It's not everyday when a good basketball game comes out. Some games try and break into the sports fans minds, but they just don't make it, whether it's the poor graphics, bad sound or horrible gameplay. NBA Inside Drive is not one of those games. This game takes basketball fans right on to the court, as if you were actually at a real game (except for the sweat smell of course).
The graphics in NBA Inside Drive are out of this world. The character detail in full respect was wonderfully done, from the skin tones of the players, to the hair color, even down to the small expressions on their faces. Amazingly, some shots of the ball, like on a foul shot, you can even see the individual dimples in the ball. Unfortunately, though, the only "people" in the game that aren't very well done are the fans in the stands. They seem to be laid in, as if they were just copied and pasted into the background. Their realism is almost close to cardboard cutouts with strings attached.
NBA Inside Drive supports Dolby 5.1. But, in this game, you may as well put it on mute. Unfortunately, the sound does not take superiority over graphics and game play. The in-game sound is actually quite silent in comparison to other sports games and it doesn't allow you to play custom music. There is no game time music playing, the crowd only cheers at specific times (when a basket is made). Usually, the commentators in a sports game make it come to life as if you were
actually at, or watching the game. The commentation isn't smooth enough or exciting enough to really keep the action moving throughout the game. The commentators only talk in pieces, not really throughout
the game play, turning off the value of excitement.
When you start the game up, you are greeted with a nice full motion video of pro basketball players playing from various games. This consists of multiple modes of play: Exhibition, Season and Playoffs. Exhibition is a popular mode when you just want to sit down and play a nice game of basketball. Season actually brings you through a real seasonal league as you take the team of your choice to the finals. The Playoff mode is actually quite interesting. Once you pick your team, you can actually have fantasy players, like having Kobe Bryant play for the 76ers (yeah right). This allows the gamer to make a team he/she thinks will do well in the playoffs. Once you get into the game, the controls are simple to comprehend. The left thumbstick works perfectly on the basketball court because your players have to turn in every direction quickly. The animation of the characters is extremely smooth, which actually help with the different moves in the game. Moves include the standard halfcourt shot, the forward and backward slam dunk and everyone's favorite - the alleyoop. The accuracy of rules in the game is present, though, with shot clock violations, back court dribbles and traveling. The disadvantage to being on defense in the game is fouls. Fouls, fouls, fouls. Hitting a simple button to steal generally causes a foul on the opposing player. This can be a neat touch in the game at first, but as the game progresses, it gets highly annoying. The other thing is the computer is perfect and never once fouled me during a game. But in some cases you can actually hit the ball out of the opponent's hand (without fouling) and maybe even score a basket. One advantage to Inside Drive is multiplayer. Playing with friends is generally the best when it comes to having fun and having symmetrical skill.
This is Microsoft's first attempt to develop a console basketball game. They are going up against some stiff competition from both EA and Sega for the ultimate basketball simulation. While Drive doesn't quite match up to the near perfect NBA 2K2, it does blow away NBA Live 2002. If you are a basketball game fan who likes insane graphics and has patience, this is the game for you. NBA Inside Drive is an outstanding first year effort by Microsoft, and is a damn good basketball game.