind-boggling glitz of EA Sports titles. Hardware-wise the game seems rather flexible: I played it on an old system with a K6-300 and a Voodoo on 640x480, and even though the sound was a bit blocky, the game was fully playable. On my new system, a Celeron 400 with a Riva TNT videocard and SB Live! sound board, I can play the game on 1024x768 without any problems. This may be old hat for some of you but my advice to all sports gamers out there is this: PCI audio does wonders for both play-by-play commentary and your framerate. And speaking of play-by-play, I have to make special mention of how good it is in Inside Drive. While it has been available in sports games for the past three or four years, the quality has been spotty. Some titles get it solidly done--- FIFA 96, for example---and others games suffer from severe problems or just plain boring commentary--- FIFA 97, NBA Action 98, NFL Blitz. Quality improved only gradually and without too many changes. Well, until now. The developers of Inside Drive have pushed the level up for the competition as this play-by-play is a huge improvement over any other sports game available at this time. Kevin Calabro, the play-by-play man of the Seattle Supersonics and color commentator sidekick Marques Johnson provide superbly done voices. They comment on both the gameplay and on players. They joke around and have fun in the box. They have cool lines to offer: "No one does the Voodoo like you do!" "John Stockton isn't old. He's just a guy with a large record collection." The duo offer a great deal to the basketball atmosphere and provide an example for all other sports game designers to follow. This is how it should be done.
The gameplay makes it
While Inside Drive is mediocre at best in features and only slightly above standard graphically, it is very strong on gameplay. If you're looking for a sports game that gives you a hard fight for a win, then this one is for you. It is very, very hard to beat Inside Drive. That's particularly true if you expect a turbo-button dunking festival à la NBA Live. Of course, you can still get the ball to Karl Malone, hit turbo and hope for the best. Problem is, Malone will either get a charging call, lose the ball, or score with the attached pricetag of heading to the bench very soon because of fatigue. You have to play basketball, not just another computer game, to beat Inside Drive, even on the Rookie level. Actually, the developers probably should have included a true rookie mode for beginners as the game is on the brink of being too difficult for beginners.
It is tough to describe the gameplay merits of Inside Drive as it plays a complex ballgame never seen before on the computer. So I'll just list off a few things that pleasantly surprised me. Firstly, the computer spreads the floor. That means the CPU actually passes around and uses the time given on the shot clock to set up a play. And so should you; don't play this game if you're in the midst of rushing to school or work, as impatience will have you losing fast. The computer uses a variety of plays on offense, but that doesn't mean it sticks to it. If your defense leaves a man open down low, the CPU will find a way to get the ball to him for an easy two. It's vitally important for you to work various plays, as the CPU will murder a predictable opponent. Try to get an idea what you want to do before going in, then call the plays if necessary and try to execute them.
And it plays even better than it looks...\ If, however, the CPU offers you an easy basket, take it. Playing out the defense may not be as easy as you think. All in all, it's difficult, but manageable, to mount a good offense in Inside Drive. You may not find that true for defense, which is very hard to be reasonably successful at. As you know very well, zone defense isn't allowed in the NBA, forcing you to play the man. So you have to follow the ball-handler around the floor with your d-man, and that in itself requires you to be very familiar with your gamepad. Buy a good pad if you don't have one already as I have yet to see somebody win in this game with a keyboard.
Sadly (or luckily, it depends on your point of view) this isn't enough as you have to keep the proper match-ups. To give you an easy example: you can't defend the Twin Towers (Tim Duncan and David Robinson) with John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek. Sound easy? It isn't. Since the CPU is passing the ball constantly, you have to follow with the properly assigned defender. Taking over the control for a second and the ball is passed again? No problems provided that you switch your player again. I think you get the point. Computer passing makes it really tough to follow the ball around the court. And I haven't even talked about rebounds and steals yet. As this is no strategy guide but a review, I'll keep it to this: Play defence not to prevent the basket at all costs but to take away the easy baskets. If you accomplish that you'll have a fair chance of winning.
The (minor) reality check
Still, the gameplay here isn't without problems. Some usenet posters claim to have found money plays, so if you can't win on your own I suggest looking in on comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.sports. Don't ask me for tips, though, as I try to find holes in the AI on my own. Other problems include scoring variety; computer teams usually have unlikely players rack up good totals and the real scorers getting far fewer points than normal. Centers, for instance, should never get as many fade away jumpers as they do. The developers decided to make it next to impossible to fine tune the players' stats by not including an editor. Then there is the fact that computer teams make marvellous comeback wins. I often take a good lead to the fourth quarter only to see my guys missing constantly and the computer going on a 10-0 run. Invisible decisions made by the computer may in fact have a say in the end results. Of course, you should take this cautiously as it may simply mean that the computer knows how to build a momentum, but it's something to watch.
Even though I gave NBA Live 99 a Silver Medal last year, I have to say that NBA Inside Drive 2000 is head and shoulders above all other sports games in terms of gameplay and AI. If not for the absence of a number of key features and a few niggling mis-cues in gameplay, this title would be perfect. If you're looking for a tough and rewarding game to play during these dark autumn nights and rainy weekends, this one is a very hot candidate.
Review By GamesDomain
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