usually see basketball games released on the Playstation from
companies who have a track record in this genre. Konami laid claim
to the 'in the zone' series, Acclaim prefer their bouncing balls to
'jam', while EA Sports continuously improve on past efforts with
their annual offering of 'live' games.
Mindscape on the other hand seem desperate to cover all genres
as they have already been involved with the 'toony' Supersonic
Racers, wargames Panzer and Allied General, a futuristic racer Cyber
Speed, the shooter Steel Harbinger, the brain bursting Chessmaster
3D and a strategic Warhammer.
Now they are preparing to slam-dunk the opposition with their
new release World League Basketball, a sports sim that will
hopefully satisfy the craving of three-point hoop-junkies
everywhere. Is this a case of Jack of all trades, master of none?
League Basketball combines arcade gameplay with fast playing
detailed 3D graphics using motion capture and real basketball
physics to create a detailed simulation that deliver maximum
gameplay for sports fans everywhere
A below average intro showing a few hazy aerial shots of famous
world landmarks hardly gets the adrenaline flowing for what
effectively is an action packed sport.
Thankfully the in-game graphics are a hell of a lot better. The
players strut out onto a highly polished court - we're talking
turtle wax and lots of elbow grease here. In fact the reflections
are almost as detailed as the players themselves. The court surface
is accurately marked out with solid white lines and the playing area
seems all in proportion. The vellum flooring has a rather nice
two-tone to it with the darker shade giving a distinct grain effect.
As usual in these types of games the home team has their name
and nationality firmly etched into the playing surface, but what
makes World League Basketball stand out from the crowd is the color
scheme used within the centre circle, 2 point shooting zone, the key
and out of bounds. They are the exact shades of the home teams
national flag. Now all this is very pleasant when nations such as
Australia and USA have home advantage - rich red key zone, soothing
blue boundaries and brilliant white court markings. However when
playing at the green, yellow and blue venue of the Brazilian
national team, the bright yellow and ruby red Chinese court or the
blue and yellow Colombian arena....... WOW, get those shades on,
man. I must admit that the sickly green, white and red with black
borders of Italy made me want to puke (that's not a nationality
swipe, just a dig at the color coordination).
The motion captured players look rather smart and although it
proved difficult to pick out individuals by their body shapes (all
over six foot and slim) each team member does have different color
hair or skin color which sometimes helped when identifying your best
three-pointer. All of the teams have their own custom kits but with
so many countries sporting red and white, kit clashing can sometimes
pose a problem.
The play may be viewed from any of four contrasting angles and
three different heights. I personally found that the Medium Sliding
Sideline offered the best perspective.
the crowd noises are present, although their lack of movement loses
that element of realism. Every touch and bounce of the ball is
captured clearly and accurately along with the squeaky sounds of
sneakers as the players pace up and down the court.
The commentary is presented in a typical arcade style so expect
to be subjected to repetitive one liners such as 'Five second
violation', 'Canada... Two points' and 'Italy. Time out' over and
over again. It's okay, but don't expect the TV style grandeur that
basketball games such as NBA Live provides.
wonder what would happen if someone released a sports sim with
completely different gameplay options. Would it prove successful?
World League Basketball includes the now standard Exhibition
mode where the player may take part in a one-off game between any of
the 32 world teams on offer. In this mode up to eight players may
take part if a multi-tap is inserted.
Why not try a full blown Season. To help select your team there
is a full range of stats on hand. Each team is rated on skills and
endurance while a full run down of their performance during the
96/97 season is included. A similar set of facts and figures for
individual players should help with your final team selection. To
play out an entire season you will require six empty blocks on your
memory card for what effectively is a series of home and away games
against the best the world can offer.
Tournament mode allows you to place your selected country into
any one of four divisions of eight teams. This is a straight
knockout competition where the four survivors of each group meet in
the semi-finals. The overall winner is crowned as the Basketball
There are four difficulty modes which are teasingly put as
Junior, Men 22 and Under, Men, and Championship Men. Now this struck
me as being a little weird. Junior I could understand, but why Men
22 and Under? Each game is split into two halves that can last
between 2 and 20 minutes, while individual rules may be switched off
or left on.
There are three specific styles of play which are Custom,
Simulation and Arcade. The difference? Well choose Simulation if you
want to play the game properly, whereas Arcade allows you to go
anywhere and virtually do anything without fear of retribution, and
if you can't make up your mind between these two then go for Custom.
The control layout is simplistically set out. The face buttons
allow you to jump/shoot, pass/switch, steal and turbo while the
shoulder buttons call four separate plays.
That's enough about the rules and regulations because what you
really want to know is how does it play? Surprisingly it plays
rather well. I say 'surprisingly', not because I expected Mindscapes
first Playstation basketball outing to be inferior to other sims
such as NBA Live, but because I feared some kickback due to the high
quality graphics. There is no evidence of any slow down or sluggish
gameplay, in fact it is quite the opposite. Play cracks on at a fair
old rate and if there is any niggles to remark on it would only be
that you cannot switch the player in control while you are moving at
pace, you must release the turbo button first. Arcade mode is a bit
of a joke because you can hang around your opponents half and steal
the ball time after time, but simulation mode will offer the better
players among us a fair and rewarding challenge.
have to say that World League Basketball does lack the glitz and
glamorous showbiz presentation of rivals but underneath there lies a
very playable basketball game.
suppose it all depends what you want out of a basketball game. There
are no star players, excitable commentators, half time shows,
transfers, zooming cameras, heck there ain't even any replays. What
you do have is a playable game of basketball for up to eight
players. I am sure many of you out there switch off the replays,
turn down the commentary, skip the half time entertainment and
concentrate on gameplay. Do you want to play the game or watch the
game? You decide.