Oct 5, 2007
The Phoenix Suns have been the team that's "supposed to" win the championship for a couple of years now. Stocked to the rim with flash, dash, and pizzazz, they've made a habit of running roughshod over teams in the regular season only to fail at crunchtime when the fundamentals of defense and toughness have eluded them. For better and for worse, NBA 2K8 shares a lot of those traits with Steve Nash and company. While it's certainly a treat to look at and play, there are some underlying issues that ultimately keep it from being a slam-dunk champ. Or, for that matter, a significant improvement over last year's version.
No matter how you slice it, though, last season's "wow"-level presentation has actually been ramped up, sporting a shiny new coat of polish and power. Players, coaches, fans, and courts virtually leap off of the screen into your living room, as you're immersed into the NBA arena experience. Not only do the cyber Yao, Kobe, and T-Mac appear as dead ringers for their real selves, their mannerisms are more pronounced than ever.
Unfortunately, amid all this high fidelity, there lies a lack of fluidity. Your hoopsters won't always appear to be running at a consistent speed, momentarily darting around the court like the Flash only to slow back down a second later. It's even more pronounced in the moments between whistles. This herky-jerkiness is the only trait that'll really remind you that you are in fact playing a video game instead of kicking back and seeing the real thing on TV in high definition.
Other than a smattering of new moves - such as a nifty post-up feature using the left trigger - gameplay remains remarkably similar to last season. Naturally, this includes the ever-so-sensitive Shot Stick, which will challenge veterans and infuriate newbies. While we're pretty good with ferocious dunks in the paint using the stick, we're still partial towards a traditional button press when tossing bombs from downtown. Thankfully, that option still exists. There also aren't a lot of ways to pull off ankle-breaking moves on your own, either, since the Shot Stick occupies the right thumbstick and the face buttons all have their own functions as well.
Ultimately, NBA 2K8 is another superbly entertaining basketball sim with some of the sickest visuals you've ever seen. Hoops aficionados will appreciate the attention to player detail and even-more-intensive franchise mode that's bound to suck away dozens of hours without you realizing it. However, room for improvement abounds, and there's also some serious competition from NBA Live 08, which sports more user-friendly shotmaking and ballhandling controls. No matter what - and as shocking as it is to say this - 2K8 is not a slam-dunk, no-brainer-this-is-your-next-gen-basketball-title this season. It's merely second best.