When the Xbox was released, one of its launch titles is Microsoft’s first attempt at a basketball game - NBA Inside Drive 2002. When compared to the Fever series, I personally thought that Inside Drive has the potential to catch up with the big boys of basketball titles, namely EA and Sega. Now for the third time, Microsoft and High Voltage are at it again with NBA Inside Drive 2004, a decent basketball title that still shows a lot of room for improvement.
There are a lot of aspects that go into a good basketball game and with two already solid titles, EA’s NBA Live and Sega’s ESPN Basketball on the Xbox, Microsoft and High Voltage had their work cut out for them. When Inside Drive 2002 came out it had the basic gameplay fundamentals down and showed signs of becoming a successful franchise. In 2003 there were some upgrades to the game and some much-needed added depth that really made people think that 2004 was the year that the series was going to make its leap to truly compete with the big boys.
NBA Inside Drive 2004 expands upon the game modes of 2003 with all the same modes plus a few more. These modes include Practice, Single Game, Season, Network Play, Playoffs, and General Manager. The network play is new to the series and features XSN support. So along with the Xbox Live support you also will have the XSN capabilities that will further enhance your online basketball experience with tournaments and leagues and things of that nature.
In 2003 the big addition to the gameplay was the Season mode (also known as the Franchise Mode). This was really an attempt to give the game some more depth, which was something it lacked from the 2002 edition. Well now in 2004 you really start to expect a lot more then what is provided to us in the Season mode. Unfortunately we are given a pretty stripped down Season Mode that basically just has the bare essentials for what you need in this type of mode.
The more talked-about addition to NBA Inside Drive 2004 is the XSN/Live support, which basically means you can take your basketball skills online. This addition to the game is a welcomed one, and really is a lot of fun to take part in. The games that I played in very rarely suffered from lag, and for the most part the online play was much better then playing against the computer.
We have talked about the different modes of the game but the gameplay itself is really where everything comes down to. To put it simply, Inside Drive does all of the basic things right, but fails to do anything more then that to really put it ahead of the basketball genre. Inside Drive does a lot of things right, for example, passing is very solid in Inside Drive. Moving the ball around the court can be done with ease and it works quite well. Another upside to the game is the play calling system, which is starting to become more and more important in basketball games as of late. Users are starting to want more and more control over the play on the court and in Inside Drive 2004 you are given quite a bit of control of calling the plays. Getting these plays to work sometimes can be a challenge but you can always see the players at least attempting to make their cuts, and it’s always satisfying when a play works to perfection.
The biggest problem with Inside Drive 2004 is that an attempt to be a basketball simulation but it doesn’t really allow you to play defense. In Inside Drive you have the ability to juke and to call plays but it really isn’t needed, because you can easily run up and dunk time and time again. There really isn’t much use in the juke or play calling when you don’t actually need to use it. The whole system for Inside Drive is just not there yet; it still needs a lot of work to really get up there with the rest of the big titles that have got these problems already worked out.
I am not trying to say that Inside Drive is unplayable because some might not even mind the simplistic ease of the title. But personally I am disappointed that there wasn’t more work done to refine the gameplay.
When Inside Drive 2002 came onto the Xbox I was actually pretty impressed with the character models and how it looked like the game, and had a lot of potential to become a great looking game. Two years later the game doesn’t look a heck of a lot different and instead looks like there hasn’t been a whole lot done to the games graphics.
When you look at Inside Drive 2004, the player models are a mixed bag, with some looking quite realistic, while others look like they could have used a lot more work. The biggest problem I think that is hurting Inside Drive 2004 is that the animation, which looks rather dated and is showing that it is time to refine their graphics engine. The animation looks very forced and doesn’t really give you that smooth feel that we find in other titles. It really seems as though things don’t flow together and therefore the game’s graphics struggle.
Overall I was pretty disappointed with the game’s graphics, I was expecting a lot more out of this version of Inside Drive, but instead we are given a mediocre looking game at best.
NBA Inside Drive 2004 has a simplistic gameplay system that really will appeal to those who just want to sit down for a simple game of basketball. The online support is a welcome addition to this version and is where I had most of my fun in the game. There are people who really can help try to make this game more of a simulation online and therefore you can really try and get the best out of it. The fun factor starts to take a nosedive when played offline, and finding that lay-ups and dunks are quite easy to pull off every single trip down the court.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was really disappointed with NBA Inside Drive 2004. The game has the XSN Sports label going with it, and had a solid first two years on the Xbox, but it just seems like the game is living in the past and therefore it fails to catch up with the top basketball games already out for the Xbox.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.