|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SCEA San Diego||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
SCEA San Diego, in my opinion, makes the premiere video game baseball sim - bar none! Their attention to detail and realism is only surpassed by the quality implementation of gameplay. This isn't just the case with their console versions either. The PSP has also received quality titles. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the latest entry in their portable basketball franchise: NBA 10: The Inside.
The game's greatest strength is its sheer amount of content - every basketball mode you could wish for is represented here, and there is a lot of secondary content that suits the handheld format well. Whether you want to take the reins of your favorite franchise, participate in the All-Star Weekend, shoot around for practice, challenge a buddy to a pick-up game through ad-hoc support, or blow through loads of mini-games, NBA 10: The Inside likely has something for you.
Disappointingly, none of it is particularly fun. This is the game's greatest drawback. Despite being lovingly designed specifically for the PSP, the basketball and even many of the mini-games on offer aren't very good. This is largely due to the shambolic controls, but poor A.I. and an overall lack of in-game complexity and strategy also due their worst to foil the gameplay experience.
Let's start in with the basketball, as it is the reason why consumers will purchase the game in the first place. Basketball on the PSP simply isn't natural. Cramping is a constant issue, the analog nub isn't accurate enough, beating players off the dribble is almost impossible, rebounding is completely random, shooting is very touchy, defending is haphazard and on and on. There really is no single aspect of the controls that feels sufficient - I blame most of that on the hardware design (to be fair, we played the game on a PSP - 3000, not a PSPgo). Some semblance of quality is evident in that the devs included modifier buttons to make passing more natural and defensive stances imperative, but it still comes off sloppily. Controls while playing any of the hoops options are simply not good; they have a steep learning curve, making the game frustratingly and unnecessarily difficult. Not only is the game tough to master, but the fast-paced, tactical side of basketball has been totally neglected due to insufficient controls and hardware limitations.
Another huge problem is with the A.I. Defensively, your opponents are brick walls and shot-blocking machines. Trying to get open for good looks at the basket or driving the lane have basically been eliminated. The only way around opposing defenses is to run a slick, quick-passing, triangle offense like the Bulls circa 1995. Unfortunately, teammate A.I. is too stupid to run to good spots on the floor, they never set up screens for pick and rolls, and off-the-ball/backside running is non-existent. What's more, there is no touch passing to keep the defense on their heels - the game feels extremely slow and deliberate.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the emphasis on post play. I can't tell you how many times I was thwarted by drive-nullifying post-up animations. It gets really annoying when you're beating a player off the dribble just to be stopped dead in your tracks by a post-up animation because a center or forward is marginally in your vicinity. As such, the slashing guard simply does not exist in NBA 10: The Inside. I could continue analyzing the pitfalls and inaccuracies of gameplay, but I think it should suffice to say the complexity of the game of basketball is completely lost in translation. The meat of this title simply does not do the sport justice. Thankfully, the mini-games presented are diverse and many in number, although they're only slightly more enjoyable.