With the 2007-2008 NBA season coming up quickly, game developers rushed to release new versions of their basketball game series. The two at the head of the pack though are 2K Sports’ “NBA 2K8” and EA’s “NBA Live 08.”
With copies of both games on the Xbox 360 console, BallerStatus decided to give gamers a side-by-side comparison to figure out which is the right choice for which individual.
NBA Live 08: Despite lackluster reviews of their first attempt at their series on the next-gen console via last year’s release, EA definitely put in much more effort this time around, fixing issues players had with “NBA Live 07’s” next-gen debut. Everything looks better this time around — the players’ jerseys, the court and crowds, as well as the animations. So, at first glance, EA stepped their developing game up and tried to compete with the competition (2K Sports).
NBA 2K8: Dominate in last year’s version of the game over EA’s attempt, “NBA 2K8” has improved without a doubt this year, but due to some fine tuning that didn’t get worked out, some of its improvement attempts make it inferior to their pervious product. We’ll go over some of these issues later in this review, but is it enough to knock “2K8” off of this year’s b-ball game throne? Read on to find out.
NBA Live 08: In addition to vastly improved graphics, there are several other improvements made to the title. It has a new in-game camera that makes the action on the court look and feel a lot more like a televised game, which helps to improve the gameplay slightly. Another improvement is the broadcast experience, in which veteran announcer Marv Albert and former player Steve Kerr give you play-by-play banter through the game. Those things, coupled with the new relationship EA has with ESPN and all of the ESPN-branded content resulting from it, and NBA Live 08 actually does a great job of re-creating an experience to match that of televised NBA matches.
Despite the wonderful visual aspects, a game will not live up to its expectations if the gameplay is not up to par as well. Now, there is a major step up from “NBA Live 07” to “NBA Live 08,” but the game’s AI doesn’t seem all that advanced. On the offense, the new Quickstrike ball-handling feature makes blowing past opposing players an easy task, with a simple crossover or ball fake.
The defensive side is similar. The game lets players turn over movement controls of a defender to the computer while handling the other tasks, such as reaching in for a steal or jumping for a block. While this helps out new players, it becomes boring because it leaves us players feeling like the game is playing itself. But despite problems with the AI, it is a much better experience this time around via Xbox Live with multiplayer action.
“NBA Live 08” also adds a few extra minor modes of play, as well as the return of Dynasty Mode for another year. So, whether you’re an upstart looking to make a name for yourself in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest or an owner wanting to prove your opinion is better than the actual NBA owners, the game will meet your expectations.
NBA 2K8: There are several new addition to “NBA 2K8” that improve it from last year. To start off, the animation system has been completely reworked to fit with their newly introduced foot-planting technology, which allows for more realistic dribble moves. The past days of blowing by defenders with a barrage of spin moves and crossovers are gone. Now, a player has to plant his feet and use momentum alongside dribble moves to evade the opposing defender, making for more realistic gameplay. Despite our praises of the technology, it does have its drawbacks, as mentioned on other reviews for the game, the animation transitions this year can be jarring at moments and are noticeable throughout, but can be overlooked by great new pass animations, dunks, jump shots, and finger rolls.
Also vastly improved is the game’s new post game, which gives you greater control over your player when in the paint. It is very deep and allows for an enjoyable experience.
One negative this year is an addition called Lock-On D, where player with a decent defensive rating can lock on to any offensive player and guard them with unprecedented skill. On defense, a lock-on icon appears beneath your player when they are in front of the ball-handler, and with the simple press and hold of a trigger, the computer will keep your player in front of the ball-handler. This does help for new players, but also makes the D unrealistic. When Centers and no-as-mobile Power Forwards are able to defend against a quick guard with superb offensive skills as well as some of the best defensive guards in the league, it kind of ruins it for the whole defensive side of the game.
While the offensive AI is great — takes advantage of mismatches, finds the open man, moves without the ball, and exploits holes in the D — it’s a shame the D is just sub par at best.
“NBA 2K8’s” answer to “Live 08’s” Dynasty Mode is called The Association, and they nailed it. The revamped franchise mode is one of the best the series has had to date. Everything to dealing with player personalities and a team’s playstyle to a player’s morale and minutes played have an effect on the whole team and ultimately their season’s record.
And if you aren’t in the mood to manage and run a team, you have the choice between a new Blacktop mode, which offers some simple street hoops, pickup games, 3 point shootouts, a game of 21, and the all new Dunk Contest.
After previewing each game, there comparisons vary. While “NBA 2K8” is better than “NBA Live 08” overall, some things are better for each. “Live” has much better graphics and plenty of modes to keep the casual player busy, but for a season b-ball simulation player, “NBA 2K8” is hands down the better look — it’s has the deepest franchise mode.
Either way you go, both game series need much improvement before next year’s models come out.