Michael Jordan in Flight. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Air Jordan is flying Electronic Arts off the bench and into the middle of the action in the competitive sports game arena. Michael Jordan in Flight's cutting-edge technology makes it a championship-quality sports simulation.
The one-player game lands you in the thick of three-on-three action, directing Jordan and friends on their hometown team from Wilmington, North Carolina. You compete in exhibition or tournament games against seven fictional teams playing the country's hottest pickup basketball. Although informal in spirit, the action unfolds on a squeaky-clean indoor half court, complete with all the professional trimmings: multiple camera angles, instant replays, highlight films, and sportscaster Ron Barr's end-of-game stats.
The designers depart from previous efforts in the genre with full-size animated players, digitized from live-action video. No rotoscoped, computer-enhanced characters here; you see and control photorealist images of actual players. The technique is visually stunning, but the task of simultaneously animating six digitized figures weighs heavily on system resources. Don't expect smooth play on anything less than a 33-MHz 386 machine with as much expanded memory as you can muster. The game also offers limited support for SVGA cards. Hi-res mode looks great, but it's virtually unplayable on an average PC, with characters moving as if glued to the floor.
True to its roots in street basketball, gameplay is mostly improvised, featuring only four present offensive plays. Unfortunately, there's no provision for designing your own shots. You can control either Jordan exclusively or the player closest to the ball. Jordan's trademark moves are all here, but unless you're next to the bucket, control is limited to generic passing, jumping, and attempted steals. One of the game's best attributes is its crisp sampled sound effects, including Jordan's own colorful digitized asides during the heat of play; "Thanks for the Nike poster!" he exclaims when he makes a particularly pretty jump shot.
Given the power to drive its high-end graphics engine, Michael Jordan in Flight soars beyond any hoops action seen on the computer screen. However, the game's scant features and unfinished, experimental feel suggest that the best may becoming in Michael Jordan II.