2K Sports gets the ring this year.
The battle between basketball games has been a seesaw for years now. The NBA 2K series has fought the NBA Live series for the crown every year and both games have their followers and naysayers. Some years the more action-oriented Live nudges itself into victory with new features, and others the more simulation-based 2K series take home the win. This is a year for the latter, as NBA 2K7’s advancements allow it to claim the title as not only the year’s best basketball game, but also one of the best basketball titles ever.
The first thing that most gamers will notice immediately are the graphics. The visuals are completely astounding. A casual observer may be fooled into thinking that they are watching an actual NBA game. The animations are incredibly lifelike as well , especially with the Signature Styles. Simply put, the Signature Style emulates each individual player’s movements so that different types of shots, movements, dunks, and post-shot taunts are captured effectively to re-create a player’s style. Each player shoots like he does in reality, and this is done so effectively that you can often recognize a player by his movement or his shot instead of his physical appearance alone. Some of the player models don’t stand up to close scrutiny and become downright ugly when the camera comes in too close. However, the overall game is fantastically modeled and animated from the players down to the fans in the stands, the energetic cheerleaders, and even the bouncing mascots.
There is also a renewed focus on making sure the player acts like his true-life counterpart. So if your big man likes to stay in the post in reality, his digital doppelganger will behave the same way. Coupled with the Signature Style, there will be times that gamers will swear that actual NBA games are going on within their 360.
The player animations, while convincing and realistic, also are one of the game’s biggest drawbacks, especially on the fast break. On most of the passes, the players stop to catch the ball for some unfathomable reason. While the animation to do so is always very well done, such as a player jumping to catch the ball, the precious seconds spent in doing so almost always result in a defender getting position ahead of your player, especially on a fast break.
Another minor complaint comes in the form of the signature style shots. Since the shots differ from player to player, the timing differs as well. This means that the timing of your shot release (should you eschew the shot stick) will vary depending on who you’re taking the J with. This can easily become confusing and frustrating, although the importance of the timing seems to have been toned down a bit for court action. However, the timing is as important as ever for free throws, and the variety of free throws, while realistic, is incredibly hard. Shaq seems to take a full quarter to shoot his free throws with his awkward one handed shot for instance. While it is amusing to see the players faithfully re-create their free throw style of choice, the game still requires you to pull down on the analog stick and release it when the ball leaves the player’s hands. The timing is going to differ radically from player to player and it’s a safe bet that the first time that you shoot a free throw with anyone is going to be a practice shot. The game would have greatly benefited from a timing indicator that showed the best time to release for each individual player. However, there is an option to turn off the free throw timing and allow the computer to calculate your chances.
It’s much harder to get to the lane this year. Depending on the type of game that you like to play this can be construed as positive or negative. However, it definitely makes the game feel more realistic and makes the big dunks more rewarding. While it’s more difficult to make your way to the hoop, there’s a much bigger payoff when your efforts at working the passing lane or breaking the defender’s ankles results in rim-shaking slam dunk.
The 24/7 mode is also greatly changed this year as well. This mode has more of a story to it, taking the player from the streets to the NBA. The player is accompanied by two friends who don’t play basketball but offer corny dialogue and advice with decent voice acting but bad scripting. While the gameplay attempts to distance itself from the regular NBA mode by adding streetball moves, the game still has a long way to go before it can compete with NBA Street. Players can only control their character and play as part of a team or in one-on-one games against other NBA players. By winning, you can earn respect points which unlock new potential teammates or new venues. While you can create-a-character, you can’t customize his abilities as fully by training as you could in previous NBA games. Also, the fact that you can only control your character goes a long way towards making you feel like an individual playing a streetball game, but your teammates don’t always make smart decisions. While you can urge them to pass you the ball or shoot by pressing the corresponding button, they don’t always listen. Also, there is generally only one game that is going on at a time. In 2K6, you had a choice of which game you could join in case you liked “long range only” games better than “See-saw” (which seems like it can go on forever). In 2K7, there is only one game on each court going on, so either you can join that timed 3-on-3 game or you can go to another court. Ultimately, the 24/7 mode is a nice distraction, but doesn’t really feel fleshed out as a game itself. Perhaps if the developers had kept the ability to train your character or had given more options for pickup games, this mode would have felt better.
The Association, on the other hand, is a great franchise mode that gives you total control over your team. This mode makes you strike a balance between training your team to improve their talents and overtraining them until they’re too fatigued to perform. You can individually train players to boost their stats or assign team drills to help the team work better together. You can even draft new players to your team. This mode should satisfy the budding coach/owner in every basketball fan.
NBA 2K7 is one of the best basketball games currently available. Although it does have a number of shortcomings, the total package is enough to satisfy any true fan of the sport. With the Signature Style re-creating players’ styles on the game, the immersive Association mode, and the nearly impeccable online play, NBA 2K7 is the sports title to get this basketball season.
NBA 2K7 offers plenty of improvements and that same great Shaq sweat that we all know and love. by D’Marcus Beatty
EA’s Madden is the king of football games. With its combination of undeniable popularity and NFL exclusivity, it’s hard for any company to compete with EA when it comes to football. Now with basketball, EA commonly runs into stiff competition with 2K Sport’s NBA 2K series, which is almost always lauded as more realistic and sim-like than the often arcade-ish feel of the EA’s NBA Live. The competition steps it up to the next level this year with both company’s second next-gen offerings, and 2K games has upped the ante considerably.
NBA 2K7, as stated earlier, is considered to be the most realistic basketball game on the market. 2K Sports seems to be hoping to capitalize on that image, as they’re bringing a number of new features to make gameplay even more immersive. The first addition comes in the form of better graphics. Although last year’s Xbox 360 version had gorgeous character models with their famous “sweating”, almost everything else was completely overlooked. The fans, the stadiums, the cheerleaders, and the coaches all had nearly the same look as their less powerful current generation version, which made for some jarring contrasts when the beautifully rendered ballers ran past the much uglier crowd models, or when the blocky cheerleaders came out at halftime. 2K has corrected that problem this time around, offering graphics that are decidedly next-gen through and through.
One of the biggest additions to this year’s version of NBA 2K is the individual signature moves and animations of the NBA’s biggest stars. Players will act, shoot, and play like their real life counterparts. This means that while playing, you’ll see Steve Nash licking his fingers as he dribbles up court, or Tayshaun Prince shooting with his distinctive shot. The player’s personal movements combined with the stellar graphics make the players seem almost lifelike. The court shines and reflects as well while the sweat and cloth physics from last year return to make the gaming experience incredible.
NBA 2K7 also promises more control over the passing game, allowing players to decide which type of pass they want to utilize, such as whether it is a straight pass or a bounce. You can also call substitutions on the fly, which makes gameplay more fluid, as players don’t have to leave the game to bring in their second-stringers or bring back in their starters. There is also a new type of street ball promised, although there aren’t many details about it right now.
All of the beloved features from previous iterations return, such as the Crib Mode, the VIP, and the Association. The shot stick returns as well, as does the use of the right analog stick to steal, although the right stick has some new abilities, such being able to cut off passes or place the players’ hands in the air to block passes.
NBA 2K7 is shaping up nicely and is going to be a definite contender for the basketball game of the year. With all of the new features and the graphical leap to next-gen, NBA 2K7 may beat NBA Live and take the crown for good.