Total NBA '97
Publisher: Sony Contact: 0881 505505 (UK) Price: £34.99 (UK)
Game type: Sports sim Release date: April '97 (UK)
|Players: One to
Options: Memory Card, Multi-tap
Reviewed by: Tom Sargent, Play
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Those of you who read last month's preview will be aware of how highly we regarded the near complete version. We don't usually pass critical comment on unfinished games, but in this case the demo was so impressive that, unless you were temporarily afflicted by blindness, it was worthy of high praise even in its incomplete form.
Although Total NBA '97 is the officially updated version of the NBA licence, nearly every single aspect of that game has been tweaked to produce a near perfect simulation of basketball, which not only looks like the real mccoy but more importantly plays like a dream. But before we get into the finer details of gameplay and control, you simply cannot fail to be impressed by the stupendously good-looking player graphics. You'll have real trouble convincing yourself that they're only computer generated polygons such is the fluidity and attention to detail of each player.
Assist To create truly realistic mannerisms and authentic ball skills of the NBA pros, Sony has drafted-in baggyball maestro, Lattrell Spreewell; perfectly rendering him to achieve a level of detail unsurpassed by any other game in this genre. The polygonal characters not only move with more speed and grace than in the first game, but the detail is now higher and the faces of 348 real NBA players have been digitised and texture mapped in full 3-D.
The motion capture is noticeably better than the original too, and includes a whole range of jazzy new moves including behind the back cross-overs, through the legs, pump-fakes, alley-oops, lay-ups and of course, new dunks. They are simply a joy to behold, spectacular to watch, and varied in number.
To really rub salt in your opponent's wounds, there's a replay facility, where each dunk is shown again in all its multi-angled, cinematic glory. Even the jump shot, block, running, dribbling and rebounding animations have been radically improved upon, making the whole playing experience more engrossing and compulsive.
Hustle Besides the breath-taking visuals, Sony has also paid close attention to the control system, and this is where Total NBA'97 truly shines. Somehow, its much more intuitive than the original and this is due, in part, to a new feature called 'icon passing.' This is a simple concept which comes into play during an offensive assault, or a defensive manoeuvre, giving you total control over who you pass to.
During play hold down the L2 button and Team-mates will be highlighted with either a cross, square, triangle or circle. Choose a player to pass to and just press the appropriate button. To say that this adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay is a complete understatement it totally revolutionises the ease of play. The controller is used to optimum effect with the inclusion of this feature and adds to the longevity of the game immeasurably.
Other new features include: on-screen help, a command to tell your player to cut (run) to the basket, full statistical tracking, where the game records the statistics for every player so that you can study the player and team records for individual games and entire seasons. The AI was heavily criticised for being biased towards offensive moves, but in an attempt to rectify this, more blocking and stealing moves and strategies have thankfully been added, resulting in a more balanced challenge.
Anything from exhibition, full seasons or playoffs can be accessed immediately from the extremely user-friendly options screen. And for the more mathematically-minded amongst you, there's an unbelievably in-depth bank of statistics to wade through and toggle via the impressive Rosters menu. Limitless fine-tuning of all featured teams and players can be achieved. There is even an option to sign, release or simply view them too, through player cards.
Total NBA'97 is precisely what its name suggests, the total package. It is an achievement of gargantuan proportions, and one which is virtually fault-free. If threatened with a sharpened pencil and a set of thumb screws I'd have to mention the longevity of such a game. After all, it's only basketball, where running from one end of a pretty small court to the other could become tiresome after a while, but given the fact that it manages, quite superbly, to meld nearly every aspect of the sport into one killer product (bar management) it's more likely to lure non-basketball fans into its bosom than turn them away. Buy this now.
All material copyright Paragon Online 1997.