|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 2, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Anthony Warren
September 6, 2007 - For the past several years NBA Live has had a rough time in its attempt to capture the intensity of real life players in a virtual world. These struggles have led to games that range from uneven to just downright no fun to play. This year EA has decided to focus on the fundamentals of basketball to try to improve the basic gameplay of the series. Here, we'll take a look at the four new features in this season: quick-strike ballhandling, own the paint, signature moves and hot spots.
Quick-strike ballhandling is in essence simply an improved way for players to move the ball and move with the ball. Your player's dribbling is handled with the right analog stick, moving the stick left or right to switch hands like an NBA pro. With EA's improved branching animations combined with the new ballhandling mechanic you now have the opportunity to explode from anywhere on the court. This results in players that are more organic and fluid than ever before and more options than ever for taking it to the rim.
The development team at EA Canada, working with former Nuggets player Kiki Vandeweghe, has made post play one of the most exciting parts of the game thanks to the new own the paint system. As producers put it, every match up in the paint in NBA Live 08 should be like a chess match, where one-on-one matches are won and lost on every possession, all determined by the creativity and drive of the players. Using the analog sticks (which also drive the ballhandling moves), players fall into a game of moves and countermoves with hundreds of different moves much akin to a game of cat-and-mouse. Fake shots and spins will make all the difference between a win and a loss when it comes to the paint system-you can fake a spin with the push of a button during a one-on-one match up. All of NBA Live's new moves are contextually driven so there are no longer the awkward lay-ups from twenty feet from the hoop. Now NBA has all the right moves at the right times.
Everyone is sure to find their favorite post moves in the 2008 edition however, the days of pulling your favorite tricks again and again are over. Now the game's AI will stuff you if you try to dunk every time you try to take it to the basket. The collision detection has been improved, making the game seem more like the real world than a virtual one. There's also a defensive help button that can be used to keep your player locked on his opponent or switch to the next player that takes the ball. This takes away some of the challenge of trying to beat your opponent with pure skill. This should open the game to a wider audience, those of us like me who've never gained mastery over their virtual hoop shooting abilities.
Thanks to a host of new signature moves the various players will act and react more like their real world counterparts. However the days of taking it to the rim with your favorite move again and again are in the past with the defensive AI now able adapt to such maneuvers. Kobe's signature fadeaway shot will be in the game, as will Tony Parker's teardrop shot, along with a host of other shots and moves modeled directly after their NBA counterparts.
When certain players like Parker and Bryant get hot you'll definitely want to use them as much as possible from their favorite spots on the floor. This is where the new hot spot feature comes in. Pressing the left shoulder button will pull up a color-coded overlay of the court showing where your currently controlled player is doing the best (and worst). Red zones indicate hot spots, while yellow and blue areas indicate areas to stay away from when you're looking to put the ball up. Producers say that for individual exhibition games that hot spot data will be based on real-life player tendencies. In NBA Live 08's franchise mode, that hot spot information will be tracked dynamically and will adjust over the course of a season.
With EA's exclusive license to the NBA games it's unlikely to see a true competitor arise to challenge the Live series, however, if a competitor were to emerge it's a sure bet NBA Live 08 would give it a run for it's money. All in all the game is stacking up to be another maverick of the series, keeping dribbling hoop-shooters waiting in anticipation for it's October 07 release date.
CCC Freelance Writer