Matt Keller
07 Nov, 2007

NBA 2K8 Review

360 Review | 2K Sports continues to dominate the video game basketball court.
Year after year, the NBA 2K series has shown absolute superiority over its rival NBA Live. This difference in quality was perhaps at its most obvious last year, when EA Sports released the laughably bad NBA Live 07, only to be stomped all over by NBA 2K7, 2K Sports' best entry yet. Unlike EA Sports, 2K Sports is not one to rest on its laurels or buy exclusive rights to shut out its competition – developer Visual Concepts is dedicated to making the best game they can year after year. This is most evident in NBA 2K8, which introduces scores of new features and irons out many of those niggling pre-existing gameplay issues to deliver one of the finest video game basketball experiences to date.

For a yearly update, NBA 2K8 has seen a large number of new features and tweaking. The street side of the game has been completely revamped and now goes by the name of NBA Blacktop. Blacktop houses all of the usual street games – it doesn’t have the story mode stylings of the 24/7 mode – whether that is a good or a bad thing really depends on the player’s preferences. Blacktop does have the important stuff – pickup games ranging from 1 on 1 play through to full 5 on 5 encounters, matches to 21, three point contests, the dunk school and the Sprite dunk challenge.

OBJECTION! Er...sorry, wrong game!

OBJECTION! Er...sorry, wrong game!
The dunk challenge will pit players up against 3 other NBA superstars or NBA legends in a 4 round elimination competition. The game doesn’t actually provide any sort of instructions on how to dunk in this mode, so players will want to go to the dunk school first. Dunk selection is controlled by the right stick, and the complexity of the dunk is tied to the complexity of the movement. Once a player is airborne, you can wiggle the right stick again to make the dunk more impressive – though you must ensure you hit the right trigger when the dunk meter is at the correct point. The dunk will be assigned a score, and the next player will take their turn – lowest score in each round gets eliminated. To increase their chance of a higher score, players can put obstacles in the path of their dunk, which will make the dunk rather difficult, of course. Win the dunk competition, and there’s a chance you will be challenged by another NBA superstar for a dunk off, for which your two best dunks are counted. It’s a neat little extra, but it would have been better if the game provided some sort of tutorial on how to dunk – players will sit around the dunk school tearing their hair out in frustration trying to find that sweet spot to get their dunk off the ground.

The meat of the NBA 2K experience has been always been in the Association mode, and the 2008 version of the game is no different. The changes in the Association mode are more subtle, but they do add to the game on the whole. The interface has been re-designed, so finding things like practice schedules can take a little getting used to at first, but the change is for the better. Roles can be assigned to each player now, and players can choose to make a comment towards one of their team members to boost or lower their morale. Players will have to choose starters, a sixth main, regular subs and such, as well as finding a player to pick as their star or development prospects and such. The whole element of negotiation has been expanded – you can lump in a no-trade agreement into a player’s contract to make it that bit more attractive. If players don’t want to manage every bit of their team, they can let the CPU schedule training and such – a bit more handy if you just want to focus on playing.

In terms of on court play, a new feature has been added to allow players a visual overlay of any play on the court, so you can see where a player needs to be to execute a particular play. Visual concepts has also expanded its signature shot animations to include signature moves – so players can do Steve Nash’s no-look passes and Shaq’s vicious charges to the net with startling accuracy. Many of the other areas of the game have just been tightened up, such as the trick and dodge moves on the left stick, and defensive blocking on the right stick. These improvements aren’t the sort of thing that sound important on paper, but are very noticeable once you get in game.

Does anyone remember when Mr Cooper played for the Warriors?

Does anyone remember when Mr Cooper played for the Warriors?
Online play has always been one of the strengths of the NBA 2K series all the way back to its beginnings on the Sega Dreamcast. Online play comes in many different forms – one off matches (ranked or unranked), tournament play and even full seasons with drafts for those who really like their basketball. All NBA Blacktop modes are available for use online as well. Up to 8 players can participate in a game on the Xbox 360 version (10 on the PlayStation 3), so you can almost have full human control of a given team. The games are pretty lag free, and feedback is highly encouraged, with the integrated feedback window popping up at the completion of a game.

One point of contention about the NBA 2K series is its artificial intelligence. One camp of fans suggests that the game has realistic AI and is quite content, while the other thinks that the AI is rather stupid. NBA 2K8 has pretty damn fine AI, though some players may find that they stomp all over them – which is where you raise the difficulty level and tweak the sliders. We found it to be pretty realistic – the game takes into account a lot of team and player tendencies and styles too – shut down LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are utterly useless. NBA 2K8 has a whole host of single player content, bound to last players until next season’s game at minimum, so you’ll want to find a level of difficulty that suits you.

The NBA 2K games on the Xbox 360 have looked superb, largely thanks to impressive cloth physics and realistic player looks and perspiration. NBA 2K8 is easily amongst the best looking sports game on the new generation of consoles. Aside from much better player modeling (except for the benchwarmers), many of the changes to the graphics aren’t immediately noticeable. The player animation is what really steals the show – it’s so fluid and lifelike – and now Visual Concepts have pushed to make more accurate player specific animations for the all-star players like LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming and so on. The arenas look superb too, packed full of life with players on the bench, coaches roaming the sideline and packed crowds that aren’t full of blatant clones (though they do look a bit ugly up close). Best of all, the frame rate never skips a beat in most important parts of the game. The pre-game menus have been toned down considerably, now just a set of menu lists, rather than the clever city fly through from last year’s game.

New Orleans! Stinking, rotten, vomiting, vile! New Orleans!

New Orleans! Stinking, rotten, vomiting, vile! New Orleans!
The TV style presentation still remains one of the most impressive parts of NBA 2K, though some parts of the half-time report have been scaled back in NBA 2K8. Kenny Harlan and Kenny Smith provide play by play commentary which still does the job, even though it’s not overtly different from last year. There is a lot of extra commentary about individual players, which is something that was needed. Craig Sager still provides the sideline report, commenting on the plans of coaches at the start of the game and after half-time. 2K Beats returns for another year, though personally I don’t quite like the selections of this year’s game – it’s kind of hard to top Afrika Bambaata’s Planet Rock.

It’s hard to pick out the faults of a game like NBA 2K8. Last year’s game was solid, but this year they’ve pulled most of the kinks out, replaced the lesser elements of the game and tightened up many areas of the on court play. NBA 2K8 looks great and plays better, and outside of tweaking the trick and dodge moves and making the AI more devious, we can’t really think of more that Visual Concepts can improve upon. NBA 2K8 is a must buy for all basketball fans, and anyone after a solid sports game.
The Score
NBA 2K8 has excellent on-court play, awesome presentation and a packed feature set - basketball video games don't get any better than this.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related NBA 2K8 Content

NBA 2K8 Preview
26 Sep, 2007 We go hands on and shoot for the basket.
NBA Street Homecourt Review
03 Oct, 2007 Dunking from mid-court has never been easier.
NBA 2K7 Review
19 May, 2007 Can you forgive Shaq for Kazaam?
6 years ago
I've been playing this game for a month and it's simply the best basketball game ever.

Love the Hangin' With Mr Cooper reference you made... been thinking of that particular episode a lot recently while playing this game. Remembering how much of a bastard Tim Hardaway was in that episode.
6 years ago
2k games actually bought the MLB licence though icon_wink.gif that's why EA had to stop the MVP Baseball series

..although Sony is still able to make MLB The Show for some reason :/
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/K1

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
  2K Games
Year Made:

Related Media
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.