Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

NBA '06 (PSP)



By Michael Palisano

Taking the action to the hoop once again, NBA '06 on the PSP is a solid hoops title with quick, responsive controls, excellent visuals, and solid gameplay. There's plenty of depth as well, thanks to the new trading card system that allows you to earn and trade cards with other players online. NBA '06 also features a number of interesting mini-games to challenge players, excellent multiplayer modes and all the licenses players have come to expect. Check out our review and find out why this portable basketball title packs such a punch.

Packing a surprisingly sophisticated array of features into a small package, NBA 06 is a solidly entertaining and challenging sports title that looks great on the PSP. The game's main mode of play offers the basic mechanics you'd expect, with solid controls that make running, passing and shooting easy to perform. All of the league's 41 teams and most of the famous players are represented, with many arenas also recreated for the game as well. NBA '06 offers both single and multi-player action, with game modes ranging from single games, to tournament mode and a season simulator where you can trade players, purchase free agents, and substitute injured players. The game lets you set a number of parameters before each match including rules, time, fouls, and other variables. Players can also challenge opponents on either the Infrastructure or Ad-Hoc modes, and compete against them head to head or participate in tournament play. In addition to these standard modes, the game also includes several mini-games.

Most of these min-games have returned from last years installment, with Paint the Court, Skills Challenge, 3 Point Shot competitions and two new addictive mini-games, Horse and Dodgeball. All of these mini-games are enjoyable in their own right, and add a high-degree of replay values. To make these mini-games even more interesting, NBA '06 implements a "Ladder" system, where players can play increasingly difficult mini-games in order to earn extras and other unlockable items. NBA '06's mini-games and ladder system makes the gameplay even more addictive, and almost acts as a second game within the main game. As you might expect, the single player modes are excellent with solid AI posing a challenge, but the real fun comes in competing with other players in the Wi-fi Ad hoc mode. Not only do human opponents pose a much more interesting challenge, you can earn Upper Deck Trading Cards that feature snapshots of your players performing wilder moves. This revised system has been better integrated into NBA '06, making it feel more like a natural extension of the gameplay.

The features list is impressive, but what really makes the game shine are its controls, which are intuitive and responsive. SCEA seems to have gotten the basics right. You can use the PSP's shoulder buttons to call out other players and pass the ball using the appropriately labeled button. One of the biggest changes to the controls is the new hold and shoot system. It's surprisingly easy to understand, and works well. In order to throw the ball, NBA '06 requires you to hold down on the shot button until a colored halo appears over your player, indicating how good a shot will be. Red halos mean a shot is unlikely to go through the net, yellow halos indicate a 50/50 chance a shot will score, while green usually means a guaranteed score. This system is surprisingly easy to understand and makes the play much easier than it could have been otherwise. Players can also implement a new Turbo move, which allows their character to run much faster on the court. This is a cool feature that gives the game an arcade feel, although it doesn't really help the game's overall realism. In addition, you can perform some special moves such as slam-dunks and spins, to keep your opponents off balance. An excellent sense of speed and pacing makes the gameplay intense throughout. Its challenging to keep your opponents from scoring, since turnovers aren't easy to achieve, making the defense almost as important as the main game. Your opponents are generally aggressive, and they'll exploit any mistakes you make. For the most part, the rival teams put up quite a fight, though it must be said playing a weak team against a strong one poses a difficult challenge, since its much harder to get a weak team to score consistently while your opponents score effortlessly. NBA 06's gameplay benefits from the streamlined controls, since most actions can be performed easily with a single button press, making for an instantly accessible title. Overall, the game offers a solid dose of basketball action, and is perfectly suited to the PSP, since the focus is on the game itself, with only a few extras that don't really detract from the action.

From a visual standpoint, the game makes good use of the PSP hardware, with multiple camera angles offering a good view of the action. During each game, you can choose from several angles from sidelines to action and an overview angle. Which presentation is the most effective largely depends on personal preference, but the visuals are excellent throughout. NBA '06's engine is excellent offering both detail and speed. You can clearly see each player on your team at all times, and their movements are smoothly animated, giving them a realistic appearance. Once the ball hits the hardwood, you'll find that the action is fast and seems to run at a fairly consistent 60 FPS throughout. This makes NBA '06 accurately mimic the speed and pacing of professional basketball, which gives the gameplay an appropriate energy and challenge throughout. Players will also be able to listen to in-game commentary and can listen to a decent hip-hop soundtrack. NBA '06's visuals supercede those seen in the previous PSP edition, with smoother, more life-like animation, additional detail on the court and a faster pace overall. These tweaks create an excellent atmosphere that makes you feel like you're right there on the court.

While the experience and features list isn't as deep or elaborate as a traditional console title, NBA '06 packs a surprising amount of depth and polish into a handheld sports title. The main game offers solid play, intuitive controls, competitive teams and a realistic feel throughout. More importantly, the pacing and strategy behind each game feels authentic, giving the game a realistic flavor. NBA '06's excellent production values give it a highly polished appearance, with smooth animation and above-average commentary creating an excellent atmosphere throughout. Adding the mini-games to the package was a great idea, since their ladder structure lets you play a quick and gradually earn new items as you work your way up. While its approach means it doesn't have the depth of a console sports title, NBA 06 successfully captures the essence of professional basketball. It's straightforward gameplay, intuitive controls and addictive mini-games make this a great game for any PSP sports fan looking for a quick dose of hoops action.

Grade: B

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