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The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...

NBA Shootout 2003 Review

Dr_Moo By:
GENRE Sports 
DEVELOPER 989 Sports 
E Contains No Descriptors

What do these ratings mean?

Just shoot me.

People make a big deal out of doing something first. The first kiss, the first one in line, the first time you killed a man - these stand out in our lives as being inherently important because they happened before all the other times we did these somewhat trivial things.

But while doing something first carries with it a sort of emotional victory, it doesn't mean it's any good. The first time I drove a car wasn't a pleasant experience, nor was that time when I won first place in the "Worst Golf Shot" contest at Rancho Park. First means first, not best.

Someone needs to tell this to game companies, who seem to think that getting something out before everyone else means something other than....getting something out before anyone else. If this was cause for celebration, then grab your party hats and your cheap beer and join me in a toast to 989 Sports, who beat out Sega and EA this year by shipping NBA Shootout 2003 first.

Then, join me as I pour my cheap beer all over this game. Though a few nice tweaks put it on the right street, it's still going the wrong direction thanks to bad gameplay mechanics, awful graphics and sluggish control.

You might have noticed that the last Shootout game for the PS2 was actually NBA Shootout 2001. 989 skipped a year, presumably to fix the problems the first game had. They probably should have taken another year off.

However, one first in Shootout 2003 actually should be commended - the all new Career mode. In response to the new NBDL (National Basketball Developmental League), this mode lets you create a player and take him from humble beginnings in the Summer Leagues all the way into the true blue NBA. Your stats are calculated based on your performance in games - sink lots of jumpers and your boy will turn into a scoring machine; steal balls like an enraged gopher on a golf course and you might be the next Alvin Robertson.

You start off competing in local Summer League matches alongside actual NBA scrubs. Play well and you'll get an offer to join a NBDL team. Keep up the pace and you might get an offer from a NBA team, though you'll still have to earn that roster spot. The concept of raising a superstar from scratch is very cool and works well with basketball.

What doesn't work, though, is just about everything else. The flash might be there, but this baller is really in need of some hardcore lessons in the fundamentals.

Take the gameplay. Though rebuilt from scratch, Shootout 2003's is powered by a slow moving, difficult to control engine. Players move awkwardly and do not cut crisply. There is no option to get rid of the irritating 'player momentum', so half the time you're slip-slidin' all over the place. Amazingly, you cannot pass out of a shot - once you go up for a jumper, it's all over. This is supremely annoying, as it takes away a ton of cool passes and sweet plays as well as leading to more than a few ill-timed shots.

Juke moves are handled by the Right analog stick while basic control is handled by the Left. This looks great on paper, but is very hard to use well because the response time is terrible. You'll rarely pull off a behind the back dribble that does any good. The 'freestyle' button also fails to work most of the time, so forget quick crossovers coming in handy.

Things aren't any better on defense. Though you can assume the defensive stance to stay between your man and the basket, pressing 'turbo' to keep up with him makes you give up the stance and run at him rather than have you slide your feet more quickly. I have no idea why this happens, and it's retarded.

Shootout 2003 features a brand new free throw shooting system that will guarantee Shaq-like numbers at the line. You have to pull back on the analog sticks evenly to make a shot, but it's really hard and the learning curve is steep. Aren't free throws supposed to be easier than in-game shots?

None of this is helped by the bad graphics. While Shootout 2003's arenas and courts look fine, the players themselves are made up of what looks like about 10 polygons apiece, leading to a game that would be more at home on the PSOne. Animations do not flow into one another well - players get 'locked' into animations even if they are being guarded too tightly. This leads to a moonwalk effect as your guy goes into his dribble drive move while standing still since there's a defender in the way that he can't seem to get around. It looks laughably cheap. Compared to even last year's b-ball games, this is strictly local gym material.

The rest of the game is exactly what you would expect, with standard Exhibition, Season, Playoffs and Practice modes (the last is new to Shootout but not to the genre at all). There's a player creator and full roster management in here as well, but again, that's standard. They also threw in a 'Create a dunk' feature, which allows you to tweak a player's joints to create a fantastic dunk animation. Like most of Shootout 2003, it works better in the locker room than on the court, thanks again to the lame animations.

989 made one other good move, which was to hire on the inimitable Bill Walton to provide commentary. While play-by-play man Ian Eagle is pretty bland, Bill's ridiculous lines and constant stream of hyperbole ("That's the greatest pass I've ever seen!") will warrant a few chuckles.

And, if you look at it the right way, Shootout 2003 unintentionally provides a few chuckles as well. Though the Career mode is a promising new concept, the rest of this bench warmer does not make the team. But don't count the company out. After all, when at first you don't succeed...

D+ Revolution report card
  • Cool new Career Mode
  • Better than
  • ...barely.
  • Bad graphics
  • Poor control
  • No jump-passing?!?!
  • More criminal than
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