NBA 08 is not so great
NBA 08 for the PS3 is Sony’s failed attempt to put out a great basketball game for their high powered console. All they have achieved is a mildly entertaining title that is better than last year’s version, but overall is just a waste of your time. NBA 08 boasts daunting visual specs, such as a high frame-rate and 1080p resolution output, yet the animations are very glitchy. Additionally, the clumsy controls, lack of play modes, and weak gameplay make for a boring overall experience. The creation of a top notch basketball simulator still seems to have eluded the designers over at SCEA.
I won’t put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the developers, however. Basketball games are generally not as fun as their sporting counterparts. That being said, there are other franchises out there that actually do justice to the beloved sport. This game is really not much fun at all. Offensive and defensive positioning has supposedly been improved, but it still feels messy in the paint. You can set up a team offense or isolate specific players, but the end result is usually the same. Passing lanes are quickly cut off by the opposing defense so it is always better to pass the ball around the horn until you get the ball into the hands of your best shooter. After all, the easiest thing to do in the game is shoot the ball. The post-up play animations look better this year, but getting the ball into the paint can be difficult, especially on higher levels of difficulty. Passing, in general, is poorly done. Players are constantly stopping their momentum to receive the ball and it makes for frustrating play. I would love to make a leading bounce pass right into the path of an oncoming rhythm shooter. SCEA has tried to incorporate this by making shots easier after a good pass, but its implementation on the court is not easy. All in all, the tools that are provided are not efficiently used, resulting in stodgy gameplay from a bygone era. My suggestion would be to create a sweet player and go Cobi on the opposition. Finally, driving the lane is too difficult. Defenders cover you like a blanket, and when you run into them it’s like hitting a brick wall. SCEA claims to have taken the physical aspects of gameplay into account, but more often than not your momentum will be stymied by a wall of overly effective defenders.
The visuals are also not up to snuff. It’s a funny thing because at times they look really sharp and pleasant. The arenas are nicely rendered and the shiny floors and stadium atmosphere are well captured. However, there are a lot twitching, glitches, and spatial inconsistencies that act as a staunch reminder that you’re just in your living room. Character faces are well done, but they seem distant and uninterested when in action due to painful movement animations. It often seems like you’re playing with very detailed models or dolls that only bend in a few spots. This isn’t always the case; in fact some of the moves you can perform are very fluid, but on the whole the animations look choppy. Sound is also not very good. The announcers are not particularly professional in their presentation. In fact, they sound like amateurs. Mark Jackson is not one for the booth. The ambient sounds are pretty solid though. The crowd noise and squeaky sneakers make for a realistic atmosphere. Overall, the sounds are a substantial improvement over last year because of the inclusion of play by play and color commentary. It goes to show that despite the fact that the announcers are not top notch, something is better than nothing.
The controls are decent, but should have been a lot better. I initially liked the simplicity, but after playing for a while I wanted expanded play calling and dribbling abilities. The Sixaxis motion controls are used more often this year which is horrendous. I was mortified to find out that half of the dribbling moves are mapped to the motion controls.
As it turns out, you’ll rely more heavily upon a handful of feints rather than resorting to shifting the controller about. I also think a rumble feature is an absolute must have. Running into players and posting up would be far more realistic if it were included. Fortunately for the developers, that’s not something I can fault them for. Sony needs to get the new Dual-Shocks out immediately. Shooting is the outlier in the control scheme. Shooting is both efficient and easily executed. You will rely upon the customary shooting meter that takes distance, timing, and player skill into account.
This is a simple mechanism that helps separate shooters from the rest. If you are able to get a good shooter out into the open, you will have no problem icing threes and baseline jumpers. There is an alleyoop mechanic in place as well which is very difficult to master, but when you do finally get the hang of it, it will be a source fun and is spectacular to look at.
Game modes are few and far between. There is not a whole lot here to keep you interested. If you are looking for a franchise mode this time around, then you’re going to be disappointed. You can play a full season and create a player, but the lack of franchise features is appalling. The create-a-player function is good, but the amount of facial customization that can be done is extremely lacking. It is nice to be able to create your own character that not only improves over time, but that you can personalize as the player becomes more experienced. Experience points allow you to open up cool equipment and additional game content. NBA Replay mode has been included again this year. You will be able to play through some of the greatest moments from last year’s NBA season. This is pretty fun and unique to the title. It’s also encouraging to know that this mode of play will be continually expanded upon as the new NBA season gets under way. You can also play a series of mini-games to hone your skills and to provide a bit of variety. Unfortunately, they’re not particularly fun and the gymkhana that is the skills challenge is pointless.
Online play is one of the better features. You will not only play against fellow online competitors, but you will be able show off your created players, see where you rank on the leaderboards, watch videos, and view pages created by NBA 08 gamers. Online capability is essential and the NBA 08 crew has done a fine job of putting it together.
There was a lot of effort that went into this title. There is a definite improvement over last year, but overall it still isn’t a very fun game. I would say hold off on purchasing this title. The shaky controls, visuals, gameplay, commentary, and lack of play modes add up to a work in progress that’s not worth the time or money.