You know how you'll drive past a park or playground where kids are playing basketball, and there's always that one kid who's obviously someone's little brother? He's busting his ass running up and down the court, and he's got skillz for his age, but everyone else is at least a foot taller and four years older, so he's just not a factor in the game. Unfortunately, if that kid were a video game, he'd probably be a lot like NBA 07.
It's not that this is a bad game, really. It does what it does well enough. But what it does is too basic and underdeveloped, lacking even the most important features from the PS2 version - namely, anything that could enable it to compete with the PS3's other baller, the amazingly good NBA 2K7.
Notice the name? There's a reason the PS2 version is called NBA 07: featuring The Life Vol. 2 and this one isn't. Two reasons, in fact: first off, because the PS2 version's name is ridiculous. But more importantly, because that whole career mode called The Life, with the story and the during-game objectives and the real acting and characters and drama? It's not here. Which sucks, because it was great. Most of the mini-games are missing, too. You get Own the Court, Skills Challenge, and 3 pt shootout. That's all. No training camp, no drills, no 2 on 2.
You do still get the same quick play, tournament/league/season and head-to-head online play modes the PS2 game has, as well as one interesting addition: NBA Replay mode. This is basically a scenario mode, in which the game drops you into classic situations from the 05-06 season and asks you to recreate or improve upon them. They'll be updating the game each week with new scenarios from this season's more memorable matchups, too - for example, ten bucks says the first batch includes something from the Bulls' record-breaking beatdown of the Miami Heat on opening night.
However, NBA Replay - and the series' cool, trademark shot meter, which goes from red to green to tell you when to release the ball and which can be turned off for haters - is one of only a few things that NBA 07 has over the competitor, NBA 2K7. Other strengths? The momentum-based "showtime" meter, which gives you a boost if you turn a few big plays, is okay, and some players will love pulling off spins, jukes, and crossovers with a quick swish of the Sixaxis.
We also like some of the camera tweaks you can make, but the sad truth is that none degree of camera positioning can make this thing look competitive. Graphically, NBA 07 is a motley effort, with the smoothly animated grace of a dancer, but with the shiny, blocky plastic look of a "cosmetic surgery gone wrong" special on Fox. It can't even compare to the nearly photorealistic NBA 2K7.
On the court, your team doesn't play smart on any difficulty setting, particularly on defense - they too often let the other team drive the lane, abandon double-teams, and get manhandled on the boards. And don't even talk to us about their inability to defend a fast break. There are too few plays you can call, and your players often pass directly to a defender during a fast break instead of lobbing it all the way to their wide-open teammate at the front of the pack. And while loads after the main boot-up are quick, there's a good reason: the game quietly installs a 3 gigabyte footprint on your hard drive. Hope that doesn't become a pattern for PS3 games.
Even amid all this, NBA 07 isn't terrible. It looks, plays, and feels exactly like a quick, smooth, arcade-style basketball game from ten years ago, but with slightly next-gen graphics, and that can still be fun. But the game's only competitor looks better, plays smarter, and offers more game modes and adjustable options than can easily be counted (bump 2K7's speed sliders up to 70 and you'll get what this game should have been). It's clear that this plucky prospect just doesn't belong on the same court as the big kids.