NBA 2K8 - hands-on

No one's going to blame you if the first thing you notice about NBA 2K8 is the jazzed up visual presentation. Bottom line: the game looks downright amazing. It's not just limited to the way players look, either (and they do look great, even the obscurest of obscure like Seattle center Robert Swift appears eerily similar to his real life, Ronald McDonald-esque counterpart). 2K has undertaken a massive overhaul in the way players move - both in the how they interact with each other and how they deal with courtside fans and photographers - to give the game a much more natural feel.

You'll see the results in a number of ways, but here's an example. Take a player like LeBron James who makes his living slashing into the lane, have him do just that, and you'll see him realistically adjust himself in mid-air as he works to sneak a scoop shot through a forest of bodies in the paint. If he has enough momentum toward the end, he might just collide with the padded backboard stand, or switch to soft-step mode as he works to avoid the baseline photography crew.

From beginning to end, this type of move plays out in one fluid motion, while in previous basketball games you'd just bounce off a defender like a brick wall, or magically ignore their presence for a suspiciously effortless layup. Subtle touches like this were present all throughout our time playing the game.

But all this being said, there's still more to NBA 2K8 than looks. The developer has been building the AI system for this game since production for NBA 2K7 began. With that extra time, they're promising much smarter players than before. But there are also a number of features to help the human player feel smarter. One is a new shot icon that follows the player you're controlling. It reads like the bars on a cell phone that show you what kind of reception you're getting, but in this case the bars tell you how likely you are to make a shot taken at that very second. It does this by accounting for shooting range, quality of defense facing you and how hot or cold you are at the moment. You're also given the option of seeing your team's plays mapped out on the floor, step-by-step, in real time, so you don't have to memorize every single play at your team's disposal.

All together, NBA 2K8 is shaping up very nicely. To give you a better idea of how it looks, why not head on over to our movies section to see the game's very first trailer in action. As for how it plays, well, you'll just have to wait for the October 2nd release. If our impressions are any indication, it should be well worth the wait for hoop fans.