NBA 08 Hands-On

We score our first look at the PS3 version of Sony's upcoming basketball game.

As Sony's NBA series stands right now, each console version of the game seems to have its own identity. On the PlayStation Portable, the series is known for its imaginative and mostly fun minigames; the PlayStation 2 edition is fueled by the drama-infused, story-driven "The Life" saga. The exception is the PlayStation 3 version of the series, which debuted last year with the launch of the PS3. Lacking the minigames and the story of the other two versions of the game, last year's NBA 07 sought to tempt basketball gamers with some new uses for the Sixaxis controller and improved visuals over the last generation of consoles. With NBA 08 heading to us this September, and the PS2 and PSP versions well defined, the trick for the PS3 version of the game is in forging an identity all its own. We had a chance to try the game at a recent Sony press day to see how that identity is shaping up.

The first part of NBA 08's profile might be its presentation, including a new look on the front end, with a main menu design that's quite a departure from the previous entries in the series. The game will also include play-by-play and color commentary from Mark Jackson and the voice of the Seattle SuperSonics, Kevin Calabro. The second part is the idea of player goals. If you've played the PS2 version of "The Life," you know that during each game, you're given a set of goals you need to accomplish in order to move past that particular game situation. That system has been borrowed and tweaked a bit in the PS3 version; here, goals will apply to everything you do in NBA 08 and across all modes in the game.

During any match in the game, from a quick-play game to a midseason match, you'll have goals that you can meet. Some will be simple--say, grabbing a certain number of rebounds, or making a two-point shot with your center--while others will be considerably more difficult, such as matching Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance from last season, or Wilt Chamberlain's single-game record of 100 points. As you complete these goals, you'll be notified by a pop-up on screen, and you'll earn credits which you can then use to buy unlockables such as jerseys, floor patterns, accessories, shoes, and even attributes for your created player. The game will include a "progression hub" where you can check all of your progress in the game: which goals you've completed, and which ones remain for you to finish. In addition, the game will include milestones (such as earning a certain number of total credits) that will give you further bonuses.

While we didn't get a look at the create-a-player interface in NBA 08 (it wasn't in the build we played), it does seem the game is putting a strong emphasis on using created players. Completing a goal with a created player, for example, will earn you a credits bonus that you wouldn't receive by using Steve Nash or Allen Iverson. Still, as producers told us, you won't be required to use a created character, a nod to the basketball purists who insist that their rosters stay as realistic as possible.

The pervasive goal system aside, a few new gameplay wrinkles have been tossed into NBA 08 that make it feel different than any other basketball sim on the market. Last year's game saw the introduction of Sixaxis controls to the gameplay--tying the juke moves on the thumbstick to the tilt controls on the PS3 controller. Though reaction was mixed to that decision, Sony is continuing full steam ahead with the Sixaxis integration; in the build we played, you could pull the ball up off the dribble and move it around with your player simply by twisting and turning the Sixaxis around. Tilt it upward and to the right, for example, and the player would hold the ball high and to his right, the player's movements synchronized to the movement of the Sixaxis. This, in conjunction with a new tweaked passing system (tap the pass button for a bounce pass, hold it down for a lob) will help you make smarter decisions when looking to keep the ball away from defenders and spread it around to your teammates.

The Sixaxis tweaks continue on defense as well. When defending a man with the ball, you can choose to either keep your hands high or low and wide by tilting the Sixaxis either up or down, respectively. Which tactic you choose will determine how effectively you defend against your opponent. If you've got your hands up high, your opponent shot attribute will suffer if he tries to take a J in front of you; however, you'll be more susceptible to a juke or spin move. Conversely, if you've got your hands low and wide, your opponent may not be able to get around you, but he might certainly find some success with his shot. It's a bit of cat and mouse that looks to add some more depth to the defensive game in NBA 08.

The game of the week feature, introduced in NBA 07, will be receiving some upgrades as well, most notably in the form of "zone goals." Say Dwyane Wade becomes unconscious from beyond the arc on the right-hand side of the basket. When you look to take on that game of the week challenge, a zone will light up on the floor indicating where you should position D-Wade in order to try to match his star performance.

