NBA '08 Review
Competition is a good thing. The NBA license is not locked up by either EA Sports or 2K Sports and PlayStation 3 owners even have a third option for their NBA game of choice this year. And it's not really a bad option; Sony's NBA '08 can be an enjoyable game on its own, and it has a lot to offer basketball fans looking for a more casual option than the NBA games offered by the two giants of sports games.
NBA '08 has plenty of gameplay options, but if I had to describe in a few words I'd say that it is a lighter version of NBA basketball than NBA Live 08 and NBA 2K8. The game has a season mode, but it doesn't have any of the features found in franchise modes outside of trades. There is an option to create your own player, but there's no superstar mode. Online play is supported, but just for exhibition matches. These are just a few of the reasons that the more serious and/or hardcore NBA fans will look at NBA '08 as a weak substitute for the other two NBA games. However, they're also the reasons why a casual gamer may prefer NBA '08.
Unless you have your heart set on a fell-fledged superstar mode, the way the create-a-player feature is implemented in NBA '08 is pretty interesting. Your player is always available for play, whether you're playing an exhibition match, a playoff series, or leading a team through a season. Your player can be swapped in whenever you'd like or be left on the sidelines in every game. You may be wondering how your player's skills will ever progress if he's riding pine all the time. The game uses a credit system in which you earn credits for achieving in-game goals. The goal list is extensive and includes accomplishments such as recording five assists with your point guard or nailing a three-pointer with your power forward. At the end of the game the credits are tallied and added to your bank, and you'll get an extra bonus if you used your created player in the game. Some goals will also automatically award you with things such as trophies or player cards. These credits can then be spent to improve your player's stats and buy new gear, as well as to unlock a long list of items such as classic uniforms or new courts. It's a pretty cool system that adds an extra element of excitement to the game and motivates everyone who plays to create their own player - especially since when you take the game online others will be able to see your player's card complete with level and vitals.
In addition to the modes that I mentioned before, NBA '08 includes a mode named NBA Replay. This mode takes the top two performances from each week of the last NBA season and challenges you to match the feats. For example, you might be challenged to hit three shots from 3-point range with the same player or dish an assist to three different players. These challenges are enjoyable but they are all must be played within a pretty tight time limit which makes things feel artificial. There were plenty of times when I was forced to open up a mile-wide lane to the basket in hopes that the other team would score quickly so that I could get the ball back.
On the court NBA '08 plays a decent game of basketball, but there are enough issues with it that NBA purists will probably be turned off by them. I like the game's shot mechanism and also that you use the same method to shoot free throws as you do to take shots on the court. When you press the shot button an arc appears above the player's head that goes from red to yellow to green and back again. To have the best chance of making a shot you'll need to release the button when the arc is green. Nice, simple, effective. My biggest complaint with the game is that fast breaks are impossible to pull off in the game. When you pass the ball down the court to someone he invariably stops to catch the ball and is immediately locked up by a defender. There seems to be a bit of a problem with the passing in general as passes are intercepted at an unrealistically high rate. Another problem is that the dribble moves that you use the right-stick and sixaxis to pull off are completely inconsistent. You never know exactly when the player will decide to respond and make a dribble move, and once he does he's locked into the animation. This means that if he decides to do a spin move near the sidelines he'll step over the line and spin into the crowd and you'll be powerless to stop him. The offensive AI could use a little work too, as your teammates will often stand around and make little effort to get open. All of these issues are probably enough to make a serious hoops fan throw his controller to the ground in frustration, but the game still manages to be fun if you're the forgiving type and just go with the flow.
There's a lot to like about NBA '08, but it's not a top-tier basketball game. The more relaxed approach to things is a nice change of pace for those not looking for hardcore realism in their NBA game, but the gameplay needs to be improved before this series becomes a serious contender for the NBA game crown.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 73%. NBA '08 can provide its own brand of fun and excitement, but there are too many holes in the on-court action for it to make a championship run.