Oct 5, 2007
Frankly, we didn't think the Live franchise could be saved. Last year's edition on the Xbox 360 was easily the most painful sports game we've played since, well, ever. So much so that we literally feared the moment that we put the brand new edition in our consoles. But a funny thing happened on the way to another scathing review of another not-ready-but-gets-released-anyway basketball title. NBA Live 08 kinda kicks ass.
Sure, it may lack more than a bit of the sheen and gleam of NBA 2K8's graphical prowess, but after playing a few dozen games we found ourselves gravitating towards NBA Live 08's oh-so-friendly controls, relative smoothness, and overall vibe. After all, when you hear Marv Albert calling a game, it just feels like big-time basketball. And though they don't shine like the sun, Live's visuals aren't exactly what you'd call ugly, anyway.
We absolutely love the offensive mechanics and execution, which allow you to shoot and score like, oh, professional basketball players and not CYO teenagers in a league game after a long school day (we're looking at you, Shot Stick). The combination of using a dunk/layup button in close and a jump shot button outside the paint frees up the right stick to pull off offensive moves with superstars who know how to use 'em, so you can stutter-step with Vince Carter and headfake with Baron Davis 'til the cows come home. Unless you completely botch the timing, your shooters will nail jumpers when they're open and aggressively get to the rim when the lane is clear. However, it's not all Globetrotters versus Generals; it takes skills to avoid blocked shots and find the open man. Failing to do so will result in plenty of scoring opportunities - for the other team.
Your standard modes abound, such as the dynasty, a labor-intensive effort where you hire a staff (and your owner flips out if you sim through that), manage off-day team events, coddle your sensitive prima donna superstars to make sure the team's chemistry doesn't get too off-kilter, and occasionally play a basketball game or two. Our favorite, though, is the new FIBA World Tournament, a nifty little international conflagration that's a welcome change of pace. We're not sure why the Americans have had so much trouble winning these things lately, since we torched the globe with Bron-Bron, Kobe, Dwayne Wade and company. Those Spaniards and Frenchies never knew what hit 'em.
Online play is also improved immensely, as our matches were lag-free and plentiful. EA has even gone through the trouble of introducing online leagues, further putting Live on even footing with 2K8's excellent internet-based features. Strange days, indeed.
If you'd have asked us 12 months ago, we would have bet millions that Live 08 would be, at best, a pale comparison to NBA 2K8. What a difference a year makes, though. Live has won us over way before we ever thought it possibly could again, so deep were our scars from last season. While not perfect, it's immensely playable and just a bit more fun than its rival. Who woulda thunk it?