NBA ShootOut 2004
Publisher: Sony CEA
Developer: 989 Sports
Released: October 2003
Genre: Sports (Basketball)
Capabilities: Memory Card, Dual Shock 2 Analog Control & Vibration Feedback, Network Adaptor for online play, USB Headset
Review Written: November 10, 2003
I feel kind of bad for the folks at 989 studios. Back in the early years of
the PSone, they were the #1 sports company to beat. Now, not even a majority of
gamers are familiar with the brand, this is probably due to the intense third
party war for the sports gaming throne between EA Sports and Sega. More likely
than not, 989’s NBA ShootOut 2004 will probably be ignored for the far
better NBA Live and ESPN NBA Basketball games this year. Also
worth mentioning is that 989 has been struggling with its ShootOut
franchise for a while now, and the developers are notorious for not releasing
the game on two separate occasions. Unfortunately, things still aren’t looking
too bright for ShootOut this year, as major problems with the computer AI
holds this title back from competing with the rest of the pack.
ShootOut controls fine for the most part. One of the little touches I like in here is doing a “smart pass” with the triangle button, which significantly reduces the risk of the ball being picked off from your standard pass. Also, a quick press on one of the four directions on the d-pad automatically switches the offense or defensive play. Just like Live’s “Freestyle” and ESPN NBA’s “IsoMotion,” there are certain spin and juke moves mapped to the right analog stick that make it easier to break to the paint. 989 also did an innovative feature and added compatibility with a USB Headset so you can shout out plays to do on the fly. While this is certainly a fresh and new take for play calling, I still prefer the quick flick on the d-pad for my play of choice.
Now everything may seem fine for now about ShootOut, but the dumb-as-rocks computer AI is what tears everything apart. I do admit, they do a bang-up job of protecting the paint and not making this a fast break-focused game like Live and Inside Drive were known for last year. However, outside of the perimeter is where the AI blows up. Before, I thought I would be lucky, like once-a-game lucky, to score an open three with a star player of a team, say Kevin Garnette for example. However, by the time I sunk my fifth three-pointer with him by the second quarter, and noticing the AI was still playing extremely loose one-on-one coverage against him had me wondering what the hell was going on. Heck, they didn’t even try to jump up and block the shot, so I was nailing damn near every clean three pointer I attempted. So there are ways to manipulate the AI and pull off blowouts damn near every game, which makes the game a bore to play through by your self.
There are also a few other gripes I have with the engine. About two thirds of the time after a player makes a basket, the camera will cut away to the person who scored for a few seconds while he struts on down the court. While that may sound all fine and dandy, you cannot skip these little cut-scenes and it completely ruins any chance of driving down the court to catch the defense off guard. Another thing that is too problematic is the free-throw system. While it is a decent set-up all together, I find it much easier nailing free throws in Live and ESPN NBA than in 989’s game.
ShootOut has all the standard modes you come to expect out of a basketball game. There is Quick Play, Exhibition, Playoffs, and Season play to round off the usual suspects. Instead of having the regular Franchise mode its competitors are known for, ShootOut offers a similar-yet-different Career mode instead. How it works is by taking a created baller and starting off by playing several summer league games. There are goals to achieve in each game like holding a star player to under so many points, and making X amount of stats with your created player. If he keeps on accomplishing these goals he’ll get an offer to join an NBA or NBDL team. The NBDL is pretty much the official Minor League of the NBA, and playing a season with your created player there should be able to help him boost his attributes to prep him up for a solid NBA debut.
989 integrated its stellar online sports network that works out nearly identical to Microsoft’s XSN sports network on Xbox. It features in-depth stat tracking, user-mail and message boards, the ability to create online tournaments, and a ticker that displays scores of actual real-life sporting events across all sport genres. It’s just too bad the gameplay couldn’t live up to the caliber of the online features.
On the surface, ShootOut has some pretty good visuals. The player models have a realistic look to them, and everything seems pretty polished this year. However, taking a real good look at the players in instant replays reveal that a lot of the face textures aren’t up to par with their real life counterparts, and stuff like real-life tattoos that EA and Sega added in their games aren’t as commonly found in here.
I do like some of the cool in-game effects like slow motion close ups of dunks and blocks, and in a way they make up just a little bit for the lack of detail to the player models. The animations for spins, various dunks, and shooting are pretty spot on too. The presentation is all right, but the overlays for statistics and other player information doesn’t feel as authentic to the competition and have a “PSone” kind of feel to them.
ShootOut does a pretty good job at is audio presentation. Ian Eagle provides play-by-play while Bill Walton does the commentary. They manage to keep up with the action to a good extent, but their comments do grow repetitive faster than its competitors, and don’t be surprised if you’ll be disabling commentary all together after several games. The soundtrack is comprised of a dozen hip-hop and rap songs that have been the craze to be featured in b-ball games lately. The in game sound effects round off the package, and the developers do a good job of having all the squeaks and bounces having their appropriate sounds, and fight themes run rampant during gameplay.
Advancing your created player through the ranks of the NBA in Career mode if a fun and new experience, and should provide the solo player with plenty of hours of gaming. New to this year’s game is the ability to unlock 50 of all-time greatest NBA players. They’re done by accomplishing goals just like in Career mode, and while you’ll be hard at it to get them all, it does feel tedious spending all that time unlocking them when other games like ESPN NBA have them available from the get go. If you’re like me, you’ll probably be spending all your time in the Online mode where you can have far better challenges against real opponents than the games faulty AI.
Replay Value: 6.3
I don’t know what happened with 989, but they just can’t produce their A-Class sports games like they use to in the early PSone days. NBA ShootOut 2004 has some stuff going for it like its Career mode and excellent amount of online options, but its poor gameplay mechanics overshadow anything good these feature have to offer. While this isn’t the worst basketball game ever made, it is impossible of me to recommend it for a purchase when EA and Sega have their superb titles that outclass 989’s title in nearly every department.
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