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NBA 2K8 Xbox 360 Review

The king of NBA gaming returns with an even better offering.

| Sports in Gaming | Posted: Nov 14, 2007 5:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.5%Developer and / or Publisher: Visual Concepts

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 [img]nba2k8_xb360_1[/img]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

 

'flick' possibilities.


[img]nba2k8_xb360_2[/img]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

 

you
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. [img]nba2k8_xb360_3[/img]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 the [img]nba2k8_xb360_4[/img]bucket

 

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

 

defense
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

 

as well.


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

 

past.


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

 

game.

Xbox 360 Elite

 

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