NBA PSP Review

989 Sport's "NBA Shootout" series has always been lagging behind the competition. So far actually that in 1999, they didn't even bother to release a yearly entry for 'quality control.' It's a real shame the same people who made the call to axe that game didn't make it for this first PSP entry, simply titled "NBA."

There's so much wrong here, it's hard to figure out where to start. The menu offers up a fair amount of play options, the most exciting of the group being some of the mini games (including the Skills Challenge and 3 Point Shootout). That's as good as the game gets. Your only other choices are exhibition, season, and online play. It's sufficient for both a launch and handheld game, that is, until you dig a little deeper.

For an exhibition match-up, you can play around with a small variety of options, including a few rules and how many minutes you would like to play in each quarter. That makes sense. However, in a season game, you're locked in with four-minute quarters. That's it; you have no other choices available to you. You can set everything else from the season length, playoff brackets, rules, and even sign free agents. Just don't plan to see those newly signed players on the floor for more than 16-minutes a game.

The on-court game is just as dry. It moves at a solid clip, accurately pacing the real game, it's when the AI starts playing that things really crumble. To put it rather crudely, the opposing players are stupid. They seem to have no bearings on the court; randomly stepping out of bounds for no reason other than they walked to far. You'll stare in awe as the player guarding you decides to run circles inside the key. They'll lob up fade away three point shots with regularity, even when wide open. They even like to take random jumpers from behind the backboard.

If your offense was any better, some of these flaws may not be so bad, but it's not. Setting up pick and such can be quite effective, maybe even too much so. It seems the defense can't make the switch in time. Expect many open looks at the lane. You don't even have to dive into the playbook either. Just find one of your players standing around and drive past them. Their seemingly limp bodies do the rest.

Shooting is a small source of frustration. Instead of the usual "hold the button then release" mechanic that's been used in just about every basketball game since the 16-bit era, you now have to press O twice (once to start your jump, another to release). The last American game to use this style was the mundane "NBA All Star Challenge" in 1993. Why it's been brought back here is questionable.

If it added something to the game, maybe everything would be forgiven. All it does in actuality is cause madness the first few games while you make the adjustment. Also, don't blame yourself when the AI blocks about half of your shots. It's not you, that's the just the terrible programming.

At least while boredom sets in, you'll be treated to some nice visuals. The player models look spectacular on the small screen and the facial details, for the most part, are accurate. You'll only occasionally get a good look since there's no replay and a meager two court views. The stadiums are dark and it looks like half the lights have burned out. The presentation is meager, occasionally stopping to show a spectacular dunk in freeze frame as it's captured onto an Upper Deck card.

Audio is as barren at the AI, lacking any commentary or a diverse selection of stadium music. You'll hear a dull crowd perk up once in a while during spectacular plays and the monotonous sound of dribbling. Menu music is composed almost entirely of rap, which is obviously a matter of taste.

There's one single reason this game was released: Sony knew it would be the only basketball game at launch. It was likely rushed and the final product shows that. Though it's an early call to make, there's a strong possibility this will end up being the worst basketball game for the system when it's all over.

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