"I wish I was a little bit taller...I wish I was a little bit better, too."
Hear the crowd roar with excitement as you........what's that? You say you didn't hear the roar? Well then, feast your eyes on the rim quakin', fast breakin'........huh? You say you missed the shaking of the rim and the breaking of the fast? Well did you at least feel the booty shakin' power of a slam-a-lam-a-jam? No? Your booty hasn't moved all day, you say?
Oh, I know what's wrong. You've been playing Microsoft's NBA Full Court Press, the beautiful and frustrating basketball sim.
As an ex-athlete (using the term "athlete" loosely), I have noticed that for some inexplicable reason, basketball is more difficult to recreate as a video game than other sports. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the game: intense, constant action, graceful movement coupled with tremendous force, and an overcrowded playing field make for a tough translation. The tendency is for the graphics to fall short of the gameplay, or vice versa. Unfortunately, Microsoft has failed to break this pattern.
The first thing I noticed about this game was the overwhelming and incredibly strange lack of an instruction manual. Existentially speaking, I have always felt that this is something that should just "be there." My angst quickly turned to excitement, however, when I realized that the manual did in fact exist, only it was on my computer. A built-in on line help system that doubles as the playing guide, supposedly for ease of operation. While the "don't waste paper" sentiment is appreciated, accessing the instructions became nothing less than a big pain in the ass.
NBA Full Court Press is your basic basketball simulation. You can play or coach any of the 29 current NBA teams, including two all-star teams and up to four custom teams. However, several of the league's major stars are unable to make an appearance in the game, presumably due to legalities and contractual footnotes. That means no Shaq, no Michael, no Charles (to name a few). Surprisingly, they forgot to include the option of creating your own players. This puts a date on the game since you are unable to keep up to speed by "building" rookies.
You can start in one of four modes: Practice, Single Game, Season, or Playoffs. Pretty standard, though the Practice mode is interesting. Here you can work on getting the hang of the controls without getting schooled by the computer.
Speaking of controls, I highly advise using a Gamepad or multi-button joystick. Trying to navigate around the court with the mouse or keyboard is like trying to hold Michael Jordan under 20 - you just can't do it without inflicting severe physical harm. Standard two-button joysticks are useless as well, since there are four main action buttons required.
When you get past the license problems, the control problems and the instruction problems, prepare to witness a quite beautiful game. The graphics are crisp (especially in the higher res modes) and consistent, meaning no real breaks or mapping problems. Each team's home court is reliably recreated. The crowd looks great (watercolor?), but lacks much activity. The same cannot be said for the players, who show startling depth of movement. Over 250 motions were captured, adding a sense of realism to the gameplay.
Though the graphics are good on the large scale, the more detailed stuff leaves much to be desired. It is nearly impossible to distinguish players from one another, seeing as how they are all the same height and their jersey numbers are tiny. It shouldn't be difficult to tell a center from a point guard (one's big, one's little), but alas, in this game it is. The one superficial attention paid is to Dennis Rodman's doo, which by some incredible and previously undiscovered chameleon-like power manages to actually change color during the course of a game. Amazing... he probably wishes he actually had that ability.
One of the game's better features is the sound. Color commentary is given by Kevin Calabro, voice of the Seattle Supersonics. Mr. Calabro likes to comment on just about everything, and I must admit that his witticisms are indeed, well, witty. The music is pretty mellow, occurring mainly as background accompaniment.
Let me quickly sum up other problems with this game: 1. Fast-breaks, which have been the bread and butter of organized ball since the mighty Lakers of the 1980's (author's bias a given), are rendered pointless and non-existent. Players stop in their tracks when you pass the ball, completely cutting off the flow of a forced turnover. 2. Steals occur at an alarming rate (every two or three possessions), even by teams with no defensive firepower. 3. The refereeing is at best completely random and inane. You get called for fouls at awkward moments and can consistently travel like there's no tomorrow. 4. There is no way to control shot accuracy. You are completely at the mercy of each players shooting skill level. This makes free-throw shooting a tiresome and mundane practice (you have no control over your shot). 5.I scored over 200 points playing as those perennial contenders, the Toronto Raptors. That was against the Houston Rockets. On the hardest level. That should never, ever happen. 'Nuff said.
To get to the point (which is usually the best place to go), NBA Full Court Press is all looks and no substance. If you don't know much about basketball and want something pretty to look at, then maybe you should try this game. Or try a psychiatrist. Basketball aficionados, however, should steer clear. This one has no hang time.