Much like Microsoft's NBA Inside Drive 2000, Fox Sports Interactive's NBA Basketball 2000 doesn't aim to compete against EA Sports' NBA Live games on a feature-by-feature basis, which is perfectly reasonable considering how long it took EA to hone its pro-hoops sim to near-perfection. But while NBA Basketball 2000's lack of such sophisticated features as career mode, salary caps, customizable leagues, and a roster of the all-time NBA greatest players is understandable, it's difficult to understand why the game so frequently misfires on the few things it does try to simulate.
The first indication that things weren't quite right with NBA Basketball 2000 came after I'd finished my first season game as the Charlotte Hornets, which was a decidedly unrealistic 144-128 trouncing of the Orlando Magic in which only four free throws were attempted (none by the Magic, I might add). On a whim, I decided to simulate the next game on the schedule and then resume hands-on control for the third outing, only to find that relinquishing control to the CPU can't be done for just one game. After choosing to let the computer statistically generate the results of my second game, I discovered I'd forfeited control for half the season, and I found myself staring at a screen that said "All Star Weekend" and wondering what had just happened.
It's possible to avoid this hostile takeover by starting a game normally and then switching to CPU control for the remainder of the contest. But the lack of a coach-only mode means the CPU is calling all the shots, not to mention the fact that you've got to wait as the game is played out. No self-respecting sports sim released in 1999 should deny you the option to simulate the results of a single game during a season.
Add the season play problem to the fact that the game has a mere handful of four offensive plays, and it's easy to see that NBA Basketball 2000 is aimed at casual players looking for on-the-court thrills. But even as an action-oriented basketball game, NBA Basketball 2000 is not only disappointing, but also frustrating. Given the right video card (not a card based on any of the Voodoo chipsets), the level of detail for the players and arenas is certainly impressive - you can even see wrinkles in the players' uniforms as they head back down the court after an impressive slam dunk. And NBA Basketball 2000 developer Radical Entertainment deserves praise for accurately rendering the faces of a whole slew of NBA players, though some journeyman players don't get quite the beauty treatment of their higher-paid comrades.However, NBA Basketball 2000 doesn't always look good. All the players have squared-off shoulders that make them look like animatronic mannequins in a Structure storefront, and even when the frame rate is smooth, the players move so slowly you'd think they were playing in the minor leagues. Jump-shot animations are smooth and believable (aside from the fact that the computer usually hits about three times as many jumpers as you do), but you'll see some pretty strange stuff go down once a player drives past the free-throw line on his way to the hole. Smaller players heading for a dunk often look like they've been hurled several feet toward the basket by invisible hands, and bigger players seem to defy gravity by literally hanging in the air before flicking the ball to the hoop.
NBA Basketball not only looks strange, but also plays poorly. The artificial intelligence routines are simply atrocious: If you're controlling the guy with the ball, you can simply advance up the court at will, pushing the defender back as if your player had a force field around him. Watch in amazement as you send your little men into the valley of the giants for dunks time and time again! Stare in awe as teammates repeatedly ignore passes and the ball flies toward the press row (hopefully knocking out Doc Rivers so you won't have to listen to his inane color commentary). Gaze in wonder as you see three or four consecutive back-court violations committed by the computer team in a single game! And then there's the way the computer team manages to snag just about every rebound on the offensive end and, nine times out of ten, turn around and convert it into two points. It's as automatic as Jordan hitting one of those soft turnaround jumpers, but not nearly as exciting.
What's even more frustrating is that NBA Basketball 2000 makes even the simplest tasks terribly difficult, such as tossing the ball into play after a basket and shooting free throws. The free-throw interface is a joke that makes it virtually impossible to sink a freebie even when you're controlling a guy who shoots 80-plus percent from the charity stripe. Top it off with the boring, canned commentary of Doc Rivers and Greg Papa constantly lambasting you for mistakes beyond your control, and you've got a game that's just begging you to uninstall it.
In the end, most NBA Basketball 2000 players will wind up dunking on the computer constantly because the game makes hitting a moderately close jump shot much harder than it should be - and yet they'll still find themselves losing because of so many mysterious turnovers and gameplay glitches. NBA Basketball 2000 might find a following among fans looking for nonstop dunks and the instant replays that invariably follow, but anyone looking for a serious hoops simulation should look elsewhere.