The Big Game on the Small Screen

989 Sports is set to continue their strong support of the new Sony PSP with NBA, which is due out some time this spring, and certainly in time for the playoffs. Much like the other sports that 989 is bringing to the PSP this year, NBA is shaping up to be stocked with gameplay modes and new features that will look to keep even the most hardcore basketball fan busy well after the season concludes.

For starters, there will be new player models, artificial intelligence (AI) routines, and a new shooting style all used to make NBA a more realistic experience. The PSP’s on-screen players will have striking similarities to their real-life counterparts, including unique skin tones, tattoos, body shapes, and fully-animated and texture-mapped faces. The models will also benefit from new motion-captured animations, many of which were performed by real NBA talent in order to add to the game’s authenticity. The AI has been revised so that teammates will set screens and cut to the basket on offense without initiation from the player, as well as accurate defensive positioning and shot blocking. The new shooting style, termed as Clutch Shooting, will combine player attributes and the timing of controller input to determine shot accuracy. Just like in the real NBA, if players don’t time their shot releases well, chances are that the ball won’t go in the basket.

NBA will also introduce several mini-games to provide a respite from the usual Season or Exhibition play. In Paint mode, players can compete against each other or against the computer in a race to color the court by making shots as quickly as possible. The Three-Point Contest will put players’ mastery of Clutch Shooting to the test as they try to drain as many long-range shots as possible in a limited time. Lastly, the PlayStation Skills Challenge mode is 989’s answer to All-Star Weekend, as players will be pitted against the clock in several different situations.

If gamers just want to play ball, however, NBA provides several modes of play, including Full Season mode, in which players will not only have to prove themselves on the court, but also prove themselves in terms of team management by signing key free agents and making vital trades to account for injuries. There will be 41 teams to choose from, including six teams from the National Basketball Development League, or NBDL. There will also be a Quick Play mode, so that players can get a game in either against the computer or online against a friend (via wireless connectivity).

NBA exudes a great deal of early promise, and its PlayStation Skills Challenge is intriguing. If 989 can take this mode to the same heights that EA managed to take their All-Star Weekend mode in NBA Live 2005, it could make for a pleasant genre surprise. The addition of NBDL teams is interesting and the Season mode seems to be fairly in-depth for those players who appreciate team management. We’ll see in due time if 989 can take NBA to the hole strong when our final review comes along shortly after its penned spring 2005 release.

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