Total Pro Basketball 2003 Review

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Publisher: .400 Software Studios
Developer: .400 Software Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 500 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 60 MB HD space, CD-ROM Drive, 1024x768 display capability, Windows 95 or more recent operating system

Total Pro Basketball, from .400 Software Studios, follows largely the same concept as Total Pro Football 2004. The game puts you in charge of a basketball franchise, in the role of general manager, so that you can lead your team through seasons of glory by making all the right personnel decisions, while at the same time allowing you to make the in-game decisions of a head coach during each game. As general manager, you'll have to manage player salaries, trade players, sign free agents, make the correct choices in the annual draft, and make the right off-season moves to get your franchise to the league's upper echelon. In the role of coach, you'll have to manage your lineup, monitoring your players' fatigue level, and tinker with your team's offensive and defensive game plans. Overall, Total Pro Basketball is a solid title, though it falls short of the heights achieved by its gridiron relative.

Solomon Dirigible

When you begin playing Total Pro Basketball, the first thing you'll have to do is create a league. You can create a name for your league, choose the number of teams that make it up, and even customize the length of a season. So, if you want to go for the full NBA 82 game schedule, you can, and you can edit the names of your teams to match those in the NBA. It's worth noting, however, that you must choose from the pre-programmed team names when building your league, then edit the names from the Main Menu afterwards. While it is puzzling that you are unable to simply edit the names of the teams you want to include, .400 Software Studios has included the ability to make changes not only to the team's city and mascot, but also its logo, banner, and uniform color. This is nice, as it lets you deal with your favorite NBA team (if you alter the names and logos) or to get creative with team names and mascots, if you'd rather have a more personal gaming experience.

Once you've chosen the teams that make up your league and the team you control, you can either go to a fantasy draft, in which all the players are placed into a common draft pool and redistributed among the teams in a standard round-by-round draft, or play with the default rosters. If you select the fantasy draft, the CPU-managed teams will make their selections in order until it's time for you to make your selection. You can have the computer suggest a selection if you choose a position (i.e., point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc.) you are interested in, or you can browse the list of available players by their ratings in any of a number of categories, such as scoring ability, three point shooting, or offensive and defensive rebounding, among others. The draft advances round by round until you have your full complement of players. The draft screen itself is well laid out, with a ticker running along the bottom of the screen showing you the order of picks and who has been selected by whom. A draft board at the top of the screen shows the order or picks, as though you were watching the draft on TV.

Flexible Positions but No Historical Simulations

Having established your team, you'll jump right into the regular season. You can go straight into playing games, if you like, as the computer will determine your lineups and depth charts for you, but it's advisable to check out your roster and make sure that you have the depth chart determined to best suit your players' talent. You can even edit the positions that each player can play. It's conceivable, for example, that your small forward would be capable of playing a little point guard, and you can check a box that will authorize the computer to play him at that position. Similarly, your point guard may not have the shooting ability to play any 2-guard, in which case you can uncheck the box, preventing the computer from playing him at that position. Of course, if you elect to coach the games rather than simulate them, you will be able to override these selections during the game. Player strategy options allow you to dictate what kind of shots a player might take, while team strategies determine if your team looks for an up-tempo style or a slowdown game, and how aggressive your defense plays. Players' ratings help you determine appropriate strategies for both your player and team.

Once you've figured out your lineup and given your team its "personality," it's time to start playing some games. The schedule screen lists the game slated for a given day and will allow you to look ahead to see when your team plays next. You are able to simulate multiple games, but are restricted, unfortunately, in how many games you can simulate. Rather than giving you the option to select a number of days to simulate, you have the more restrictive options of simming ahead a day, a week, a month, to the All-Star Break (midseason), or to the playoffs. Also absent is the ability to simulate multiple seasons, which is a drawback if you want to build up the history of a virtual league by simulating a number of seasons, thus accumulating a wealth of historical statistics. That option is present in Total Pro Football, so its omission from Total Pro Basketball is confusing, given that both games allow you to customize the date of your league's inception. At any rate, as you simulate games, a very detailed box score is generated, allowing you to view all of the statistics you would hope to see in a newspaper box score from a real-life game. A screen also appears showing the statistical leaders from each day's games, letting you see who the stars of that day's games were. When your team comes up on the schedule, you'll have to check the "play" box to enter the game screen and coach your team. It's a little perplexing that the team you control doesn't default to the "play" option from the "sim" option, as other sports games do.

Game Time and International Recruiting

The game screen is clearly presented, with a play-by-play box in clear view on the bottom left, and the lineups on the right, in which the players' position and statistics, as well as energy level, are listed. A court shows the location of each player's shot, represented by his jersey number and appearing either red or green, depending on whether the shot was good or not. The overall strategies for controlling the game are fairly generalized, and there are no specific plays to call, which is a bit of a letdown. It would be nice, for example, if you could call a pick-and-roll and watch its execution in the play-by-play, which would greatly add to the feeling that you had control over what the players were doing on the court. That said, you can tell your team to alter its tempo, or look for a three-point shot, as well as altering the level of defensive pressure. You can adjust the speed of the game, as well, which allows you adequate time to make strategic changes without having to call a timeout or pause the game to do so. In addition to the nuances of managing a lineup and coaching virtual games, you'll have to deal with budgets and expenses, all while scouting talent.

Total Pro Basketball has every right to brag about is its system for "finding" new talent for the league. In addition to the college players generated for each season's draft, there is a developmental league, from which players can be signed throughout the season to replace an injured player or add a defensive stopper, for example. There is also a service for scouting foreign players, which, as anyone who has watched the increase in the number of international players in the NBA over the last decade can tell you, adds to the realism. If you have .400 Software Studios' Tournament Dreams: College Basketball, you can also choose to have the players from that game make up your draft pool, which, in a major coup for the developer, gives each game more replay value, as it helps foster a more personal attachment to both games.

Total Pro Basketball is not free from the bugs that seem to be part and parcel of every newly released PC game, but none of them cause major problems and are merely a mild nuisance. As long as you save your game fairly often, you won't lose significant amounts of data or statistics. The presentation isn't as sharp as that of Total Pro Football, as you'll find the menus more difficult to navigate, and some of the nice touches available in the football title, such as simulating multiple seasons to generate historical data, are absent, which detract from its rating. The other major drawback is the absence of specific plays that you could call in a given situation during a game. That said, Total Pro Basketball is a very solid offering, and, most importantly, fun to play.






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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 15, 2004 7:23 PM.

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