NBA Live 97
Everyone knows short people are aggressive: Hitler, Napoleon, Attila the Hun, Dennis Wise-all stroppy little bastards with half an eye on world domination and the other on anyone taller than them. Everyone also knows that tall people are laid back and relaxed about life. (Mainly because most of it is bemusingly going on below them and they can't follow it.) Basketball is played by preternaturally tall people, and despite all the netball jibes, it's an extremely tiring and very physical game. Watch the average game of basketball and you'll see pushing and shoving, foul and abusive language, and every now and then, a really spectacular punch-up. And that's with tall people taking part. Now you know why they won't let short-arses play.
This year's model
Presumably ea is run by short people, because they seem to have a whole eye on world domination. Every year for as far back as anyone can remember (which isn't that far, what with the drink, drugs and mtv culture), they've been churning out new versions of their sports games to try to sucker the mugs into buying yet more of their wares, regardless of whether they have anything new to present or not. Last year's version of NBA was a case in point: alright, so it had ea's Virtual Stadium™ technology, but it looked a lot less sparldy and interesting than the previous year's effort - and it got a lower score for this very reason. But this year, they've gone and cracked it: this one is a minor gem (an opal, or a highly-polished marrowfat pea, or something). Just like FIFA, they seem to have got their act together, thought about the game a bit more, and added enough stuff so that even if you've got the original, it's still a worthwhile buy.
There is all the usual options stuff: three levels of difficulty, exhibition, season play or play-off games, Internet, network and serial cable support. There's arcade or simulation mode, or you can customise it yourself, deciding what rules you'll play to and what you'll ignore (basic arcade level doesn't even have out-of-bounds switched on). And you can select 3, 5, 8 or 12-minute quarters.
Bigger, better, brighter
The difference between this game and last year's is that the latter seemed like a tired attempt to stick NBA into a Virtual Stadium™ regardless, whereas this time round the fact that it's got the vs treatment is beside the point. It certainly looks a lot better: last year the colours were murky, things got very confused around the basket, and the whole thing seemed rather lacklustre. This year, it's brighter and clearer, the players are bigger. And it plays a lot better as a result.
Throughout the game the presentation, from the music and screen layouts, to the in-game stuff itself, is outstanding - plays called are shown on screen: you can see player names as you play; icons are clear and well-designed, but if you wait a second you're told what they mean anyway (all games should do this as a matter of course). Selecting the camera angle you want is easier than getting Dennis Rodman into a dress, thanks to the simple fact that all the angles are demonstrated for you in little thumbnails. Nothing's more tiresome than exiting to the options screen, trying out a camera angle, re-starting the game and finding that you don't like it, and repeating the procedure all over again. Well alright, waiting in casualty on a Saturday night is. And watching 'Casualty' on a Saturday night is, too. And quite a lot of other things. But you know what I mean, and this avoids it. The whole thing is a very good package, put together better than any sports game on the pc at the moment.
If you like basketball, you'll love this. Even if you're only mildly interested in basketball but want a decent two-player sports game, you'll love it as well. The one thing you have to bear in mind if you're thinking of buying it is the tech specs. If you can better these, and you like basketball, snap it up. You can even dance to it.
Stats Central is where you go if looking at columns of numbers gets you hotter and sweatier than Bernard Manning doing push-ups in a sauna in a wet-suit. Er... that's as in him physically doing it, not you thinking about him doing it getting all horny... never mind.
Again, it's beautifully presented, using two USA maps (East and West) showing exactly where each team in either Conference lives. (It helps that basketball is the only known American sport in which the geographical names of the Conferences actually make sense in real life.) You can check out everything about a team or player, from points-per-game and re-bounding averages, to amount of human growth hormone consumed as an infant. It's so good, and so extensive, they could probably sell this as a multimedia guide to the NBA in its own right. But don't tell them that, or they probably will.
This might be less useful for anyone from outside the USA, because you tend to find that most people 'support' whoever the latest champions are and/or whatever team's gear they can buy in the sports shop (which is usually the same thing). But if you do happen to support one of the lesser lights, (like the Noo Yawk Fucken Nets, as I believe they're known), and you're unhappy with the under-achievers you're lumbered with, but don't want to nick all the best real-life players from other teams using the Trade options, you can use the New Player option to create a star from scratch. (It's a bit like being Janet Street-Porter, except you don't have to shag them.)
They can be as mundane or superhuman as you like (although the former is probably a bit of a waste of time). Or they could be you. You can't specify what type of car you drive and which top actress you're currently sleeping with, so your mates won't be impressed. But you can pretend.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
NBA Live 97 Screenshots
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