NBA Live 08 - PS3 - Preview
EA Sports has taken great care with the latest iteration of its NBA franchise, moving the title solidly into the next-gen graphics era with some of the best-looking player renderings to date. But while this element of the game shines, there are omissions that might put this title and SCEA’s NBA ’08 in a dead heat for the NBA title this year.
What is missing? How about a career mode? However, EA’s dynasty mode is much deeper – this is definitely an area that EA knows and handles well.
As to AI and gameplayer, SCEA’s title has some issues with a multitude of over-and-back violations, or players stepping out of bounds, EA Sports seems to take delight in allowing moving defenders to pick up the offensive charging call. In fact, it was happening with such frequency during one game that it started to take on a proximity call. The Suns Steve Nash brings the ball up court, sees the lane and drives through for the lay-in only to have the bucket waved off and an offensive charge called against him. Looked like the nearest player was several feet away and starting to move to fill the lane, but hadn’t quite gotten there.
Of course, this was a beta burn of the code and there may well be elements in the final code that were omitted in this build.
And EA’s game does a lot right; that much is certain. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr call the game and their commentary is much more in tune with the action and not as repetitious as SCEA’s title. The music is fine and does a decent job, but you may not be rushing out to find soundtrack artists based off this game.
NBA Live ’08 has a steeper learning curve, control-wise, than SCEA’s title. The SIXAXIS controller does not play as big a part in the action. You can use it shooting free throws in that you hold down one of the designated buttons, like the L1 or L2 and then bring the controlled up toward your chest (moving it vertically), watching the player the whole time. When the ball reaches the forehead of the player, you ease it back down for a fluid release. Straight up and down is important so that the shot is straight.
When it comes to the game itself, there are several options to choose from, including camera angle. You can go with the broadcast vantage point or go baseline for the viewpoint. Personal preference is the latter; it affords a better look for moving players and angling to the hoop. While SCEA’s control scheme allows players to pick from selected formation on the fly using the D-pad, the EA title is much more methodical in that you can’t change on the fly nearly as easily – well, not on defense at least. You can call for pick and rolls, isolation or even a quick tap of the R1 will execute a nearly flawless alley-oop, if you have players in position to execute the play.
The control scheme is a little bit different in some regards from SCEA (which is mentioned because the preview build was received at the same time and the game was played first). R1 will bring up players with hot buttons attached for selective passing. R2 is the speed burst and Live ’08 attaches ballhandling to the right thumbstick. You can pull off spin moves, behind-the-back or through-the-legs dribbling moves effortlessly.
Each timeout allows players to adjust formations or strategies and you can either make lineup changes yourself or configure the options to allow the game to auto-substitute players. The whole GM mode is very deep, and you will find yourself involved in training players, negotiating with potential draft choices and free agents
Graphically, this game is top notch. The players look like their real-life counterparts and the animations are fluid and very well done. Not every player will try to for the dunk when inside the paint, but rather there is some intelligence applied to the situation. For example, Shawn Marion may cut down low, but instead of going hard to the rim, he will toss up a short bank shot, kissing the ball gently off the glass when in traffic, rather than trying to go up and through bodies for a highlight jam and possible injury.
EA’s NBA Live ’08 will support multiplayer with up to four being able to plug into a game, playing on each side of the rock.
There is little doubt that NBA Live ’08 is an intelligence, nicely paced basketball title. The game looks first rate and plays well. There is challenge in both playing the game as well managing the off-court elements from the GM’s perspective. This is a great leap forward for the NBA franchise. Now all EA needs to do is personalize the experience, much like its NHL title in allowing players to take on a the role of a rookie. Still, what is presented here is very good stuff, indeed.