NBA Shootout 2001 Review
This paragraph shall be devoted to the good things found graphically in NBA Shootout, but it's going to be a short one. The opening video sequence is very well done; it's got a professional broadcast look to it. The video features different stars from the league, in a virtual city setting where they are larger than life. The players come out of the sides of buildings and dunk or perform their feature moves amidst the skyscrapers. This video could easily be the opening footage for the NBA on TBS or TNT, so maybe 989 can license it if this game doesn't sell well. The game also boasts fifty different dunks, which all look good, but it's hard to discern fifty different dunks here. The arenas are represented nicely, and the crowds that fill them are better than what has been seen in some of the more recent offerings from 989. Player's reflections and the arena's lights shine brightly from the well-polished hardwood floors, giving this game some much needed visual flair. The menus look okay as far as menus go I suppose. I know I'm stretching it here, but there's not a whole lot good to say about the way this game looks.
NBA Shootout 2001, shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Yes? Okay here goes. The summer day that best represents Shootout is the typical July day that a peasant has in Iraq. It's not good. The players from the neck down look decent, but above the shoulders they are pitiful. "Bald black man" seems to be the default look for a large portion of the players in this game. Ron Harper, Shaq, Sam Cassel, they all look pretty similar to me. Not only do their heads look the same, their postures are all alike. It looks as if the team took a cross-country bus trip to the game, and they have yet to fully stretch out. Supposedly the game moves along at 60 fps, but it's hard to tell with the herky-jerky way the players are animated. When things get crowded in the half-court offense, it's near impossible to discern what is going on in the paint. Bodies are everywhere, running through each other, jumping from one place to another.
Another example that 989 didn't get the memo on play testing their games, is the camera work. One of the game designers decided that a typical camera was not suited to show off their handiwork, so they went in a new direction. "Worthless Cam" is what I presume that it's called, but I didn't find anything in the press release touting this feature, so we'll just assume that's what it is called. After your opponent has blown by your defense for an easy dunk (more often than you'd hope) the camera shifts to the baseline to give you a "better" look of the floor. The only thing this view does is show you what your center is doing down on the other end of the floor, so unless you are going for a Hill to Laettner bomb, this view does little to help. After tossing the ball in to your pointguard, the camera follows along until half court. This is where tragedy strikes; the camera swings to its normal position during play. This makes it utterly impossible to do anything for the 3 seconds or so that it takes to get to its "normal" position. If you're trying to hit the open man on a two on one fastbreak, you can forget it, because you can't see them.
In the audio realm, Shootout performs about the same as 989's other sports titles, and that is average. It seems as if I write this for every 989 sports game, but here goes. The crowds sound decent, and the game does have some licensed songs to play during the game. Of course these are the same three songs they have in all of their games, but I suppose you do hear the same songs when you go to a live sporting event. Maybe a couple new ones would help a little. The announcing is handled by just one man, New Jersey Nets commentator, Ian Eagle. He does a respectable job of calling the action, but he's not going to astound you with any insight. On the other side of the coin he doesn't say anything really lame either, so just like the rest of the audio, he's middle of the road.
I was hoping you'd finished reading this by now, so I wouldn't have to discuss the gameplay, but it appears that a few of you are still lingering. The game sports the usual (For the PS2) number of game modes, Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs. Of course, there's no franchise mode and no three-point mode. Oddly enough this lack of a three-point mode is pointed out in the feature comparison between Shootout, Live, and NBA2k1. Apparently the logic here is that neither of the other two games have it, so it doesn't count against Shootout for not having it. Wrong answer. Just because other series don't have a certain feature that you don't have, doesn't mean it's a good thing. The lack of a franchise mode appears to be one of those "wait until next year" issues that have plagued current games. Why should I have to wait until next year, when I own the game now? The game didn't come out until February, was this not enough time to add this feature? Ridiculous. There's a decent create-a-player mode, but it is a bit unbalanced. It seems like there are as many armbands as different player models. I also couldn't make a 5'3, 300 pound point guard, so I was a little let down.
The game has varying degrees of difficulty, but none of them are very tough thanks to the game's AI. Corky from Life Goes On seems to be thriving in his job programming AI for 989, because his "mentally challenged" stamp is all over this game. The players will just stand around, waiting for something to happen. This is on offense as well as defense, people just hanging out like nothing's happening. On defense, especially on the hall of fame difficulty, an opposing player will just dribble coast to coast for an easy dunk, while your players watch, awestruck at his athleticism. The referees are equally inept while they are calling the contest. If your best player is someone who slashes to the basket, like Allen Iverson, be prepared to get called for charging. Not once, but over and over. Poor Iverson fouled out from accumulating six charging calls on more than one occasion. Keep in mind that none of these "charges" resulted in the defending player hitting the floor, or even flinching. Maybe this was designed to keep the game from becoming a dunk-a-thon, but it doesn't work, and it makes the game all the more sad.
Another glitch that's not really fair to pin on the referee, is three-point shooting. If you are so inclined, you can hit the turbo button while running up to the three-point line, and then hit the shoot button right when you get there, your player will take two more steps and take off near the foul line. This is still considered a three-point shot! That's right, even though you took two steps past the line you can shoot three-pointers from the charity stripe. The lead tester (If there was one) for this game, should seek employment elsewhere for missing that one. Speaking of the charity stripe, the method that is used here is terrible. It took about twenty air balls for me even to begin to grasp what was going on there. Something about a slinky and a green light, I don't even know.
I'm not sure how this one failed to make the highlights in the press release, but Shootout has a unique feature called a "teleporting basketball". This feature allows the developers to not have to focus on pesky things like "reality" that says a ball can't disappear from one place, and end up in another. No way man! It's all good in Shootout, you can do it here. Sometimes after bouncing off of the rim, the ball will hang in mid-air in one spot, for over a second. Then it will magically appear in someone's hands. This also happens with loose balls on the floor, they usually just teleport on over to the nearest player. This keeps him from having to do such petty things as "scramble for a loose ball" or "rebound."
Value. I'm sure there is a certain cost for the raw materials used to make this disc, so I must be sure to include them in my assessment. If the only system you own is the Playstation2, then you can go pick up NBA Live 2001 instead of this game. If you own a Dreamcast, you can pick up the excellent NBA 2K1 from Visual Concepts. I don't understand why or how a vastly inferior product like this one can compete with vastly superior titles. They must, because they are out there every year, it's been like this since games were first made. If this game was in the $10 bargain bin, and you are broke like I was when I was kid, it may, I stress MAY, be worth picking up. This game is not fun, it has many bugs, and no franchise mode, it's a bad game.
7/24/2004 Aaron Thomas