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Review: Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2000

November 11, 1999
Web posted at: 9:27 a.m. EST (1427 GMT)

by Andrew S. Bub


(IDG) -- When it comes to basketball simulations, no one has been able to touch EA Sports' NBA Live series. Until now.

Microsoft's new basketball sim, NBA Inside Drive 2000, jams an elbow into Live's side and drives straight for the hoop. It isn't a monster dunk, and it doesn't shatter the glass, but it's "all net" nonetheless.

How does it do it? It simply plays a hot game of basketball, leaving the frills and extras behind (much like Microsoft's NFL Fever 2000), but they are hardly missed when the gameplay shines like this.

That excellence can be attributed to an artificial intelligence that thinks and plays like a real basketball team should. The AI will use picks, double-team, call give-and-go plays, and use a wide range of shots and dunks at just the right times, and in the right places.

The difficulty is high and momentum plays the crucial role that it does in the real NBA. Often a game is won or lost by your ability to keep the rhythm going and exploiting the opposing team's mistakes. Inside Drive plays hard, and rewards you for playing hard.

It also does an excellent job providing interesting statistics as the game goes on-displaying shooting percentages, a comparison of a player's scoring average with the points you've scored with him, and noting who's hot and cold. Best of all, the spoken commentary picks up on this and you'll hear it announced while you see it in print at the bottom of the screen.

Developer High Voltage has captured the basketball gameplay EA finally achieved with its '99 incarnation of NBA Live--and this is only its first effort.

Then why doesn't Inside Drive break the glass? Partly, it's the passing mode. Instead of letting you aim a pass to produce the play you want, you indicate the pass' direction and this sends the ball to the player who happens to be in that direction. This sometimes results in your sending the ball all the way across the court--and often into an opposing player's hands.

On top of that, you can't play an abbreviated season. It's 82 games or bust. You can't save a game in progress. Players can't be injured. Internet and LAN play isn't included--multiplayer is only allowed on the same machine. Nor are play and player editors.

The graphics aren't cutting-edge, but they do exactly what they need to do without the over-the-top facial modeling in EA's game. Dunks are replayed in slow motion, which I find annoying, but they do display how well animated the players are. Suffice to say the graphics keep pace with the fluidity and speed of the NBA.

Sound is good but not great. The play-by-play announcing (by Kevin Calabro) is very well done, but the color commentary (Marques Johnson) is the most grating I've heard in a sports game. Calling a player who uses his right hand as well as his left "amphibious" is funny the first time and aggravating the 50th. I would've also liked to hear more "oomphs" and grunts from the players as they collide and jam the key on a rebound, but they are strangely silent.

Inside Drive's rookie debut has surprised a lot of skeptics--myself included. And at the ultra-low price of $19.95, you are getting a hell of a lot of b-ball bliss for your money. This is the best basketball game you'll ever see for under 40 bucks!

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