LEIPZIG, Germany--In our last look at NBA 2K8, we primarily focused on the new dunk system, which promises to add an entirely new level of fun and challenge to one of the more stylish aspects of the NBA game. Here at the 2007 Games Conference, 2K Sports was on hand to show off an updated build in the game, one that gets to the heart of what most fans of the series have been clamoring to know more about: five-on-five gameplay. Though our time with the game was short, we have a good idea of where the team at 2K is heading when it comes to the fundamental hoops play in 2K8.
Simply put, the focus this year has been on improving defensive controls and giving players more options for running plays while on offense. When defending, a new lock-on defensive system will help you shadow the ball carrier. To initiate it, you simply press and hold the left trigger. A small target icon underneath the player's feet begins to animate and, once it's complete, your controlled defender is locked on to the ball carrier. A player's defensive attributes will affect how long it takes for him to lock on to an opponent, as well as how aggressively he will guard him once locked on to that opponent. When locked on to an opponent, your defender will be able to more tightly cover and stay with a ball carrier--the CPU kicks in a bit to act as a defensive helper--but that isn't to say that you can't get beat. Indeed, should your defender get his ankles broken, or if you switch to another defender, you'll need to lock on to that player as well.
The other big addition to gameplay is the new off-ball controls--as they're known. Here, the idea is to give the player more flexibility with how plays unfold on the court, and the team at 2K is taking the system to a surprising level of depth. Essentially, the system lets you choose a two-man play to run and gives you the ability to choose which players are involved in that play. Here's how it works: As you bring your player (say, your point guard) to the offensive end of the floor, you hold down the left bumper. Immediately, a menu pops up showing four different plays you can call right away with a press of the associated face button: X for get open, A for come off screen, Y for go to post, and B for set screen. Once you've called the play, the highlighted player (indicated by a RB button icon above his head) will move accordingly based on the kind of play you called. Once the player is in position (wherever that may be) a button icon will appear. When you press the corresponding button, you'll pass the ball to him.
Sounds good so far, right? Well, it doesn't end there. Remember that RB button icon that appears over the player's head after you've brought up the menu with the LB button? By pressing the RB button, you can take control of that player. For example, let's say you're playing the Pistons and controlling Chauncey Billups. You can send Rip Hamilton toward the net by pressing the Y button then take control of Rip by pressing the RB button, move Rip toward the net, and press the button to pass the ball from Billups to Hamilton. And because you can select any player on the court with the D pad then take control of that player with the RB button, you could conceivably start the play with Chauncey, send Rip toward the net (controlled by the artificial intelligence), and take control of Richard Jefferson to provide some rebound help or an easy outlet pass.
When playing NBA 2K8, you might notice a small icon underneath a player's feet, one that looks suspiciously like cell phone reception bars. No, NBA 2K8 won't have LeBron asking if you can hear him now; instead, the cell icon represents your player's shot tendencies in the game and throughout different areas of the court. Deriving data from actual NBA games, the team at 2K has devised a system that will illustrate when a player is close to his hot spots on the floor, as well as whether that player is on a hot streak or not. When a player gets close to a hot spot on the floor, the cell phone bars increase; if he moves away from it, the bars will deplete. Hot or cold streaks are noted by the color of the bars in the icon. If you're lighting up J's from all over the floor, you can be sure your cell icon will be bright red before too long.
These features, coupled with a promised new batch of signature style animations, have us once again excited to tackle the next entry in the NBA 2K series. We should be getting a more detailed hands-on look at the game in the coming weeks and will be bringing you much more on NBA 2K8 in the coming weeks.