NBA 07 - PS2 - Preview
As we inch closer to the release of two next-gen consoles, developers are working hard to squeeze that last bit of juice out of the current game platforms. NBA 07 will be the last time Sony’s own basketball title comes to PlayStation 2 first. Next year’s edition may appear on PS2 as well, but the main edition will be the graphically-rich, technologically-advanced version for PlayStation 3. Now more than ever the NBA series needed to come through for PS2 players.
Not surprisingly, the basic controls mirror those of last year’s edition. The circle button still controls your shot-timing mechanism, which has been tweaked slightly this time around. Shots are a little easier to acquire, provided you’re standing in the right place and are not being blocked by too many opponents. Also returning are the spin and juke moves of the right analog stick, which let you tap or spin the stick in a particular direction to dodge a potential steal.
NBA 07 is banking most of its success on The Life: Volume 2, the update to last year’s story within a basketball game. Though the in-game cinematics could use some work (they’re running in real-time and are limited by PS2’s six-year-old technology), the dialogue, acting, and the story being told are really coming together. From the minute it starts you get the sense that these are dedicated players, vicious executives, and heartless reporters who can’t resist a good story – even if it means hurting someone in the process.
The frustrating mini-games that slowed the flow of The Life: Volume 1 appear to be gone. Volume 2 cranks out fewer mini-games, throwing you right into actual games very quickly. Specific objectives are still needed to pass the game, and they often involve more than having the highest score. Dynamic shots are frequently required, especially if you want to meet the bonus objectives. Players might have to spin, then shoot and successfully make the basket. Or you might be asked to make some other evasive move and perform a dunk. The game switches it up, changing requirements as the game progresses.
The story enters in between each challenge, with the exception of challenges that occur back-to-back. Challenge load times are rather long in the game’s current state, but I’m hoping that changes in the final version. There are some interesting effects presented, like an overhead camera that zooms in just before the game begins, cinematic blur and all. But I don’t think that’s enough to keep the developers from optimizing the load time, especially when they have the option to stream content and keep the disc loading consistently throughout each game/challenge.
The story sequences, on the other hand, didn’t take nearly as long to load. This was somewhat surprising as most games typically falter in this department, especially if another portion of the game has long load times. But Volume 2 came through, introducing a cast of interesting characters, an intriguing plot, and a smooth transition between the story and the game itself. Gamers and moviegoers alike will be equally amused.
Last year’s rap-based soundtrack has been updated with more from the genre, but this time the music isn’t nearly as repetitive. The songs have an edgier, more hardcore sound – not necessarily in the explicit content of the lyrics, but in the way each song sounds, emphasizing drums and phat beats over repeated loops. The wait for a game to begin is intensified by a thumping drum that plays during the load screens.
Character models are looking very solid. Facial expressions lack realistic fluidity (a problem many PS2 sports titles are having this year), but the detail among individual characters is pretty high. Automatic camera changes – including a top-down view as the ball teeters on the rim – add some flair to the experience, while the lighting and textures have been moderately tweaked.
Hittin’ the court this October, NBA 07 is positioning itself as the premiere PS2 basketball game. The Life: Volume 2 looks to achieve everything the first game hoped for and a whole lot more. With an entertaining story that doesn’t follow any of the typical gaming rules (case in point: this game doesn’t reek of any cheesy dialogue) and games and challenges that complement the flow, not detract from it, NBA 07 should be the sequel that scores nothin’ but net.