ESPN NBA 2K5 PS2 Review

From downtown! What the hell does that mean? He shoots a three pointer! For all the goodness in the world why? There’s no denying it, Basketball is a simple sport made to sound complicated. Whilst I feel a slight resentment to all things American we can’t help but hold a fondness for the commentators the yanks produce, or at least the shite they come out with.

This reviewer remembers playing NBA Jam on his beloved Megadrive as a kid and loving it. We also remember EA bringing out a game called ‘Bulls V Blazers’, which didn’t actually make sense, as it wasn’t Bulls V Blazers exclusively, always bugged us that. Still our brethren hold the game in high regard, not particularly for it’s quality, or the way it looked, but the way it played. It was Basketball indeed, that sport with freakishly tall men that was only shown in the early hours, when you’re dozy eyed and groggy. But it was good. Soon enough, we were all shouting ‘Heat it up!’ and ‘Great de-fence!’ special adulation was given to those of us who managed to smash the glass backboard with a dunk…many a B-Ball star was born, over and over.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the sport, but this game had something.

When we loaded ESPN NBA 2K5 the feelings of those lost afternoons washed over us once more. We felt love that we thought was long gone, dead inside us, emotions that had been condemned forever, never to return…

Since packing up the console production business Sega have put the shite all over the bedspread. They are popping up everywhere, capturing important titles for publishing and bloody well developing games when they feel like it too. No longer do Blizzard rape the MMORPG scene, Matrix Online is coming. No longer do Eidos have their grubby little mits all over the football management genre, Football Manager is here. No longer do EA have the monopoly over sports-action games, read on, the old Sega is dead, long live Sega!

What we are talking about is Sega’s apparent knack of being able to capture gaming genres at will. Sega hasn’t exactly been original in its thinking however, they realise that there are reasons as to why EA have such a strong influence on sports sims. As far as EA are concerned you need two things: First and foremost you need a licence, every fact must be up-to-date, every brand, team and badge must be in there. Secondly you need the game to look good.

Through developer house Take 2 – Sega have managed to deliver a very atheistically pleasing game. In fact I doubt you’d find a game that costs just £19,99 that looks as good. It’s true that no less effort has been made in recreating the biggest stars of the NBA today. It is in the game engine and that the similarities with EA really come to the surface. In order to give the game a real polished look there is a lot of motion capture, and as a result the same problems that have effected EA games, blight ESPN NBA 2K5 as well.

The problem is that what motion capture creates in visual authenticity, it reduces the playability. Too often you are left watching as your player skips round the opposition provide a ‘no-look’ pass for an open teammate to finish with a dunk, all this by pressing R1 + O. As a result it often feels like you’re doing all the hard work in getting the ball to the ‘score-zone’ and the computer takes all the glory with a lavish basket.

Another problem is the repetition. There are only so many different scenarios where a manoeuvre can be performed and only a set amount of player animations to demonstrate these events. With the default match-up set at five minutes a quarter it isn’t long before we’re seeing the same lay-ups and dunks repeated over and over again.

Still ESPN NBA 2K5 is a good game, made better by its price. Once you get into it the options and depth shine through, and it isn’t long before you realise the scale of the game and, potentially, if you have the will power, this could be a game that dictates your gaming life in the same way Pro Evo does.

In the Association mode you take the role of coach. It’s your responsibility to take your team to the title. You’ll have to pick out that essential free transfer player, employ the best coaches and deal with the concerns of your current squad. One player complaining too much, or not pulling his weight? Put him up for sale and bring someone else to replace him. It’s all about getting results and bringing in the glory over a season long period.

Alternatively you might see yourself as a bit more street, a little ghetto perhaps? ESPN NBA 2K5 caters for you as well. Have a butcher’s hook at 24/7. Here you are a street baller with little skill, but a whole lot of heart. You’ll challenge other players and beat them to gain respect and ability. The clever bit to 24/7 is that it plays as if your character is you. So if you don’t play the game for a couple of days your player’s rating and respect drops as a result. Also with the help of your PS2’s clock, the time of day you play will be replicated within the game. As a result certain challenges will only be avaible a certain times. So, if there is a little tournament scheduled for 2:00am Downtown that you fancy taking on, you have to be up playing at that time in real life to take advantage.

ESPN NBA 2K5 is a huge game, and purely for the effort Take 2 and Sega have put into it makes the problems with the gameplay all that easier to accept. This is what games should be like, low cost, but huge amounts of entertainment. Sega this is a message to you. We were a little sad when you ceased the production of consoles, but you still hold a very warm place in our hearts. All right you turn over millions of pounds a year, but I know you love the gamer, I know you love us, because of the joy you’ve given us and the fact that as yet our hearts continue to glow.