You have to admit it, anticipation is never high when Sony announces a sports game. So when NBA was announced for the PSP, I honestly wasn't as thrilled about it as say...Ridge Racer or WipeOut Pure. But nevertheless, I was curious to see if 989 could maybe have put together a somewhat decent hoops game for the launch of the console. My curiosity was quickly answered when I actually got the game in my hand.
When playing NBA, I couldn't help but feel as if I was playing a visually updated version of the original NBA Shootout. A few control updates aside, the entire game is just so barebones that it offers very little to justify its $40 price tag. You have the basic game modes: Exhibition, Practice, Playoffs and Season. In addition, there are three mini-games: a 3-point shootout, Skills challenge and Paint. Skills Challenge is a set of challenges where you'll have to maneuver your baller around the corner, have him aim and pass through hoops and run around pre-set guards as fast as possible - this is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. The Paint mode is where you face an opponent on one side of the court and try to "paint" the most spots on the court with your color, by taking shots from each spot. And the 3-point shootout is all too obvious. There is an online mode that'll allow you to play all of the game's modes, but it's almost never packed with people. Nothing about this game is worth $40; the gameplay is rather horrendous, to say the least. The clutch shooting system is a nice idea, but the AI somehow always manages to block every shot you take, so scoring in the game is far too frustrating. NBA is definitely not a game you'll have fun with.
Visually, NBA looks ‘OK'. The players have somewhat of a resemblance to their actual counterparts, but it's nowhere near the detail we've come to see on console games. Certain players look better than others, but there are also those who just look downright bad. The animation is dull, stiff and redundant and it's obvious that motion-capturing wasn't really implemented significantly for the game. The crowds may as well be non-existent, as they're paper flat with zero signs of life. 989 could learn a thing or two from EA's PSP version of NBA Street which is a far more vivid looking title.
As far as sound and control, NBA is the king of mediocrity here once again. The sound effects are far too generic to go into detail about; all you'll hear during the game is the same crowd screams, some sneaker chirping, dribbling, and music clips. There is also absolutely no commentary to be heard, and that goes to show how rushed the game really is. And then we have the controls, which are half decent, but forcing the gamer to only play with the analog nub isn't the brightest idea. In addition to that, the game's list of dribbling tricks is practically absent, as all you have is the ability to crossover to the left or right.
NBA is beyond lackluster and barebones, it's downright sloppy. Launch title or not, this may very well be 989's worst sports effort since the first PS2 GameDay title. NBA has absolutely nothing going for it. The gameplay is broken, the depth is missing, the audio may as well be on mute, the visuals are just barely decent, and the controls have no ‘feel'. If NBA was a budget $10 game, then it may be worth looking into for an quick hoops fix. But it's not a budget title and I highly advise everyone to stay away as far as possible.
4/4/2005 Arnold Katayev