Oct 12, 2007
Frankly, we didn't think the Live franchise could be saved. Last year's edition on the PS3 was mercifully killed before ever seeing the light of day, and the version that actually did surface on the 360 was the most painful sports game we've ever played. 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, and the PS3 version suffers from an uneven framerate not seen on its 360 counterpart. However, after playing a few dozen games, we found ourselves gravitating towards NBA Live 08's oh-so-friendly controls 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 love the offensive mechanics and execution, which allow you to shoot and score like professional basketball players instead of 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.
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 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.