Developer – SCEA Sports Studio
Publisher - SCEA
Multitap Compatible (1-8 Players)
Eyetoy USB Camera
Network Adapter (2 Players)
Logitech/PS2 USB Headset Compatible
Sony's own sports efforts have always struggled against the like of EA or 2K Sports. They have managed to release pretty good games; however they have not been able to reach the pinnacles of perfection that other sports game developers have produced. Sony's latest basketball effort missed a season, but this year around they have released a new and updated NBA game, but as with past efforts, good is not good enough here.
As the PS2 has some benefits over its smaller cousin the PSP, I had some loftier hopes for the looks of this game as the PSP version wasn't all that bad. I have to honestly say that I was a little disappointed by the visuals of NBA 06 on the PS2. The animations are not that bad, it is just that with the available power of the PS2 I had hoped for a substantial jump in looks versus the smaller PSP. Following along the same lines, they could have put more detail into the PS2 player models to really make them more distinguishable. Given that the PS2 does have more horsepower then the PSP this should have been a given. As for the arenas, they are quite similar to the PSP version in that the proper markings and on-court advertising is present, however most of this seems to be done in a generic arena. As I said in my PSP review of NBA 06, most of the action is down on the court where it should be, so it does not particularly hurt the game as such, it is just that it would be nice to have each and every individual arena modeled, but I figure this should be the case in the next-gen systems (e.g. PS3). There are numerous cut scenes during one's play in The Life mode. Although they are there to tell a story, they do not stand out in terms of overall quality. Don't get me wrong, they don't look as bad as some cut scenes that I have seen in the past, but they definitely don't look as good as others either. Overall I would say that the graphics get the job done, but with the quality coming out in other sports games, NBA 06 needs to pick it up a notch or two.
Something that is evident in sports games is that play by play announcing really helps bring a gamer into the atmosphere of what they are playing on-screen. NBA 06 really caught me off guard as there is no play by play during regular games. Why this was the case is beyond me. Regardless, the lack of this detail really did hurt the game not only in sound, but in atmosphere as well. As for the rest of the package all the sounds of the court are there, including that of the ball dribbling on the court to the swish of the net, but it just lacked the excitement that basketball can really bring. I have never really been a basketball fan, either in real life or videogames, but I have seen many games on T.V. and I have played a few on various consoles, and I know that there can be much more excitement in both real and virtual arenas. Regardless of my experiences, NBA 06 gets the job done, but not to the expectations of many diehard sports gamers.
NBA 06 offers any diehard basketball fan three modes of play. There is The NBA mode, The Life Mode and an Online mode. NBA takes you into a sub menu where you can choose a quick game and jump right into the action. There is also the choice to play a full season too where you can manage a team including such matters as trading players, signing free agents and all the stuff associated with running a team. There are also a variety of mini-games in this mode as well and they remind me a lot of the games found in the PSP version. Here you can play such games as Own the Court, Skills Challenge, 21, 1 on 1, 2 on 2 and a 3 point contest. All these games are a very nice break from 5 on 5 action and I found myself playing these when I needed a much earned break from regular team play.
As would be expected in the remaining months of the PS2's life, online also makes an appearance here. Besides the regular fair of playing against an online opponent 5 on 5 some of the mini-games are also available online, such as Own the Court, 21, 1 on 1, 2 on 2 and 3 point contest. Should one decide to stick to 5 on 5 play there are tournaments to play in and there is a ranking board so you can check how you match up against other players. My gameplay online was pretty limited as I had to borrow an online adapter as I have the older PS2 (not slimline). What experience I did have was relatively lag free but I did notice some choppiness now and then.
Most of my reviews speak of any multiplayer aspect towards the end, however the meat of NBA 06 is The Life mode, and that is where I will focus this section. This mode is meant to bring something new to a sports game and it actually isn't that bad. You take a created player and work them up through such things as pre-draft training all the way to the big league. During this you are treated to a story where cut scenes play a part of the overall picture, narrarating in a way the story of you. You get your own ‘pad', you have to make fans happy and you earn such things as endorsements for good play. During the story that is being told, you also have to face other facets of NBA life such as trades and injuries. Also new to Sony's NBA series is Showtime Gameplay. This is designed to lead you into utilizing teamwork over using just one player all game. By passing and earning assists, taking difficult shots, and playing as a collective, your team will play better. Should you begin to miss shots, make bad passes, your showtime meter goes down. In other words you have to make your plays wisely to keep your team going and you are rewarded for good work. Although The Life is an original and interesting idea that does help the game out, there are some issues with it. You only get to play as point guard, so this has some limitations on the idea of customization. As well, some of the tasks that you have to complete in this mode border on frustrating and you will find yourself stuck on certain challenges for quite sometime. I can't count the amount of times that I almost threw my controller at my screen. I am all for a challenge, but when it becomes this frustrating at times it takes away from the enjoyment of the game.
Having reviewed the PSP version I actually had high expectations for the bigger console version in terms computer AI. However, during my time with this game I was shocked with the problems that were evident. The computer AI, even your own teammates, acted in irrational ways. Simple layups were easily missed and I watched in amazement when my opponents had incredible bursts of speed to pick up a loose ball. Simple things as this made me question the presence of such and I honestly can't figure out why this was the case as this game had the benefit of an extra year off and more computing power then the PSP. And the fact some of the problems are eerily similar to its smaller cousin also makes me wonder. Regardless of the reasoning these deficiencies do take away from the overall realism and gameplay of NBA 06.
Although not a bad game, NBA 06 still has some ways to go in order to compete with the other basketball games out there. Although the shot method utilized in this game is great, average graphics and other control issues, combined with some questionable A.I, bring down the overall score of this title.