|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Fall 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: TBA||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
May 9, 2007 - While EA has usually dominated the basketball gaming market, a poor response to its Live 07 installment and stiff competition from the 2K series turned a lot of fans off from the franchise. Admittedly, EA screwed up their last effort and are now working hard to reclaim their crown.
Recently announced, Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas will grace the cover of Live 08 and newly released screenshots featuring an incredible likeness of Arenas make the graphics look promising. But graphics haven't been the concern of fans of the NBA Live franchise, which has always had stellar graphics. EA has acknowledged they need to focus on its gameplay fundamentals and seem to be doing so with 08.
Simply, the EA team says they are focusing on what makes basketball great: the five-on-five. More specifically, they are working to perfect ten focus points in particular: passing, shooting, rebounding, dunks and lay-ups, offense, defense, ball physics, locomotion, post whistle, collisions, and scenarios.
EA has made a few notable differences to the gameplay. One thing they have concentrated on is making each character's style of play reflect the way he actually plays. The dunk and lay-up buttons are now the same, and if you play as someone who simply cannot or doesn't dunk in real life, they won't even attempt it. For example, you may be able to lay a ball in the net surrounded in traffic with Steve Nash, but if you play with a dunker like Lebron, he may posterize the defenders in the same situation. With jump shots, EA has worked on about 60-65 signature shots to reflect famous jumpers by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shawn Marrion and mimic how they actually shoot to a "T." EA also concentrated on the physics of how the players' legs bend at the knees and spring up as they take a jump shot, rather than the cartoon-like upward floating animation we're used to. They also worked on the ball's arc to the basket after a shot, making sure the trajectory is as realistic as possible.
By fixing the arc of the ball, EA has also made the rebounding better. Because the trajectory of the ball-shot is more accurate, the net no longer acts as a magnet to the ball, allowing for longer and more realistic rebounds. In previous NBA Live installments, the player who jumped for the rebound first was the one who would get the ball, which looked as though it would simply fly directly into the player's hands. In 08, the player in the closest area of where the ball rebounds to will get it, as it would happen in a real game. Players on the court now angle their bodies and arms towards the loose ball, or put themselves in position to make a play and look as though they are really making an attempt to catch it.
EA has also perfected hundreds of new animations and on-floor action. One thing they have concentrated on in 08 is the player-to-player collisions which promise to make for some humorous gaming moments. If two players collide on the floor or in mid-air, there are some detailed animations of players falling to the floor. If you take your player to the basket and charge a defenseman, the offensive player may noticeably stick his forearm up to knock the other player out of the way and foul him hard. Or in another situation, if the ref determines the same kind of play to be a blocking foul, the offensive player may fall backwards and attempt to jack up an awkward looking shot to get the "and 1." The type of collisions will also look different depending on which players are involved, as the physics of his height and weight will become a factor in the scenario.
With all the gameplay improvements EA has made, don't think they skimped on the graphics, however. They made sure the players' faces are as realistic as possible, always a concern in sports games. EA have done their best to represent the true likeness of the NBA stars and recent screenshots of the game look pretty astounding. EA says they not only concentrated on making the players' faces realistic, but also their body types to reflect the exact stature of each athlete.
EA also upped the framerate to 60 frames per second regardless of the action happening on the court, whereas Live 07 featured a lot of slowdown. Another change that's been made is the overall appearance of the game's arenas and ball courts, which were a concern with recent Live titles. Where the past couple installments had the same atmosphere in every arena, no matter which home team you played with, EA says they have worked on mimicking each team's actual arena. It also shows players warming up on the court before a game, taking a few warm-up shots beforehand.
While NBA Live 08 is still in the works, EA has released some exciting announcements thus far that should make for some interesting improvements. Look for it this fall.
CCC Freelance Writer