2KSports have really made a name for themselves in sports videogames these past few years. With their now 3 year gone ESPN NFL series
still entertaining a decent following and their NHL 2K series providing hockey fans with great gameplay, it isn't a stretch to say that when it
comes to sports gaming on the current flock of consoles, EA Sports could learn a thing or two from 2KSports. Perhaps the best example of this though is 2K's
NBA 2K series, as it is easily the
most prominent success in the 2KSports
lineup boasting not only ownership of the NBA gaming crown but also quite possibly the crown for sports gaming in general. After two versions on
the Xbox 360 already, 2K8 is here to make a third and gamers can expect much of the same quality that has made NBA 2K so great before.
You'd think with the reputation this series has as a complete NBA game that every single possible mode that could have been covered would have been
covered by now, but 2K have managed to squeeze even more into an already well featured game with a new mode known as 'NBA Blacktop'. It is here where you can
play in some street style b-ball with a pick-up game or a game of 21, or participate in two All Star Weekend events that haven't been in the recent
versions of the series - the 3pt shootout,
and the dunk contest. The dunk contest is something that the NBA Live series from EA has had over the NBA 2K series for a few years now but not
only have 2K met up with the competition, they have surpassed it once more with a dunk mode that combines simple execution with a dizzy array of
possibilities, including the ability to dunk over props. If you've played SKATE (which is ironically an EA title),
you'll be able to pick up the dunk contest control system quite easily as it revolves around the right analog stick and its many different rotation and
Now, it's not exactly a hugely important
mode, but it's a nice addition and perfect for 'pick-up and play' sessions when you want to just throw down some great dunks that you can't do in the
other modes. In a way it's a game inside the game as it is very advanced and further completes the NBA experience that is the NBA 2K series. For the
gamers more interested in long term gameplay though, 2K8 of course still features all the previous modes including the Association mode, which tasks
with the role of coach for any NBA team as you manage the rosters and lineups while either simulating or playing games. This mode was already reasonably
in-depth but 2K found room for some additions, such as a player role and morale system that introduces attitudes and egos to the mix which was sorely needed
as it's a very real part of running any pro sports team let alone a team in the NBA which is a league that seems particularly prone to attitudes and egos.
Outside of this, you won't find a whole lot new stuff although
hardcore NBA fans will certainly be pleased to see the arrival of no trade clauses as well as player or team initiation option years when regarding contract
management. It would be great to see 2K really sit down and take the Association mode to the next level with unsurpassed detail and authenticity, but as it
stands the mode is still excellent and slightly improved in 2K8.
With the handful of mode changes and additions aside, the rest of what's new and improved in 2K8 basically revolves around the core gameplay, which
is hard to imagine because the gameplay in 2K7 was so great. The first evident improvement this year comes with the play calling in not only how
powerful it can be, but also how easy too.This series has had the ability to easily call plays on the court for a while now but one very annoying aspect to
this was remembering exactly what you had
to do and when you had to do it for any play even slightly complicated, requiring you to regularly sift through menus to watch small play animations
only to forget them once you went back in-game. This is a thing of the past as now play art is displayed on the court telling you what to do and when to do
it for any given play you run. I couldn't seem to find a way to turn this off so experienced gamers may find it a tad annoying if they don't need
it, but it will certainly be a huge help for those
of us who are not so proficient with set plays.
The reason why being able to execute plays so easily is such a huge help is because they have a very big impact in the game and you are often
rewarded with key buckets when you execute plays well. In general, NBA 2K8's gameplay is about finding the best shot possible just like the real NBA
which is made much more efficient when you can master play execution. The thing you have to keep in mind with this however is the CPU are too much better at
executing plays in this version which can really
catch you off guard. Last year it seemed more often than not the CPU AI was happy to bounce the ball around aimlessly hoping to find an open man
regularly being forced to take tough shots, but in 2K8 they are now much better at orchestrating plays and moving the ball around with a
little bit of intelligence. If there has ever been a sport game where I can honestly say playing the CPU can feel like you're playing another human
being, NBA 2K8 is it.
It's not just the ability to execute plays better though, the CPU AI in general is significantly better this time around. If you leave a forward with
even the slightest crease to thebucket
against the Suns, CPU Nash will more often than not punish you with a pin point bounce pass. If you let a guy like Arenas open after a well executed screen
play, 2 points is almost a certainty. The CPU is great at finding the open guy and sometimes, just like in the real NBA, you can do everything right on
but still find yourself being schooled by a superstar's offensive showcase. If I could offer one criticism here though, it would be that defense is still
quite a secondary aspect to the gameplay in 2K8, as sometimes it seems very hard to defend even the simplest of moves successfully, but some
improvements have been made - the right analog stick is slightly more useful in defending movements to the edges, and there is now a function that
automatically makes your controlled defender stick with an opposing
player which is particularly useful when the CPU or a human gamer online try to execute a pick and roll or something similar
Besides the improved AI you can also expect to see the usual assortment of new animations further rounding off the gameplay including some superstar
specific moves on top of the signature shot styles that has been in the series for a little while now. At times 2K8 can still feel a little odd
physics wise with some questionable clipping issues that do look a little ugly, but in general the flow and feel of the animations are dead on and suit the
gameplay very well. It's good to see some work was done
in making stealing and blocking a little more balanced and realistic, even on custom slider settings, which was a problem last year. One last gameplay
feature worthy of mention is the newly introduced ability to easily determine where on the court a player is most likely to score points, and the way this is
done is simply genius - rather than take NBA Live 08's approach, which used a overlay chart on the court to display where players are most likely to
get it in, in 2K8 each player has a meter
underneath their feet which fills up when they have the ball in a section of the court they are strong from, and depletes when they are in a poor spot (such
as Shaq anywhere not near the basket, for instance). Think of it as a mobile phone reception bar - the better the signal, the better the
area for that specific player. While this system isn't quite as powerful as Live's, it is far less intrusive and does the job basically just
Visually the game is actually not quite as impressive as the gameplay with texturing that can sometimes appear a little blurry and edges that can look a
little jaggy although the game definitely does look its best when the action is zoomed in on one player as real life likeliness is usually uncanny - for
instance, the replicated of Joakim Noah is almost spooky. Atmosphere wise the game is, like the previous versions, almost spot on and definitely feels like a
real NBA game playing in front of your eyes,
particularly the stadium music and crowd as they flood the stands with the chant of "THREEEEEEE" as one of their home team favorites launches
it from beyond the arc. This is a sports game that simply looks, plays and feels close to real thing to a degree few other games have in the
There is no doubting that somehow, someway 2KSports and developers Visual Concepts have managed to make this series even better with NBA
2K8. Of course not a whole lot has changed because very little needed changing from what already was a fantastic game in NBA 2K7, and to the
untrained eye this may make 2K8 somewhat of a roster update with a few new modes, but for those that can appreciate the improvement in AI and the
general all round improvement in realism and balance, the
differences are very significant. With EA's NBA Live series finally starting to show some promise it was important for 2KSports to
assert their position as NBA top dog, and they have done this with NBA 2K8. I still think the series could use slightly more polish for a
complete 'next gen' finish when it comes to physics and animations as the differences between the 360 game and the PS2 game for instance are not great
still, but that's hardly a concern when you're engrossed in
what is the best sports gaming out there. I'm barely an NBA fan at all (go Magic...they still have Penny and Shaq right?) and I can't get enough of this
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