Watching the evolution of sports games has been like watching a spastic child grow up to become a handsome and brilliant Master of the Universe. Now I’m not saying ESPN’s NBA
2K5 is the pinnacle of sports gaming, but I will tell you why it comes pretty damn close – especially for all of us basketball fanatics.
Before I go on, however, I’d like to talk a little bit about the “Corky” Thatcher friendly games of the past.
In 1958, Bill Higinbotham and Bob Dvorak developed Tennis-For-Two, the world’s first virtual sports game. The game itself worked on an oscilloscope and basically demonstrated the magic of Pong in green wave form. Electronic signals bouncing back and forth. Over the next two years, Bill and Bob demonstrated Tennis-For-Two to astounded audiences across New York, but it would take another quarter century before the next electronic sports game would work its way into the public eye.
It was 1978 – our parents were disco dancing, Carter was Prez and Atari released its arcade sports classic, Football. And if a title is any indication of the creativity behind this electronic ball of poo, it fit like a glove. Sitting on a whopping M6502 cpu with less than 1 Mhz of processing power, the only glimmer of hope for this inept beast was the unique roller-ball controls.
By the late 80’s, the NES vs. Sega gaming war was in high gear leaving Atari’s Football and most other first generation arcade titles collecting dust in dive bars across America. The fierceness of said battle brought us some of the most memorable sports games to date. With the likes of Tecmo Bowl, Punch Out, and All-Star Baseball, things were indeed looking up for the aspiring couch potato youth of the world.
The 90’s brought a new era of 64 bit systems and remarkable graphics in the sports game arena. Even the game play for football, hockey and baseball titles were impressing the masses, but developers still hadn’t given much attention to basketball titles. Just another example of whitey trying to keep the black man down.
In comes Sega’s ESPN NBA 2K5.
As fans of the real life game, we know the way players are supposed to move and interact with one another on the wood. We know that players don’t stop to catch a pass (EA) or change dribble direction in a split second. This is why Sega’s geeky team of developers can self high-five their butts straight to the bank.
This year’s release offers numerous adjustments and new features made to create the series’ most realistic basketball simulation to date, powered by a physics engine that can truly handle the quick paced, high scoring, stop-and-go game play with lubricated ease.
Sega also introduces a “Next Movement” system designed to display skills and talents from specific NBA players. A player’s particular physical makeup now helps determine how well he performs in everything from running up court on a fast break, rolling a pick, or cutting off an open lane on defense.
The key feature that ties all this goodness together is the “IsoMotion” control. Using one of the thumb sticks to control your player, you can glide him across the floor and execute hop-step jukes as smooth as Iverson on his best day. Playing online, however, I’ve learned that this method of controlling can be exploited to create impenetrable defense when you throw in network lag and a stick happy adversary. Once the glitches are worked out, I imagine the 24/7 mode of online play to be the biggest hit of this fall and winter season.
Speaking of which, the 24/7 mode is a definite step in the right direction for bringing gamers online. 24/7 allows you to create a player and run him through training levels to collect points which unlock new courts and increase your skill level. It’s like an RPG, but fun!
I’ll close with this: The game costs $20 bucks. Go buy it.