NBA Inside Drive 2003 Review
The extra options, especially the franchise mode, succeed in giving Inside Drive 2003 the longevity that Inside Drive 2002 lacked, and the refinements to the gameplay make it more entertaining.
Last year's NBA Inside Drive was a decent first entry into the realm of professional basketball for the Xbox, having most fundamentals of the sport intact. But Inside Drive 2002 had some gameplay problems and a serious lack of secondary options to choose from, which limited the game's appeal among die-hard basketball fans. Inside Drive 2003 fixes many of its predecessor's problems and takes a major step forward in becoming a serious contender, with an all-new franchise mode and some notable gameplay tweaks. But there are still some lingering issues that keep this one from being the best basketball game for your money.
The biggest addition to this year's iteration of Inside Drive is the franchise mode, a feature sorely lacking in last year's game. Like in most other franchise modes, you can select a team and take it through multiple NBA seasons (in this case up to 25 seasons) in an attempt to make it to the championship. After selecting a team in this mode, you can adjust a number of options, including whether or not you want to participate in a fantasy draft, the difficulty level, the length of the season, player streaks (whether a player can become "hot" or "cold" depending on performance), fatigue, and other similar options. In addition, you can make some last-minute tweaks to your team before starting the season by entering the front-office option. In this area, you can edit the current roster, trade players, sign free agents, release current players under contract, create a player, or get an overall view of your team's accolades.
The trading system in Inside Drive's franchise mode is pretty straightforward. You can put any three players for your team up for trade and so can the opposing team, so it's possible to have a full three-man exchange where both teams get three new players, or you can have a three-for-one or two-for-one trade where one team tries to get a star player for two or three lesser players, though the chances of the latter trade strategy being successful are apparently slim. It's also worth noting that you can trade players for draft picks, but the same rules apply--you won't have much success in trading a second-tier player for a team's first-round draft pick. When you're done adjusting the team roster, you can move into the season and go for the NBA championship.
Your record at the end of the season--or in some cases your front-office dealings--will determine your position in the NBA draft, so if you finish with the worst record, then you'll have a much better chance of securing the number one pick. When it's your time to make a selection in the draft, you'll be presented with a list of players as well as their individual statistics, such as overall performance. Moreover, you'll see the predicted draft choice for the team, so you'll get an idea of what sort of player you need to choose if you haven't been paying attention to your team's weaknesses or strengths. Of course, the draft isn't the only way to secure new talent or to fill holes left by retiring players in Inside Drive's off-season. You can also scour the free-agency ranks for any potential new players, but you also need to be aware of your current "financial" position since a big-name free agent can potentially put you over the point cap in the game.
Along with the franchise mode, Inside Drive offers a new practice mode where you can familiarize yourself with the basics of the game, particularly shooting, which feels a little odd initially simply because you don't really get a good feel for when a player reaches the top of his jump. This results in the timing of your shots being a little off, ultimately leading to a missed basket in most cases, but a few runs through the practice mode should get you to the point where it's not quite as awkward.