NBA 08 Review

Coming off a promising title in NBA 07, I had high hopes that the series would take another step forward. Well, I was right in a sense, but that step was in the completely wrong direction. NBA 08 isn’t a bad basketball game by any stretch, but there are issues that mar the game in almost every facet, making this hard to swallow when you have better alternatives out there.

It’s difficult to even know where to begin. The on-court action can best be described as a grind; actual NBA defense is nowhere to be seen and instead what NBA 08 provides is a cheap alternative, as defenders will stick to their man regardless of their defensive prowess. You can pull off all the fancy crossovers you want, but your defender is typically going to stay right in between you and the basket. What you’re left with on offense is a cycle of calling for picks and waiting for the occasional computer slip-up, which doesn’t come often. The same can be said for fast breaks, where you’ll find your men covered 90% of the time or yourself surrounded so that you aren’t capable of getting off a pass without it being intercepted. The worst part about it is the fact that defenders look lifeless until they suddenly spring to life and snatch the ball away just as it’s about to get to your man.

So, naturally, playing offense is typically a drag. Passes are extremely floaty, and pulling off the right type of pass comes down to how much pressure you push on the button. Speaking of passing, the triangle button is dedicated solely to throwing no-look passes. Are no-looks so important as to justify their own face button? Sure it’s an easy way to impress friends, but there are other ways the button could have been better used.

Sixaxis motion controls are also a mess, making Lair’s 8-out-of-10 times efficiency rate seem enviable. You can play defense in a high or low stance, enter the triple threat and complete simple moves like the crossover with the motion controls, but I found that pulling them off by rolling the controller and pushing it forward and pulling it back was an exercise in futility and just not very effective. I had little success with it, and after a few games outright abandoned motion control for the right analog stick.

Now, the really absurd stuff. The apex of layups is at the same height as a 3-point jumpshot, even on simple finger rolls. Meanwhile, fouls are being committed unbeknownst to you; whistles are so ridiculously late and, at times, completely absent. On layup attempts, you might get fouled as you begin your layup, then have the ball roll around the rim for 2-3 seconds before falling out and then BAM, whistle, and apparently there was a foul five seconds ago. I had one specific instance where I was out of timeouts and losing with only a few seconds left, so I chucked up a shot with Kobe and apparently missed, so I was under the impression that I had lost the game. But no — a whistle was blown after the ball was done not going in the hoop (about 5+ seconds later), and I was sent to the free throw line.

Making substitutions is equally nonsensical. At the end of each quarter, you’re given the option to make subs, check the leaders, etc. If you opt to make subs and then resume the game, you start the next quarter with the same players you had last quarter. Your subs are nowhere to be seen. You need to wait until you or your opponent makes a basket, and then – even though it may not be a dead ball – you’ll see your subs make their way onto the court. Huh? And just as vexing is the decision to announce and display only a single individual being subbed, even though both teams might be sending out five new players a piece.

But let’s take a step back to the commentary. It’s awful. They employ the usage of nicknames at a rate of 10:1 with players’ real names at best. In the maybe five or so games I played with the Lakers, I never heard "Kobe Bryant" once, while I heard "Mamba" probably two dozen times at least. And just like fouls, nothing is mentioned about being fouled until those 3+ seconds have passed after it was committed.

Season mode is about as deep as last year’s NBA 07 PSP offering, which is to say it’s got about as much depth as the Boston Celtics’ bench. Trades are a matter of simply swapping two players; there’s no negotiation involved. If you can press the X button, you can have any player on your team. While I realize this is no franchise mode (which is nowhere to be seen in the game, unfortunately), it still should provide some sense of running an NBA club. Instead, you’re left to wonder which players on your roster are inactive (there’s no indication one way or the other) and then need to use the piss-poor substitution system to adjust. For instance, you have player 1 starting, player 2 on your bench, and player 3 inactive. You want 3 to be on your bench and 2 to be inactive. To accomplish this, you need to sub player 2 for 1, then 3 for 2, then 3 for 1. Confused? I was too.

The game does have some rather nice aspects to it, though. One feature is the NBA Replay mode, which allows you to recreate moments from NBA games. You may notice the cover boasts the "NBA Game of the Week" feature, which keeps throwing new scenarios at you as the NBA season unfolds. (If you played 07, you know exactly what that’s about.) You’re also able to create your own baller, and by playing games earn experience to upgrade their stats and make them a better player. 

While the game is pretty and runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second, there just isn’t enough of a game here to warrant a $60 purchase. All of the extra modes — the minigames (3-point shootout and company are fun but aren’t something you play more than a few times), NBA replay and Upside Progression — are nice additions, but the actual base of the game isn’t good enough for all of these features to live up to their potential. It feels as if the developers felt they needed to add as much stuff on the side as possible, but the basketball itself suffered as a result. If Sony wants future NBA games to be minigame heavy and very straightforward, they might be best laying off the price a bit and releasing this on the PlayStation Store. With the features offered Sony does have a nice list for their next title; now they just need to polish up the actual gameplay.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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