ESPN NBA Basketball
The name change from 2Kto ESPN hasn't affected the quality of this basketball package, and it's a pretty package indeed. ESPN easily shines as the best-looking b-ball game this year--everything from the superdetailed player models to TV-perfect ESPN presentation looks stellar. Eye-candy aside, the gameplay actually i borrows a choice page from NBA Live's book by introducing dribbling moves via the right analog stick. Though not as extensive a repertoire as EA's bailer, these crossovers and spins help open up gameplay and accelerate the tempo. Yet, ESPN truly shines with its innovative 24/7 mode. Create a player from scratch and unlock all sorts of goodies by completing drills and challenges against past and present NBA greats. Like me, you'll keep cornin' back for more as special events (synched to your console's internal clock) become available on select dates. Minor problems arise--the camera's not close enough to the court, and players far from the ball often stand around like statues--but otherwise, ESPN's hardwood remains the place for shootin' hoops.
Back with the ESPN name and presentation, Sega's already-great game matures even further. Obvious enhancements include better animations (like uniforms that adapt to player movement), a more user-friendly approach to defense, and a redefined free-throw system, but the secret of ESPN's continued court dominance lies in its perfect pace of play. Go to a real NBA game (or watch on television if you live in the sticks or don't have the scratch) and you'll see the exact feel and gait simulated in this game.
ESPN makes strides toward being a perfect simulation of professional basketball, but until the developers master the riddle of team A.I. (players here don't always respond properly in certain situations), work remains undone. Even so, this year's model is great--improved fastbreaks impart a much quicker and smoother feel to the action, the new 24/7 mode offers incredible fun and depth, and online play works quite well. Overall, it's one of the best basketball games released to date.