Back in high school we weren't known for our free throw skills. In fact, back in high school we weren't known for anything athletic of any kind. So it's with trepidation that we approached the new tilt-controlled free throw system in the PlayStation 3 version of NBA 2K7, which 2K Sports was showing off today during the Sony PS3 event here in San Francisco.
As has been the case with next-gen 2K games, the PlayStation 3 version of NBA 2K7 will include all of the game modes and features found in the Xbox 360 version of the game. The new addition to the PS3 version of the game is the free throw system. Once your player steps up to the line, the idea is to flick the controller forward just at the moment the ball leaves his hands in the shot animation. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, you can hold the controller high above your head and simulate the motion of the shot--if you're really a basketball nerd you can even palm the face of the Sixaxis controller. The coolest aspect of the new system, beyond the novelty of it, is that it ties you that much more to the particular free throw style of the player at the line. In our game playing as the Miami Heat, for example, we got used to Jason Williams' smooth, uninterrupted motion fairly quickly. Antoine Walker's rising, delayed shot, on the other hand, was timed completely differently and we clanked a few off the rim as a result.
So while this control isn't going to be redefining basketball games as you know them, we do see some strong possibilities for screwing up your buddy's free throw attempts when playing side-by-side; a quick shove will be all it takes to completely screw up his shot--come on, you know you're going to try it at least once. Unfortunately, that's it for the Sixaxis usage in the game this year--though developers were quick to point out that they are busy exploring new ways of using the tilt functions in the game for NBA 2K8 and beyond.
What else has been added to the game? The extra month in the development cycle for the PS3 game has given the developers time to work on details such as improving player likenesses and, more importantly, adding new signature-style moves that forms such a big shot of the on-the-floor gameplay in 2K7. While we didn't have a ton of time to spend with the game during our demo, it seemed like the artificial intelligence was even more tenacious than before, especially on defense--the opposing team is apt to go for a steal or intercept at any time on the floor and it keeps you on your toes throughout the game.
Graphically, it's tough to tell if the PS3 game is a notable improvement from the Xbox 360 version of the game. Certainly the game looked great in the demo we played--with deep, rich colors, and a lively animated crowd that really added life to the backgrounds--but how much of that clarity was due to PS3 power as opposed to the state-of-the-art flatscreen the game was playing on, is tough to tell. Regardless, PS3 owners who play NBA 2K7 aren't going to have much to complain about, as the game is running at 60 frames per second at both 720p and 1080p, according to developers.
So is the Sixaxis free throw system reason enough to buy NBA 2K7 for PlayStation 3 if you already own the Xbox 360 version of the game? Probably not. However, if you find yourself with a PS3 on launch day, you haven't played this year's 2K basketball game, and want another excuse to work on your free throws, you'll know where to turn. We'll have a full review of NBA 2K7 after the game is released in mid-November.