It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that NBA 07 for the PlayStation 3 is making more extensive use of the tilt functionality of the Sixaxis controller than many third-party games. After all, the hoops game is being developed in-house by the team at SCEA. As we discovered in our hands-on look at NBA 07 during today's Sony PS3 event in San Francisco, the new tilt-controlled moves run the gamut from the merely OK to the surprisingly cool.
The moves you pull off when maneuvering the tilt controller aren't new to the game entirely--instead they are merely previously existing animations that have been remapped to the Sixaxis. However, it's the implementation of those moves that, in some cases really make a lot of sense. Motion-sensitive moves are only available on offense but there are a number of both standard and low-post moves that keep things feeling fresh. Here's how the moves work: Juke moves are pulled off by pushing the controller either forward or backward; moving the controller left or right horizontally will pull off a crossover in that respective direction; and finally, you can pull off spin moves to the left or right by twisting the controller either counterclockwise or clockwise, respectively. Down in the post, you can try to create space with spins or even back your opponent down under the basket by moving forward or backward with the controller.
It's the aforementioned spin moves, though, that hooked us. The motion to execute them made more sense than any of the others and, depending on your position relative to your defender, it was really easy to see exactly what you needed to do to get around him. A little space to the right, for example, and you can easily spin right and leave him looking foolish while you make a beeline toward the basket. On the downside, while the tilt functions all worked more or less fine individually, it seemed tough, if not impossible, to string together quick combinations of moves--such as a crossover followed by a quick spin. That NBA players regularly do that kind of thing in real life means there's still a way to go with the refinement of the system in the game. That said, producers said they are not only looking at adding sliders to adjust the sensitivity of the tilt controls in future iterations of the NBA series, but also looking to find new ways to integrate the Sixaxis' functionality into the game.
The other big addition to NBA 07 is the NBA Replay mode. This feature is basically split into two parts, though the general idea of both is to relive (and replay) exciting moments from the real NBA in the game. The prepackaged portion of NBA Replay mode will feature highlights from every week of the 2005-06 NBA season. Two challenges for every week of last season are included and your job as a player will be to re-create some of those star performances in the game.
The very first challenge in the mode, for example, stars NBA 07 cover athlete Kobe Bryant who, early on last year, managed to drain eight points in overtime to help his Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets by two points, 99-97. Your job, then, will be to re-create Kobe's eight-point overtime performance. The catch here is that you will have some restraints on you, all based on the actual game from that night. For example, Bryant didn't score any three-pointers in the overtime period, so none of your required eight points should be threes. To add more pressure, you can go for a number of "extra mile" goals which are spelled out before you agree to the challenge--extra mile goals in this particular challenge include committing zero turnovers and keeping the opposing team under seven points in the challenge. At any point in these timed challenges, you can check your progress against the basic and advanced goals to see how close (or how far away) you are from completion.
The other half of NBA 07's replay mode has yet to be built, specifically because they all will come from the various games that make up the 2006-07 NBA season. On a weekly basis, the NBA 07 developers will create five scenarios based on that week's games, which you will be able to download and try out for yourself. Even better, you'll be able to upload your score (which is calculated based on your performance in the challenge) to Sony's online servers and compare your performance against other NBA 07 players. As an aside, though NBA 07 developers use the term "data-mining" to describe the process of creating these scenarios, it sounds to us like the just watch a lot of basketball games on TV, perhaps while enjoying a frosty beverage or two. And that's the kind of data-mining we can get behind.
With 1080p graphics running at a silky 60 frames per second, NBA 07 has a nice, crisp presentation that is a nice step up from what we've come to be used to on the PlayStation 2. Now it's up to the game's updated controls, and new game modes such as NBA replay mode to ensure that Sony's NBA series makes a gameplay step up of its own. We'll have a full review NBA 07 after the game is released in mid-November.