NBA Inside Drive 2004 brings great traits to the table with impeccable on-line game support. Unfortunately, something I found to be lacking in most of these new sports games Microsoft has been publishing, is excitement. The game play is slightly rough but stays a genuine basketball game. Unfortunately, XSN sports has nothing out of the ordinary to offer and once again falls back to its competitors - but it still is a good basketball game.
Inside Drive has a more realistic feeling to the gameplay. It's straight basketball with all the moves made by using the right joystick, but unlike other basketball games, you will find yourself forced to decide plays instead of dashing to the basket.
As all other XSN Sports games, a good number of game modes are present and all the important ones like season and on-line play are supported. This game brings good looks and good traits to the table, but fails on many little details that might make some gamers turn their back on the good stuff.
The first thing you notice when playing, is that the speed of the game is much slower than in other basketball games. Using turbo to get to the basket from your court side is not as easy either. The controls felt good, pass and shoot buttons responded well most of the time, and pulling moves with the right joystick was easy and effective. The computer AI was fairly weak and very noticeable in the game. When in defense, the players did little by themselves, on offense, they would usually try well enough to place themselves for a play. I noticed that sometimes the players running on the court would bump into each other several times before moving aside. On offense I found it very useful to use the D-Pad for picking plays, the team responded well and it helps when the opposing defense does a good job at blocking you out.
The game appeals to anyone that loves simulation over arcade. The game being at a slower pace, adds realism and strategy - for some this can be a very competitive game, especially during on-line play with friends. All in all, the game seems to be missing something. It's a simple basketball game, if you do not play it enough time to really grasp the gameplay, you will find yourself bored with the experience. Unfortunately the game is actually pretty good, but the flaws overshadow the good things, such as the control and strategy involved with picking plays on the fly coaching during the game. ESPN NBA Basketball will certainly appeal more basketball fans than this title and also offers on-line play. XSN has set very good tracks to roll the train with this year's installment, but still have room for improvement.
Graphics look good at most places, while in others look really bad for an Xbox title. Nothing exciting was offered here, and that's one of the big disappointments in this title. No excitement during incredible dunks, it lacked power and flash to it. The courts look great. The stadiums are really well done, and the wood reflections look great. The crowd looks good too, until you get tired of seeing them moving the same way at the same time all the time! The players look pretty much like the actual real life athletes, but the lower ranked players sometimes really failed to achieve that part of realism. The way they move does not look as good as in other titles from this year. Character creation has little customization options, another fall back against its competitors. If they try harder next year, they might have very good titles to await.
The sound sucked. Do not even bother with the Dolby support, I turned my home system off during play. The sound effects were less than impressive and crowd noise was not realistic and never really followed the game itself. The crowd would shout for nothing, home team can be on fire and the crowd will stay calm. Commentary was slightly different than in other games. It was interesting as the commentary would point out little stats during game play. Than again sometimes it sounded repetitive and even mixed up.
The game does not fail to bring good Live! On-line gaming support. Like all XSN titles, Live! Play allows for quick games to anything like tournaments and seasons. Playing with friends is simple and can be done quick. I found no lag-time during play and had a great time playing endless night hours. Since the game is slower and more strategic, it offered a greater challenge playing with skilled players. The season mode worked great. It's simple and quick to get playing.
So what's to say about this title? Being the last game I had to review from XSN, I found a pattern of good games that need to improve. All of them impressed me in certain aspects, but they all need to improve on these games next year and they will certainly grow to become a very good sports game franchise. Top Spin is their best release, followed by Links and NHL Rivals. But I feel there is more to come from these titles in the next few years and we should certainly look out for them.