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NBA Inside Drive 2003

Developer: High Voltage Software | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 10/31/02 | Genre: Sports

Last year, High Voltage and Microsoft released an awesome basketball title that had me hooked. Although it was a bit easy, I found it fun, enjoyable, and left me wondering how many improvements they would make in the follow-up. I have finally got my hands on the final version and NBA Inside Drive 2003 pales in comparison to other NBA titles on the market.

After popping in the NBA Inside Drive 2003 disk, I had to check and make sure that this wasn’t the same title from last year. The commentary still has its flaws, the graphics are almost exactly the same, and the gameplay has not been improved much from last year’s version. Although the title screen was telling me this was the 2003 edition, I just couldn’t believe it.

Graphically, there have been some improvements. Character models are more realistic looking and showcased in a higher resolution. The animation of players is also smoother. However, the upgrades to the visuals are still minor. Last year’s version offered a lot in this category and High Voltage didn’t do a whole lot to try and impress gamers with the graphics. One area I was hoping they would work on was the crowds and the pre/post game commentary. To begin with, the crowds are very flat looking and lack the realistic of the real thing. If the Xbox is so powerful, why couldn’t they have improved this? It is called laziness.

The other area in NBA Inside Drive 2003 that I feel really needs to be added in are actual character models for the announcing team. While we can hear their voices, why can’t I see them speak at the beginning and end of games? Also, after a game is over, the players line up in a row on one side of the court. Where are the reporters getting comments from the players on the game they just played?

Controlling players can be accomplished by hitting the Y button and then selecting the position you want to control by hitting the appropriate button. I found this to be much better way to select a player as you don’t have to worry about getting a guy you don’t want to control. The same is true on the offensive side of the ball too. On the gameplay side of things, High Voltage did not make many improvements to the gameplay engine--especially on the defensive side of the ball. While I normally don’t have any issues scoring, it is next to impossible to play defense. Worse, the computer can and will out-rebound you just about every single game.

While most of Inside Drive is poorly done, I must compliment developer High Voltage for making the game much more difficult. If you play on the All-Star difficulty level, prepare to be frustrated. It is so difficult that you probably won’t attempt it more than a few times. But be warned. If you leave a man open, the computer will pass the ball to them. This will give your opponent a much easier shot at the basket. So switch defenders often.

Also, the create a player mode is very fun. While it is not possible to create a superstar from scratch, you can create one or more players, play them throughout the season, and upgrade their stats based on how well they perform in a game. If you start scoring points like Dirk, Shaq, and Kobe, you will be given points to add towards your offensive stats. The same is true if you start playing well on the defensive side of the ball. However, the one drawback to this mode is that after creating a player, you will become a ball hog to help him gain more stats. Hopefully in next year’s version, High Voltage will find a better way to tweak this version by providing some practice time to help the players develop their skills in-between games.

Overall, unless you are a hardcore NBA fan, you probably don’t want to touch Inside Drive 2003. Until High Voltage takes some time to create a product that can compete with NBA 2K and NBA Live, you are better off purchasing one of those titles. So, while I liked last year’s version, unfortunately this year’s edition will have to be benched until it can make a comeback next season.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 11/18/02
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Screenshots for NBA Inside Drive 2003

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