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Review: NBA ShootOut 2001
(IDG) -- As in years past, the setup for the sports season on the PlayStation pits Sony/989 Studios and EA Sports against one another. Now that the hoops season is upon us, NBA ShootOut 2001 is ready for primetime. This wily veteran has chased EA's NBA Live franchise in years past, but this time, the gap has finally closed. It's still a matter of style though when it comes between picking the right hoops game for you, but with so many sweet improvements to the gameplay, ShootOut 2001 could take the trophy away from EA.
The standard Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs modes are available to pick from, and the game scales well for different player skill levels. Four levels of difficulty, a choice between arcade and simulation modes, as well as a "close scores" option to keep the game close makes the gameplay in ShootOut pretty broad. Touch shooting, which boosts difficulty, but gives you more shooting control, can be toggled on or off, and the usual game options like quarter length, shot clock, and halfcourt violations, can all be toggled on or off. Foul calling can be adjusted to your liking.
In addition the create-a-dunk feature makes a return this year. You can control the bend, twist and tilt of all the major joints in the players body and view the changes to the animation in real-time 3D. It's a fun extra for the gearhead, but the meat of ShootOut lies in the gameplay on the court.
Gimmie The Rock
ShootOut has come a long way in a year. The gameplay has a much better balance and pace than previous efforts, and although the huge number of on-court moves you can execute take time to learn, the payoff is big. AI controlled teammates will rebound, steal, and make cuts without you having to do a thing. Of course, the control setup makes it relatively easy to run everything yourself. The total control switching on defense lets you pull up player icons and switch to a specific player, rather than just the player who's closest to the ball. If you want to play as a specific player for an entire game (or season for that matter), a great player lock function lets you keep control of the same player, even after you've passed the ball.
Xs and Os
You'll still have to do most of the work yourself however, especially at the higher levels of difficulty, but the most important play calls are very easy to execute. For instance, boxing out is done with the R2 button. In most basketball games, it's generally tougher to play defense, and if you're having a tough time without the ball, you can simply hold down X to auto defend. It's a great adjustment that can make the game play much better, especially for newbies. On offense, screens, alley oops, and on the fly play calling work really well. Basically, the game requires you use play calling if you want to score on the higher levels of difficulty, but you can improvise some plays on your own with some fancy controller manipulations. Separate offensive sets and plays let you combine a high post set with a pick and roll or an isolation. It's a very versatile system.
On the downside, the graphics in the game aren't as hot as all the gameplay options. Player models are particularly blocky, and the framerate isn't very high, but some of the special move and dunk animations are well done. The audio, however, is excellent, with commentary by New Jersey Nets broadcaster Ian Eagle that not only keeps up with the action, but is fun to listen to. Song picks that are played during real NBA games (like Aretha Frankin's "Respect") add a lot of authenticity as well.
NBA ShootOut 2001 is a very strong PlayStation hoops sim. The graphics aren't as sharp as they could be, but this installment has shown remarkable improvement in gameplay. Overall, ShootOut is a real contender for the best PlayStation basketball game of the season.
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Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.
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