NBA Shootout 2003 Review
989 Sports has returned with their version of 2003 basketball and attempts to make itself a standing competitor in the ongoing rival of top sports company. The game was released before NBA Live 2003 and NBA 2K3; however, it seems to leave a lot to be desired in overall hard-court action. The game does provide some in-depth features, and introduces a couple new modes into the game, but still comes up short in the definitive choice for basketball title.
NBA Shootout 2003 is a rather poor depiction of what the Playstation 2 is capable of doing in terms of visual performance. The body models are almost similar to first generation PS2 games and even compare some slight resemblance to later PSX titles. The facial detail of most players is quite blocky and fare little association with their real-life counterparts. I had trouble really separating some players from their teammates, and this made playing the game somewhat frustrating.
The player animations were decent in performance, but were quite generic and showed little levels of variance throughout the game. The slam dunk animations were limited and the special moves - crossover, spin moves, between the legs, etc - seemed difficult and strained. Post up moves performed slightly better and is a nice part of the game, but this certainly doesn't make up for the other factors in the game. Celebration animations eventually become awkward and repetitive, and take away from the flow of the game. 989 Sports didn't necessarily do a terrible job in this area, I just hope in the future they attempt to refine and add variance to their player movements.
The environments in NBA Shootout aren't poor by any means, but they also don't add much to the game. The crowd is out of touch with the game, except during free throws where there is a very good level of interaction. Each NBA court is a perfect representation of the actual playing areas and provides a nice sense of familiarity. All in all, the environments in the game are about what you'd expect and neither hurt nor improves the experience.
Shootout 2003 offers a very in-depth sense of basketball and presents numerous features that are nice to see in a basketball title. First of all, there are the regular game modes, including Practice, Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs. These are standard in most basketball games and are executed smoothly; both season and playoff modes are showcased nicely. However, where NBA Shootout 2003 really stands out is the introduction of Career mode. The objective here is to create a player for your career and begin training in the Summer League. Here you attempt to advance your skills and eventually end up in an actual NBA lineup. Although this bares some resemblance to the ordinary Create-a-Player feature, Career mode displays a more unique and realistic picture of basketball. It is very intuitive and is almost another game in itself. It's somewhat sad that the regular gameplay engine could not aid in the features of the game.
The game physics in Shootout 2003 don't quite stack up to other basketball games, such as NBA Live 2003 and NBA 2K3. As I mentioned before, player animations are slightly strained and do not emulate the sport of basketball as you may hope. There is little slow down in the game, but what difference does it make when the overall atmosphere is lacking in delivery. I had trouble really getting into the game, and I believe this is directly related with some key issues. First of all, the defense in the game is almost non-existent and seems worthless in almost all aspects. When taking control of a defensive player, you will either be driven on or quickly burned. Attempting to steal a pass or block a shot is hardly there, unless your AI team member takes care of it. Another weak feature in the game is free throw shooting. I don't understand why 989 Sports forces players to go through this process, but I'm telling them right now it is an absolutely pitiful setup. You are forced to pull back both analog sticks at the same and level to sink a free throw, and this is extremely cumbersome and distracting; chances are when you play the game your team will shoot a measly fifty percent at the charity stripe. Although this cannot completely take away from the game, it really is frustrating and foolish in my eyes.
The offensive portion of the game is executed in an average manner and is basically the only element of the game, with defense already posing little contribution. The dribbling and shooting fashion of the game isn't anything spectacular, but it gets the job done. Passing the ball around is replicated nicely and the ball speed is dependant on pressure sensitivity of the controls. Overall, it's easy to see that NBA Shootout is an average playing basketball game, with some key features that hinder it from reaching its full potential.
The sound portion of Shootout 2003 has its strong and extremely poor points. For me, the poor situation of the game is directly attributed to the announcing and Bill Walton more specifically. I didn't like his commentary in real life and it's twice as bad in this game. Ian Eagle is the play-by-play commentator and he luckily carries out an adequate performance, but nothing can save this game from the hideous remarks of Walton; it's a good thing this game is only average playing wise, or I would have had to really suffer. Fortunately, I had no desire to continue playing and therefore didn't have to struggle through his comments. In terms of game noises, it's about what you'd expect; dribbling noises, running down the court, the swishing of the net, etc. 989 Sports performed nicely in this category, but Bill Walton and nobody else took this game to the cellar.
The controls of this title are somewhat lacking in my mind, but only in a few areas. The overall control of your players and whatnot is pretty decent, but mainly defensive and driving controls are very poor. When playing defense, you are basically not a factor and it is difficult to play an important role in this category. As for driving to the basket, you'll either be stopped by the defender or you'll get called for charging. I mean honestly, how many times do you see charging calls at the top of the key? Well, in Shootout 2003 expect roughly 5-6 a game, and that's only if you start being conservative in driving to the hoop. Other than that, players basically follow their commands and respond to your control.
Replay value is a slightly difficult area to rate for this game, mainly based on how the game performs overall. Although there are a great amount of features, especially the Career mode, it's tough to continue playing if the game isn't enjoyable. Look at it this way, the game is packed with extras, but you may not want to go through them based on gameplay performance.
In the end, I didn't mind playing NBA Shootout 2003, but it doesn't get my recommendation for an enjoyable basketball title. NBA 2K3 and NBA Live 2003 are the games to contend with right now, and that's all there is to it. Give 989 Sports some credit though, this is one of their better games in a long time and they've really tried to include a lot of features. However, what you're left with is a poor looking title that possesses average gameplay and occasionally frustrating controls. If you're tired of both Sega's and EA Sports' basketball titles, then maybe Shootout 2003 deserves your attention; otherwise, I'd suggest passing up on this game.
10/23/2002 Matthew Stensrud