previews\ Sep 1, 2007 at 8:00 pm

NBA 08 - PS3 - Preview

In what world would the Cleveland Cavaliers ever trade LeBron James? Especially for a power forward that may have once been a force but might be slightly past his prime and is relegated to coming off the bench?

Well, it’s possible in the world of SCEA’s NBA ’08 for the PlayStation 3. Not only will Cleveland give up the all-star, but there are no limitations on the trade. It’s simply a matter of pointing and clicking and suddenly James is a member of the Phoenix Suns, playing with Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion on the front line (sorry, Raja Bell, you are coming off the bench) and Steve Nash in the backcourt (along with a rookie, player-created shooting guard). If Phoenix was rated a force to be reckoned with prior to the start of the NBA season, with the addition of King James, they are a veritable juggernaut.

The Sony title does have some interesting features, such as employing the SIXAXIS controller to do a little fancy dribbling execution on offense and to affect a hands-up or hands-down posture on defense.

Sporting 1080p resolution, NBA ’08 looks good. The players move naturally though, at times, some questionable AI comes into play. This was a beta build that was played, so the bugs may be gone by the time the game releases. Having said that, it seemed that players stepped out of bounds way too frequently for the level of play, and on occasion, there would be the most improbable shot animations (as in a backwards jumper) or the ball would magically weave through players.

But that aside, the game has some entertaining elements. You can create a player and the customization options are good. Once created, your player goes into the free agent bin and you can pull him onto just about any team. As you play the game, whether your created player is involved in the gameplay or merely riding the pines, you will gain experience points, which are then translated into credits. The credits can be used the progression hub to level up your player’s skills. As you level the player (it takes a while to get beyond level one), new gear becomes available. The gear comes with attribute bonuses, like perhaps +3 to jumpers or a rebound buff.

Game modes run the gamut from exhibition to season to playoffs. There is multiplayer online and offline, and not only includes games but skill challenges as well.

When in season mode, you can control the game through the coaches’ menu – which basically entails calling timeouts, or making substitutions. The interface for this is easily managed and the learning curve is very small. As for the game controls, the SIXAXIS aside, the game is functionally easy on gamers. The O button is the shot button with the square used for dunks and layups. The triangle is for jumping and rebounding while the X button passes the ball. There are set plays tied to the directional keys, and you can move faster with the R1 button while the R2 button, in conjunction with the triangle hotkey provides the alley-oop – but timing is key here as your players will react immediately and you had better have them in position or you will merely turn over the ball.

Just as shooting is tied to the meter (you want to hit green) that SCEA has used in previous iterations, the rebounding skill is also tied to timing. When a shot goes up that will miss, there will be a glowing area on the floor. You must position your nearest player quickly and hit the triangle button. Failure to do so will likely mean losing the board.

The left thumbstick moves the player and the right thumbstick will apply the bake ‘n shake moves.

The game does look very good and the sound is well done. The announcers can be repetitious and the music is (more or less) from bands you may not have heard of, but they are a decent support to the game’s visuals.

Set for release in October, NBA ’08 looks like it may be an entertaining outing for pro basketball fans. It might have been nicer to have a deeper career player experience, but as it is, what is provided is nicely done and with such a broad array of skills to work on leveling up (think about the depth that Sony’s sports dev team brought to players in its major league baseball title and then apply it to the various basketball skills and you will get an inkling of the depth you are looking at when creating that grade A player), this is an entertaining element in its own right.



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