Sega's ESPN NBA Basketball is the continuation of the NBA 2K series of basketball games and it keeps up the tradition of fantastic graphics and excellent simulation-style gameplay.
Dashed with a slap of ESPN commentary, including some fun studio stuff on top, the faces on players and coaches are extremely detailed to the point that the vast majority should be instantly recognisable to an NBA fan.
The game's animations are equally worthy of praise. Whether performing a killer crossover, flushing down a dunk, or ripping a rebound down off the glass, the players in ESPN NBA look very fluid in their motions. You'll see the crowd stand up and wave their arms or clap thundersticks behind the basket when an opposing player takes a free throw.
The Total Game Control is pretty realistic and although the showpiece moves are tricky to acquire, it is more simple to use than EA's NBA Live. There's also a gameplay mode for 1-4 players called 24/7 that is really addictive.
The developers have even included the free-throw idiosyncrasies of a few star players for when they line up at the charity stripe. You'll see Jason Kidd blow his signature kiss to his son before shooting and other little trademark quirks which you can try to spot in the game within a game.
The commentary - especially Tom Tolbert - can get a bit irritating after a while but the game includes several options for in-game sound, including one involving the basic sneakers squeaking on the waxed floors, chatter between players and coaches, stadium organs, and crowd noise.
Overall, lots of
fun. If you are planning on buying only one basketball game this Christmas,
ESPN NBA Basketball is a pretty good choice.