NBA 2005 Hands-On

989 is working on the first b-ball game for the PlayStation Portable. We went hands-on at CES.

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LAS VEGAS--One day prior to the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony showed off a slew of games for its new PlayStation Portable. Among them was NBA 2005, the first basketball offering from Sony internal developer 989. The PSP will apparently have a full-featured sports lineup early in its release, thanks to both 989 and EA Sports. We quickly jumped into a pickup game of NBA 2005 to see if on-the-go basketball fans will have something to satisfy their cravings. Thanks to easily accessible gameplay, a ton of licensed teams, and two-player head-to-head play using the PSP's built-in wireless networking, those fans may very well have their game here.

The quick game option in NBA 2005 let us scroll through a huge number of teams. Along with NBA giants like the San Antonio Spurs, we noticed NBDL teams from slightly more obscure places like Fayetteville and Roanoke on offer. We selected our teams and were taken right onto the court, which was pretty easy to get a handle on even without any onscreen tutorials to indicate the controls. While your currently selected player is in possession of the ball, you'll hold down the left shoulder button to bring up small graphical representations of the PSP's other buttons over your teammates' heads. If you want to pass to a given player, simply keep L held down and press the button assigned to that player. Pretty straightforward.

Shooting the ball was also simple. The game provides a colored ring around the player you're controlling, and when you take a shot, you'll have to hit the shoot button again right when the ring turns green to have a chance of making a shot. Alas, the CPU was pretty good at dunking on us, giving us an opportunity to check out the stylized depiction of a slam dunk--the game pauses in a close-up for a second, imprinting the screen with the team logo and player information of the player who just scored on us for a second. It's kind of humbling.

The visuals in NBA 2005 are still being worked on but were fairly impressive, from what we saw. The up-close shots of the players as they walked out onto the court were both detailed and consistent with their real-life counterparts, and once we got into the action itself, the game had no trouble running at a smooth frame rate, even with both teams onscreen at the same time.

In addition to the quick game mode we got to play, the final version of NBA 2005 will contain a host of other features. Among them will be a practice mode, a playoff mode, and a full season mode that will offer simulations, trades, injuries, and free agent lists along with the core basketball gameplay. A number of minigames will round out the package, such as paint mode, which will challenge you to color in the court; the self-explanatory three-point challenge; and a "sports skills challenge mode," which is said to be similar to an all-star competition.

NBA 2005 is slated for release in spring of this year. Stay tuned for more on the game as the PSP's North American launch date fast approaches.

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