More blocks than a Lego Factory.
I'm 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Though a virtual midget in the world of basketball, I still manage to hold my own against larger opponents. Is it my blazing speed? Nope, I'm as quick as a donkey. Is it my superb ball handling skills, my amazing no-look passes? No way. I, in fact, have a tendency to dribble the ball off my foot before I close my eyes and throw it out of bounds. What about the shoes? Is it the shoes? Not one bit. I haven't bought a new pair of b-ball shoes since 1987 (Converse All Stars, baby). Then tell us, dear Moo, what makes you so...so....so so-so?
Simple. I know the game of basketball inside and out. I've studied it, played it, and wrote about it. I understand the terms "back door," "tough D," and "in the paint," not to mention the little known "mad range" and "crazy hops." I know basketball . . . unlike Sony.
All right already, stop booing and hissing and keep reading. I honestly wanted to like NBA Shootout '98. I nearly exploded in delight as I was handed this seemingly precious gift from the oh-so-wise Game Revolution editors (did that sound sarcastic?). I tried with every bit of my critical reviewer's heart to enjoy this title, and yet, I didn't. NBA Shootout '98 single-handedly illustrates everything that sucks about the direction of basketball video gaming, though it provides some lovely sites along the way.
Let me take a second and emphasize the fact that I really liked Shootout '97. I even thought it was more fun and better looking than NBA Live '97. But, this year, it seems as if EA can't be beat. With a strong title in NBA Live '98, the boys at EA are laying a good ass whuppin' on everyone else. Sony Sports held back the release of NBA Shootout '98, perhaps to fine tune what many thought would be the game to dethrone the king. Guess many were wrong.
Before I rant about what sucks, here's what doesn't: the graphics. These are some of the best graphics yet on the Playstation. The polygonal players move with amazing realism and fluidity. The face texture mapping I raved about in NBA Live '98 has been outdone here. The players look like the actual players, even more so than in Live '98. The courts are beautiful, with killer reflections and glare effects. Even close-ups of the action look great. In short, this is the prettiest sports title ever made for the PSX.
Another cool feature is the impressive addition of Total Control Dunking (TCD). TCD allows you to actually choose what dunk to perform. This comes in handy at times - sometimes a reverse jam is more efficient than a 360. By simply holding L1 and pressing a button, you can pull off some impressive dunks. Playing above the rim has never been so user friendly.
The sound is pretty good, namely the background crowd noise, on-court squeaks, and body bashing. But the announcer....sheesh. This is the same guy who did the Sony hockey game NHL Faceoff '98 . There is no play by play - the silence is deafening. The only time he pipes up is to announce fouls or baskets. With brilliant quips such as, "Number 8, KOOOOBBEEEEEEE BRAHIIIIIIIIAAAANNNNTTT!!! With the East Bay jam-a-lam." (Ed Note: ????) Will someone please shoot this guy and find someone who actually calls the game? Or at least just shoot this guy? Please?
Well, that's about it as far as the good points go. Now for the real fun....
The first time I played NBA Shootout '98, I made sure to keep all the default options. The only thing I changed was to set the quarter length to 12 minutes - I wanted to simulate a real game between the Sonics and the Lakers. At first, the frenzied action was well met and a good match. But by the end of the first quarter, I knew something was amiss. The score: 62-58. Two of Seattle's starters had fouled out, and Shaq already had a triple double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots. Uh oh...
By game's end, here were some of the stats. Mind you, this is the first time I had played a full game, with all options set on 'normal' (including the difficulty level of Veteran). Nick Van Exel, the 6 foot point guard, had a strong game with 26 points, 14 assists, and 12 blocked shots. Rick Fox, small forward, had 28 points, 17 assists, and 11 blocked shots. Shaq? He had 49 points, 17 rebs, 13 assists, and 22 blocked shots. What about the fledgling Kobe Bryant? How does 62 points, 13 rebs, and a measly 7 blocked shots sound? Final Score? 262 to 256, favor of L.A. Yay team.
As I mentioned before, I'm not fast, I can't dribble, and I have bad shoes. But I know that no team ever in the history of the game has broken 200 points and recorded a whopping 75 blocked shots in one game. And most of those blocks had nothing to do with me - it was just the computer controlled players snuffing the CPU. Did I mention that Seattle managed to foul out all but 5 players? With the foul option set on 'Normal?' Is all of this sounding a bit...lame?
There are only 6 camera angles, none of which are modifiable. This would be okay if they were all useful and playable, but no such luck. The default One Player cam is the only effective one; two of the others are like blimp cams in football, the action cam is nauseating, and the vertical cam tracks poorly. Free throws use the well-known T meter, but it doesn't really work right (ie. I brick when I should swish; I swish when I should brick). There are 3 difficulty levels to Live '98's 4, there is no 3-point contest, and shooting the ball sucks. In most games, your shot success is modified by when you release the ball; apparently, not so in NBA Shootout '98.
Bottom line? The gameplay just stinks. The stat line looks like something out of an NBA Jam marathon, not a 5 on 5 simulation. Never mind the fancy graphics, the Icon Passing (did I forget to mention that?), or the killer dunks. The terribly unbalanced play is the mustache on this beautiful piece of art, the big zit at the end of the perfect nose.
I know basketball. I also know video games. Put the two together, and you certainly don't get NBA Shootout '98. You get something a little more like NBA Live '98. Or at least dust off the old NBA Jam skills and go to an arcade. Hoopsters looking for the real thing should look elsewhere.