Every year I anxiously wait for the new NBA 2k release to watch it wipe the floor with all competition once again by adding new content which makes the game even more realistic than before. This year isn’t any different, but will NBA 2k8 be able to outclass the big success of last year.
Realism is the most important aspect of this wonderful basketball series and has been so for quite a while now. This year the developers wanted to expand this element of the game even further and they managed to do so quite nicely… Or did they? The first adjustment is found in the AI and mainly on the offensive side. Computer controlled players really search for holes in the defense, give wonderful passes and will give you plenty of hard times on the defensive end. Of course this also goes for your offense. It has become a lot easier to play with AI players because they seem to understand the game. Even though NBA 2k8 made a huge leap forward when talking about offensive AI, defense seems to have been forgotten during development. Most of the time your teammates will react way to late, don’t adjust to the opponents shooting tendencies or just fail to anticipate on what the guy with the rock will do.
On the other hand, as a human player you’re being helped a massive hand while protecting the rim. A new functionality called Lock-on D latterly lets you lock on to the ball carrier, the only thing you have to do is press a few buttons and nudge the thumbstick in the right direction. By doing so, the opponent will barely have the chance to take it to the hoop or even pull a shot in your face. This might be good against an AI player, certainly when you’re learning, but you can also use this online. Where last year you needed some skills to put on a decent defensive play. Lock-on D should be turned off when playing online, simple as that!
Another aspect of the game which has been firmly changed is the completely renewed animation system. Before you could just do some fast dribbles to take out the defender, now you have to use your momentum to go past opposing players. This does create somewhat slower ballgame, but also grants us more refined gameplay since you have to think about what you’re going to do and this is something I’m sure every basketball fan will be able to appreciate. Other gamers who are looking for more action will be a bit disappointed at first, but after a while you’ll learn how to use the new system and you’ll be able to create more spectacular plays than ever before. Don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get the hang of it though, it’s not the easiest thing to learn.
Apart from a bit of defensive assistance by the Lock-on D, you’ll also get some help when running through offensive plays. From the moment you call something from the playbook, directions will be drawn on the ground, showing you exactly what to do and when to do it. In my opinion it was about damn time someone implemented this type of feature.
Next to some finer gameplay adjustments, 2K Sports also grants us access to an all new game mode. Finally the NBA 2k series contains a dunking contest! At first you’ll have a long way to go learning the bits and pieces, but once you know what to do and how to do it you’ll have the time of your life throwing down monstrous dunks which will make you scream for more, especially when you’re playing with friends.
Even though the dunking contest is great, the coolest thing to do in this new NBA 2k title is the Association mode. Your goal here is to pick an existing NBA team and take it to the top. Where you didn’t have an awful lot of influence on your players in 2k7, you now have to assign player roles to each team member and you’ll have to do so according to their expectations. If you don’t grant them the expected role or amount of time on the field, they’ll get upset and start to do things you don’t want them to do like making your team chemistry drop by complaining all the time. This has major impact on your trade selection since you can’t just try and get the every big star out there. They all want to play, but that just won’t be possible since you can only have five people on the court. So if and when you’re trying to adjust your team, keep in account that you also view your selected players expectations and make sure you can meet these.
Another big advantage the NBA 2k series has had over the competition since a couple of year is the tremendous multiplayer. The online leagues and tournaments can be played with as many players as there are NBA teams and can be played over multiple days. Sadly, the online games lose some of their potential because of the Lock-on D. It just makes defending to easy! Also, you now have the capability of taking on an AI team in co-op mode together with one other player. Apart from that, nothing has changed really… Hell, why change a winning formula right?
Also on the graphical end, NBA 2k8 made some progression, especially when we’re talking about detail levels. What they do need to learn is modeling players… A lot of the big stars can’t really be compared to their real-life counterpart. The perhaps the worst case is Steve Nash. He looks like a crashed alien who had the chance to have a real close look at his cockpit during his ride down.
All in all NBA 2k8 isn’t that much of an improvement compared to last year. Although there are lots of new things to discover, they all too often are bit bugged or just don’t feel like their finished yet. If people over at 2k manage to get rid of this problem, I promise you we’ll have one killer-game on our hands next year. Of course we’re stuck with NBA 2k8 now, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It does offer enough progression to be interesting. I’m sure every basketball fan will buy this, but for people who’re new to this, I think you better search for a copy of 2k7 rather than 2k8.