NBA Inside Drive 2003 – XB – Review

The basketball
video game season has been paced with EA’s NBA Live 2003 and Sega’s NBA 2K3, but
the latest basketball offering to hit the court for the Xbox, Microsoft Game
Studio’s NBA Inside Drive 2003, has some impressive features not found in the
aforementioned two.  While not as complete a game as either NBA 2K3 or NBA Live
2003, NBA Inside Drive 2003 shows all the potential of a 7’6” first round draft


NBA Inside Drive
can be played in several of the standard modes featured in all basketball games
this year.  Players can practice their shots with feedback or shoot free throws
in the gym in practice mode.  In Single Game mode, you play… well a single
game.  Pick any two of the 29 NBA teams, select practice or game jerseys, and
battle beneath the boards in pro 5-on-5 action.  Playoff mode puts a team
straight into NBA style playoffs with their eyes on the prize. 


One of the bright
spots for NBA Inside Drive 2003 is the Season mode, which uses the
create-a-player feature (I’ll write about that later) and customization very
well.  In Season mode, players control every aspect of a franchise over 25
seasons.  In addition to playing the games on the court, gamers will draft,
trade, and sign players from the front office. 


Much like the
other NBA games available this year, NBA Inside Drive is offense-oriented.  Open
jumpshooters and big men in the paint will make most of their shots, maybe not
with the same frequency as NBA Live, but definitely more than Sega’s NBA 2K3. 
The post game is very limited, but it is easy to shoot a hookshot or a fadeaway
jumper.  The dribble moves don’t really seem to affect anything, and toggling
into pivot mode picks up your dribble.  Most of the offense is limited to
screens and cuts rather creating your own shot in isolation, which leads to much
more team-oriented game.  The computer AI is excellent, perhaps the best I’ve
seen in this season’s crop of NBA games.  Computer controlled players will cut,
set off-ball screens, or do whatever it takes to get themselves space for the
open J.  The on-the-fly playbook, controlled with the D-pad, is extensive and
specific.  Every play has a desired result, such as a long bomb from three-land
or body-banging isolation in the post, and each play needs to be executed as
it’s drawn up in order to be effective.  In this aspect, NBA Inside Drive 2003
is the most scientific NBA game out there. 


Defense is fairly
difficult, as it is in most NBA video games, but can be effective is played
correctly.  Blocks and steals aren’t easy to come by, and happen with the same
frequency as they do in a real NBA game.  The best you can hope to achieve on D
is to deny your man the ball or stand in his way when he drives to the hoop. 
The lack of an adjustable zoom on the camera angles can make it difficult to
keep track of players off screen, and often end up in rim-rocking slams for the


Aside from the
minor flaw in camera customization, NBA Inside Drive 2003 is loaded with
customizable gameplay options.  It’s possible to set all sorts of gameplay
features such as player speed, frequency of blocks, field goal percentage, and
other aspects with simple sliders to create a game that suits your fancy.  The
default level of players speed is a little slow, so I sped it up and found the
game to be much more enjoyable. 


The best custom
feature is clearly the create-a-player feature.  It has all the basics, such as
changing his face, apparel, and stats, but excels with its player progression
during long seasons.  A created player loaded into a season gradually
accumulates points to distribute into various statistical categories depending
on his performance in the game.  Throughout the season, created players will
earn points in offensive, defensive, shooting, and physical skill categories. 
Each stat is weighted depending on your player’s position.  For example, a
Shooting Guard will need more points to increase his three point shooting once
it approaches a higher level such as 80100.  A fifth point category, Wild Card
points, rewards players points for accomplishing certain feats such as receiving
Player of the Game honors, making a half-court shot, or getting a
double-double.  Although it usually means getting the ball to your created
player as often as possible, turning him into a superstar will still take a full
season or two.  You can even give your player one of several nicknames to be
used during games so the commentators and stadium announcer call your created
player by name instead of jersey number.  Genius!


Another excellent
feature of NBA Inside Drive is the statistical presentation throughout games. 
Stat junkies will love the frequent updates on players, showing their hot and
cold streaks, announcing season-high accomplishments, and rebounds or points
needed for a double-double.  The amount of stats the game keeps track of is
absolutely astounding and way deeper than any other game out there.  Gamers can
even try and break long-standing real NBA records because all the all-time
records are in the game.  Think you can beat Wilt Chamberlain’s famous record? 
No, not the women, the 100-point game.  They’re all in there, from Dennis
Scott’s eleven three pointers in one game to the Detroit Pistons 186 point


The controls of
NBA Inside Drive are completely customizable.  The default controls are very
straightforward, X being shoot, A being pass, right trigger being turbo etc. 
The right thumbstick can be set to controls similar to NBA Live’s freestyle
control, or to NBA 2K3’s passing control.  It’s entirely up to the player. 


NBA Inside Drive
has improved the graphics from last year’s version with excellent stadium
representations and good player models.  The arenas have the most depth of any
basketball game I’ve seen all year, but really only come into play during game
introductions.  The players on the court have a slight cartoonish look to them,
and for some reason are overly shaded in an attempt to show muscle definition. 
There aren’t too many cutscenes, and when they do appear at substitutions or
ends of quarters, the camera viewpoint seems to be from the nosebleed seats. 
Player animations are decent but aren’t jaw-dropping.  The physics need a little
work, especially on jump shots that have all the arc of a Shaq free throw. 


Listening to NBA
Inside Drive 2003 is a blast.  The commentary is loaded with things to say, from
the obvious to the esoteric.  There isn’t too much of the “Booyah!”s or street
slang that pollutes other NBA games, and most of the commentary is intelligent
and well-written.  Kevin Calabro, Marques Johnson, and Kenny Smith work the
booth while Akemi Takei does the sideline reporting, and overall the team works
well together.  If listened closely to, the stadium announcer should earn a few
chuckles with his outlandish declarations in a matter-of-fact tone.  As good as
the commentary is, the stadium and court noise are minimal and average at best. 
The soundtrack is nothing amazing, with only one track from superstar basketball
agent Master P standing out. 


NBA Inside Drive
2003 is rated E for everyone.



Gameplay: 8

The actual
gameplay is solid, but doesn’t stand out above some of the other basketball
releases this year.   


Graphics: 7.5

Same problem here,
the graphics are solid, but don’t topple Sega or EA’s releases this year. 


Sound: 8.5

The best
commentary out there is poorly complimented by weak sound effects. 


Difficulty: Medium

The adjustable
difficulty levels should suit every level of player, and the default settings
won’t intimidate NBA video game newbies.   


Concept: 8

create-a-player progression is awesome, but NBA Inside Drive lacks a few of the
features found in other games this year, such as a street court mode or specific
customizable playoff scenarios.


Multiplayer: 7.5

Playing a season
with another friend using created players is a blast, but no Xbox Live support? 


Overall: 8

This game is
perfect for stat junkies who like the RPG element of the create-a-player
feature.  Casual basketball gamers might want to look elsewhere as the gameplay
could use a few tweaks.  Either way, NBA Inside Drive 2003 is a good release
from Microsoft.