Since several years, EA and 2K Sports have been ‘fighting’ for the title “best developer of sports games”. If we think about basketball games, the first names coming up are EA’s NBA Live or the 2K series. With two different basketball games the market seemed to be saturated, but Sony Entertainment thought differently. With NBA08 Sony is trying to obtain a spot between the other two opponents. Will they jump high enough for the rebound or are they heading for a block shot in the face.
Sports games usually come with a new edition every year. After each edition the developers plead the game has improved in many ways and became more realistic. In other words, sports games become what they are thanks to their evolution throughout the years. Sony’s NBA is a bit different with its first edition having arroved in 2006. Let’s see if it’s a worthy opponent…
Like most sports games this title is also divided in several modes, here being “Single Game”, “The Life Vol.3” and “League”. In “Single Game” you can immediately start a new game, complete a season, participate in the “Play-off” or play against the world stars with your own character. In “League” you need to complete a couple of hundred assignments which go from scoring a few points to preventing your opponent doing the same. Besides this there are also a few mini games like “3-point shoot-out”, “two-on two” and “drills”. Personally I found the lack of a “Dunk Contest” a pitty, but overall the mini games are very entertaining. The game also contains a decent online multiplayer which doesn’t suffer from any problems with lag.
What it’s all about, is the well-developed “The Life Vol.3”. You need to make your own character and try to make a career with your team. The story is been told by cut scenes, this way we find out that it’s the coach’s last season and he hopes to win the championship for one last time. In the beginning you have to accomplish some easy tasks like scoring some points, doing cross-overs and reverses. A good beginning for newcomers and you can see this as a tutorial. Once you get further in the story, you will get harder assignments and you’ll be playing against the real pros. Whereas in most sport games the storyline is pretty thin, Sony succeeds to exell in this department. I personally have extremely enjoyed “The life”, the variation in tasks is fine and the increasing level of difficulty ensured a good challenge.
The gameplay is above average. Movements like “Cross-over’s” and “Reverses” are easy to complete and the slow motion dunks are enjoyable to look at. While performing a shot a three colored meter will appear. This gives you a visual representation of how difficult a shot is. Green is easy, yellow a bit more difficult and red is of course the hardest. After playing a few games, scoring points goes a lot easier.
A big negative remark is the mindless AI of the players, it’s even possible to dribble the whole field and score an easy layup. The scoring goes quick, but watch out as you’ll have to bear a lot of counter goals. Defense is a nightmare, the chance of stealing the ball is almost zero.
Compared with the basketball titles NBA08 is graphically a huge disaster. The game sees ridged, the animations aren’t fluent and the players show few resemblances with the real ones. The crowd shows similarity with a piece of motionless cardboard and the stadiums are all the same. Graphically the game can’t compete with the competition but the sound on the other hand turns out better than expected. The background music, a mix of hip-hop and R&B, is above average, but the audience hardly adds anything to the atmosphere. The commentary luckily anticipates well on the situation.
Now rests the question: Is this game better, even or worse than its competitors? The answer is unfortunately the latter. In short: graphically not good enough, the AI of the players is simply bad and the sound could be better… Sony’s NBA08 is a firm game, but shows some shortcoming in some components. Are you looking for a basketball game for the PS2, then go for NBA Live or 2K8.