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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

April 16, 2002|Houston Mitchell

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

What: NBA 2K2

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Visual Concepts

Platform: XBox and GameCube

Price: $49.95

This game can be summed up in one sentence: This is the finest basketball video game ever made.

No hoop game has captured the grace and athleticism as well as NBA 2K2. The power of Microsoft's XBox system renders the players with stunning clarity and detail. Kobe looks and moves like Kobe. Shaq looks and moves like Shaq. Mark Madsen looks and trips clumsily about the court like Mark Madsen. The problem with many basketball video games is that the computer is too easy to beat in one-player mode. Many games would end with such scores as Lakers 102, 76ers 43. In NBA 2K2, the artificial intelligence of the game is surprisingly tough.

The player's margin of error is extremely small and consistent good play is required to defeat the computer in a solo game. On offense, it pays to be creative because the defense in 2K2 adjusts quickly when it looks as if you've found an easy scoring option. Pounding the ball inside with Shaq the entire game won't work because the opponent will start swarming him with defenders. Even if you keep passing to Shaq, he'll get tired and start missing his shots. To work the offense effectively, you have to react to what the defense is giving you and be good enough on the controls to make quick moves.

On defense you have to play tight because the computer is extremely aggressive. You can assign matchups, call defensive sets. The game requires concentration on both ends of the court. The XBox and GameCube version are nearly identical, but the graphics on the XBox version are superior. Whichever system you own, you will want to add this game to your library.

The game does have one major flaw. For some strange reason, in NBA 2K2, the Lakers play hard during every regular-season game.

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