NBA Inside Drive 2003 Review (Xbox)
Last year, NBA Inside Drive 2002 made some strides in the right direction. I enjoyed a lot of things about it, but with so many blocks, missed layups, dunks, and crazy turbo speeds, it was hard to keep slapping the game back into my Xbox. Well, this year is different, if you see too many blocks, missed layups, dunks, or don't like the gamespeed, all you have to do is adjust a few sliders. What else has changed and how does ID 2003 compare to last years version? Read on....
At first glance, the game looks a lot like it did last year. However, the lighting in the stadiums have been brightened up quite a bit, which will please many fans who complained about how dark ID 2002 appeared. Also, a large number of player faces have been redone, many looking like real life counterparts. The blocky shoulders from last year have been rounded out to look more human-like, but what has undergone the most significant change, are the dunk and layup animations. It seems High Voltage really worked on touching it up this year. I found myself in replay mode quite often admiring the nice finger rolls and reverse layups. The animations are appropriate to the situation and flow very fluidly.
I was happy to see the addition of tip-dunks and tip-ins this year as well, which were noticeably absent last year. The dunks come down with authority as you see the ball quickly go through the net. Speaking of nets, they need to work on the net animations for made jumpshots, it just doesn't look right. If they could get that "Swish" effect down, it would look a lot better. Right now, the net looks real stiff, like it had just been ironed. Maybe if they threw it in the wash a few times, they can get it right. ;)
Calabro and Johnson are back in the saddle this year but they are joined by Kenny "The Jet" Smith, making ID 2003 the first basketball game with a 3-man booth. Kenny provides most of the trash talking in the game. The guys do a great job together and actually had me laugh out loud on more than a few occasions. At times, they might fall behind some of the action with their comments, but for the most part, they are on point. They will talk about players in the "Zone", foul trouble, and what they ate last night for dinner. Akemi Takei is back to take care of the sideline reporting and end of game wrap-ups. The crowd seems to respond the same way as last year, maybe next year they can get more atmosphere into the game and have the crowd react to many different scenarios. I'd love to hear the crowd go up another decibal late in the game. I know it's not much, but I think it would be any easy nice addition.
Last year's version of Inside Drive did a pretty good job of representing how the NBA plays like in real life. Players went on hot and cold streaks, which gave the game a good sense of momentum and allowed teams to go on runs much like they do in real life. However, there were a lot of issues that brought the gameplay down and made the game seem arcadey. Those issues included an overabundance of blocks, missed layups, back iron dunks and insanely fast players. The addition of AI sliders (Player Abilities) this year should wipe away any of those problems, no matter what your tastes are.
At the default settings, ID 2003 is a very challenging and balanced sim of NBA basketball. Players move very well without the ball and the AI will run plays to maximize the strengths of their players. Because of ID 2003's complicated "tendencies" system, players and teams play to their true-to-life selves, which makes every game feel unique. So you will see teams that like to push it up court like Dallas and Sacramento do just that. You will see the Lakers setting up the Triangle, and the Celtics raining 3-point bombs.
I did mention earlier how great the animations are, but I do have a problem with them. The inability to pass out of a layup or dunk animation detract from the gameplay. There is nothing I hate more than going up for a layup, watching Mutombo leaving his man to help out, and pressing the pass button in mid animation only to find out it does nothing but continue with the animation. It takes away from the fun if you can't drive the lane, get doubled during an animation sequence and not be able to hit the man spotting up beyond the arc.
Another concern I have with ID 2003 are the offensive rebounds. There wasn't an issue in the early Beta I had, but the retail version seems to have plenty of them. Not only can the AI get the offensive rebounds, but it seems a little easier to get offensive rebounds yourself. I find it odd that this is happening, since the early Beta I had didn't have this issue at all. I'm sure you can tweak individual rating to fix this issue, but it should not have been overlooked.
Do you remember the charging foul that I complained about non-stop last year?? Well, it's GONE!! I could not stand the fact the whistle would blow for a charging foul and nobody fell over, nobody lost balance, NOTHING. The whistle blew and it was the other teams ball. It just didn't look right. Well they fixed this issue and now the players are sent tumbling to the floor on offensive fouls or losing balance trying to get the call. I have seen a few non-calls as well, which add to the effect.
ID 2003 has included a Practice mode, Dynasty mode and Create-a-Player along with the Playoffs, Exhibition and Single Season from last year. There's nothing groundbreaking in Practice mode. You can practice with either a single team or with two teams (two users) on the court in any of the 29 stadiums or in a practice gym. It's a great place to practice your shooting or to see some of the new layup and dunk animations. If you want, you can go in there with a couple of buddies and play a little game of HORSE, 1-on-1 or 21. Unfortunately you'll have to keep score in your head since there's no scoring system in place. You can also shoot free throws in Practice Mode, which is nice. I am beginning to like the way the free throw system is done in ID more than any other basketball game.
Create-a-Player mode may be one of the coolest additions in ID 2003. Users can create a virtual player, place him on any team and play with him in any of the modes. The cool thing about it, is that you can earn more points to put toward your player by achieving certain accomplishments with him during gameplay. For example, if you score 30 points with your created player in a regular season game, you will get some create points to build up your created player's shooting ratings. This is a nice touch and will add a lot of replay value to the game. With ID 2003's Edit Player feature, you can also edit any existing NBA players' accessories to your liking. So if Kobe gets traded to the Magic, you can change his purple leg sleeve to be blue or give him a nice pair of blue suede shoes to match his new jersey. You can also change any players' ratings or tendencies with the Edit Player feature. Want Shaq to dominate from behind the arc? Just increase his 3-pt. rating. Want Patrick Ewing to come out of retirement and have the legs he used to have, go for it. Why you would do this is beyond me, but it's there. ;) These features are nice additions to the game and should really help out with replay value. Online junkies will be disappointed that ID 2003 doesn't support Xbox Live. This is a MUST for next year!!
No matter what anyone tells you, Inside Drive 2003 is NOT the same game as last year. With the addition of sliders, how can you honestly say it's the same game?? Inside Drive 2003 offers a realistic simulation of the NBA, while keeping the gameplay fast and fun, all you have to do is play with the sliders. The only problem I have with ID 2003 is the offensive rebounding and the inability to pass out of layups and dunks. If HVS can tweak this area of the game and get the online portion ironed out, this could be #1 on many peoples' wishlists come next year.