NBA Live 08 - PS2 - Preview
The past few years have been rough on the PS2 versions of NBA Live. Often promising but not entirely polished, the series recently fell to second place in the simulation world, losing to 2K Sports’ NBA 2K7 and just narrowly surpassed NBA 07. In the arcade world, the game is second to EA’s champion sports franchise, NBA Street.
Simulation sports games aren’t typically compared to the arcade world, but NBA Live is one that wrestles with both sides. Like a chameleon living half its life near trees and the other half near rocks, NBA Live has spent the last few years struggling to pick one color. The result has been a splash of arcade, a smattering of simulation, and a speckle of stats and features that haven’t been able to push the game ahead in either direction.
If the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 are any indication, NBA Live 08 should provide that spectacular, next-gen gaming experience we’ve been seeking. But one question remains: will this be the year for NBA Live to come ahead on PlayStation 2?
When the virtual b-ball champs return to the court next month, they’ll be facing new competition from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Argentina and China. Joining the ranks of the United States players are some of the leading international teams, courtesy of the new FIBA World Championship Mode.
The gameplay is noticeably smoother but that’s about as far as the major differences stretch. Passing and shooting are conducted in the same manner as before, with the circle button handling your shots. Shooting is an exercise in timing and patience. You don’t get a meter to gauge your potential for landing a three-pointer – that task is up to the player’s ability to study his athlete’s motions. Know when to hold and release. Otherwise it won’t be nothing but net – it’ll be nothing but rim and backboard.
NBA Live 08 gives you access to the same level of player-specific passing as in previous years (hold L2 to bring up the pass icons). This time your passes won’t be intercepted as easily. It also won’t be as easy to snatch the ball from opponents, who are not necessarily more intelligent but are better equipped to stand their ground. Jumping is less sporadic, eliminating some of the airiness that kept players from touching the court. Bad decisions – like a plan to stop a rebound before the ball approaches the net – may still leave you hanging. But at least now that airiness will be caused by the player and not by a game that’s much too jumpy.
New animations are recorded annually, but you might not be able to tell without playing the game for several hours and/or using a magnifying glass. The fact of the matter is that EA has squeezed as much a developer can squeeze out of the PS2 without going back and creating a new engine. That’s not going to happen with the next-gen in full swing (where all engine development is dedicated), leaving the PS2’s visuals in the same familiar state. Players can still look forward to an attractive game though, with fluid movements, a decent frame rate, and less clipping than last year’s version and last year’s competitors.
Dynasty Mode, now a permanent part of the EA Sports lineup, has returned for another year of in-depth season play. It’s not as robust as the one in NHL 07/08 (which has the mother of all Dynasty modes) but comes with layers of drafting, hiring, training, and games to play and/or simulate.
Though the soundtrack is far from perfect, the guys and gals over at EA Trax must be listening to player requests. Whereas the previous NBA Live titles consisted of little more than MTV-style rap music, NBA Live 08 throws a few rock-oriented tracks into the mix. Coincidentally, NBA 08 has done the same, adding some much-needed variety to a sports genre whose soundtracks haven’t changed in 10 years.
If you think these shots look too good to be true,
there’s a reason for that: they’re from the next-gen versions.
Hitting the court October 2, NBA Live 08 will be testing players’ skills with seven new international adversaries. We’ll be watching the game closely and will bring you more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.