Graphically, NBA 08 is still running in 1080p, and the producers are promising more animations than ever before in the game. The arenas are benefiting from a bit more detail in the crowds, as well as a subtle haze effect that lends the environments more depth than in the previous game. In our time with the game the frame rate seemed to be relatively stable, which is promising news for a game that has several more months of development time ahead of it.

It's a shame that NBA 08 won't have lynchpin features such as franchise mode or a next-gen version of "The Life." Still, the game seems to be making steps toward establishing its own identity in the crowded basketball market. We'll be bringing you more on this game in the coming months.

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Discussion

21 comments
fudger2
fudger2

wow that is the gayest official movie i have ever seen. These graphics suck too.

madden_god21
madden_god21

the grphics on this thing is ugly please make this better sony.

Nene33
Nene33

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

seriously...who buys this game? why does sony still even make it? it looks like PS2 graphics and we all know it's going to be horrible...AGAIN. SONY PLEASE STOP MAKING THIS GAME! NO ONE WANTS IT. IT SUCKS! wasting all this d@mn time when they could be working on better 1st party exclusives. cause this is nonsense.

theKSMM
theKSMM

I know this may be naive of me, but I would expect the features of the PS3 version to be a superset of the PSP and PS2 versions. It's a shame to have to decide which type of game you want to play before deciding which console you want to play it on.

haesuse
haesuse

yeah they are gonna get stomped again. all the effort on the play and none on the presentation or the micro managment such as life or franchise will kill them. true, some of those features and the graphics look promising but most of the sport fans get these games for 2 reasons, or 1 of the 2. To trash ppl online or to get their pro fantasy in 1p mode with playing as themselves for a career or a franchise mode to make the legend out of their favorite team. all in all EA bombs again imo!

xboxps2cube
xboxps2cube

well at least the courts look good - **sigh**

blackace
blackace

No "Life" mode. No Franchise mode. No "street or practice" mode. Sixaxis control?!? Bah!! This game is going to suck as bad as NBA 07 did. I've sure everyone will be buying 2K7 game instead. Sony's only good sports game was GameDay, some 8yrs ago. Even their commercials for GameDay were great. They need to give it up now.

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

what in the h3ll? this looksl like a PS2 title. the character models look horrible for what the PS3 can do. but then again...was anyone seriously even CONSIDERING getting this game with the 2k series quality and even NBA Live trying to step their game up? SERIOUSLY? NBA as a series is a joke. lol. it's just sad they're so consistently horrible. lol.

Bauer_24
Bauer_24

are you kiddin me?...... are those images actually nba 08?...... naw I didn't see that..... -.-

lawsond
lawsond

looks crappy...where's the "nextgen" look to the game

JumpOff718
JumpOff718

yo honestly...i played EA SPORTS, 2K SPORTS, AND SONY NBA...2K SPORTS ONLY for ALL SPORTS BESIDES FOOTBALL...THATS IF MADDEN PROMISES THE PS2 GAMEPLAY AGAIN. But for basketball i had to say this game is the worst one. Garbage gameplay. And the game basically to me looked like the PS2 version of NBA LIVE 06. Except in replay that was nice graphics. I really hope Sony makes good gameplay otherwise keep making games like SOCOM.

morrow4
morrow4

next gen graphics please

AfHb21
AfHb21

even as an owner of a PS3 i have to yell at sony. If it works on PS2, it'll still work on PS3. Apparently the "the life" mode is the best part of the series so to not bring it to the PS3 is just stupid. The new features sound very good and if they were to implement these features of previous games it seems as if this game would be great.

bricoleur
bricoleur

This has potential, must wait for a more indepth review

bear1961
bear1961

the life is the only reason people buy nba 07 games. forgot sixaxis

Nomad013
Nomad013

all this development time, and this is all we get? the life is the best part of the series...

Nevelo07
Nevelo07

damn is it even gone have season mode