We all know that Sony's 989 Studios has gone through a rough time making the jump from the PlayStation One to the PlayStation 2. While the recent football games are a step forward for the company, none of them are as big as NBA SHOOTOUT 2003, without a doubt the best sports game to come from 989 since the company's excellent soccer title.
NBA SHOOTOUT 2003 is still going to have a rough time comparing itself to the gargantuan NBA 2K3, and EA's perennial NBA LIVE, but it does have a few things going for it. The most important aspect that propels this title is the career mode.
In the career mode, you start as a lowly basketball player in the minor league (you even create this player), and try to work your way into the NBA. Everything you do is very important, and your performance can affect whether or not you'll make the NBA, get sent back to the minors, get traded, or cut.
As a whole, this works extremely well. It's a lot of fun to play through a game as a sole player, just trying to make your way into the big leagues over multiple seasons. It kind of makes me wish for a feature where I could be an offensive lineman or a kicker for a football team for a full season.
There are some other problems that insure SHOOTOUT won't quite make the grade against NBA 2K3 and NBA LIVE. Most of these are minor problems with the gameplay. As whole, things like the fine tuning of the free throw shooting and shooting just don't quite compare to some of the other games that will be released over the next couple of weeks. It's a shame really, but SHOOTOUT doesn't play as well as the competitors.
The other big problem lies in the graphics. I'm not sure that 989 has the power of the PlayStation 2 under control in this aspect. The player models are decent, and the crowd looks good, but the resolution is a atrocious and the game looks really awful compared to the other PS2 games.
The sound, on the other hand, isn't bad, but it's not great either. It's all very typical of a basketball game; nothing major to comment on. The commentators are slightly above average, providing some wit and interesting comments, but nothing like Sega's game.
As a whole, NBA SHOOTOUT 2003 is a giant step up for 989, but it still misses the mark. However, if you want to create-a-player and try to make the big leagues, this game has it. And on that fact alone, it's worth at least a rental.