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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: September 8, 1999
There are four major fan bases that comprise the sports-based video game connoisseur — joystick jockeys, stat-loving statisticians and realism referees. The fourth group, of which I claim membership, is a mixture of the other three, and our pain is most long-suffering. For a decade we have waited for the sports title that would bridge the gap between the arcade sensations of a product like NFL Blitz and still offer the ultra realism and stats tracking of the original Front Page Sports Football series. We long for a game that can combine the wonderful execution and play calling of the Super Nintendo’s NCAA Basketball with the beauty and options of EA’s powerhouse NBA Live series — yet nothing has emerged.
Enter software giant Microsoft and their in-house sports title development teams. Up until the summer and fall of this year, Microsoft hadn’t released a traditional sports offerings, but rather focussed their efforts on externally developed products aimed at capturing both the sports game player and the mainstream market. These efforts have been extremely well rewarded from gamers and critics alike. Their racing Madness series has achieved phenomenal successes, and while their first entry into the all American pastime, (MS Baseball 2000, didn’t fair quite as well, it still finished the season batting above the league average. The timing of NBA Inside Drive 2000 has also struck me as a little odd. Releasing a basketball game at the beginning of football season surely won’t assist in drawing bandwagon fans, but nonetheless it hopefully won’t deter diehards from picking up one of the better basketball titles in recent memory.
Microsoft’s segue into more traditional sports offerings is a natural one, and the simultaneous release of NFL Fever 2000 and NBA Inside Drive 2000 are sure to solidify them as EA’s primary competitor in the PC sports department. Whereas Sony affiliate 989 Studios has overtaken EA as the dominant developer of sports titles for consoles, Microsoft and their affiliates are attempting to complete the sweep in the PC market. While my counterpart here at Avault, Adam Swiderski, slaves away with the gridiron of the NFL, I’ve been making my living on the parquet floors of the NBA, and am glad to report I got the better deal.
Like all recent Microsoft games, Inside Drive’s out the box experience is painful. The manual is ultra thin and lacks many key instructions you’ll need in order to play successfully. There is a more extensive manual online, but even its production value is limited. Luckily, the layout and navigational design is fairly straightforward, resembling its competition’s look and feel almost to a fault. But the exterior finish is all that’s familiar, because Inside Drive has a game face and play style all its own — a style fans of the Live series will at first hate, but eventually grow to love.
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