NBA 2K7 Hands-On

What a difference a full development cycle makes. We take a look at the gameplay changes in 2K's upcoming basketball spectacular.

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Nobody is going to accuse the development team at 2K Sports for slacking off. When the Xbox 360 launched late last year, the team behind NBA 2K6 burned the candle at both ends in order to bring a basketball game for the next-generation system that was every bit as full featured as the long-running Xbox and PS2 versions of the game. For the next game in the series, the team has dedicated the full yearlong development cycle to transforming the NBA 2K series into a game that's worthy of the next-gen system. The result, due to hit stores in September, is NBA 2K7, and we got a chance to get some much-anticipated hands-on time with the game today during a 2K Sports visit.

Bring it to the house! NBA 2K7 is just about ready for release.

When we fired up the game for the first time, it was immediately obvious that it has come a long way since NBA 2K6, and even since the work-in-progress build we saw at E3 2006 earlier this year. As you might expect, the player models still look great, the lighting effects have taken a step up from last season, and everything seems to be animating quite smoothly. It's when you take a slightly closer look at some of the less-obvious graphical touches that you get an idea of the amount of work the 2K team has put into the game's look. Take a look at the sidelines and you'll see the coach pacing up and down. Next to him you'll see the players on the bench who will accurately react to the action on the court. If you're in the middle of the game or if your team is down big, your benched players will slump in their chairs, or maybe they'll occasionally react to a nice shot. If there's a minute to go in a tie game, however, your teammates will be out of their seats and cheering just as loudly as anyone in the crowd. Cheerleaders and team mascots will run out onto the court during time-outs and do their thing, and even the crowd itself has a more varied and random look to it. In effect, it looks more like a real NBA atmosphere than ever before.

Then there's the NBA players themselves. Player likenesses are once again accurate and the overdone sweat effects of last year have been toned down a bit, but not too much, mind you. A couple of cool sweat notes for you perspiration aficionados: New effects will allow sweat to actually drip off your player when he's at the free-throw line, and if you look closely during a big dunk, you'll see sweat blasting off your player's body when his arm hits the rim.

But the authenticity of NBA 2K7's player models goes way beyond simple face modeling and shiny sweat effects. With this year's game, the development team wanted to harness the additional processing power and memory of next-gen consoles, such as the Xbox 360, and make sure that the NBA players featured in the game didn't just look like their real-life counterparts, but that they moved like them too. Every player in the game is thus the beneficiary of signature-style animations, as they're known, which seek to replicate the shot, spins, and moves of every player in the NBA.

The biggest players in the game--the Shaqs, Kobes, and KGs--of the league will all be immediately recognizable with their awesome hardwood arsenal of moves. Tracy McGrady's devastating crossover is in there, as is Stephon Marbury's behind-the-back dribble. Passes are also accurately modeled--a Steve Nash dish looks just like it does on TV. In fact, developers estimate they've added around 200 new pass animations alone to the game. Shot and dunk animations have probably received the biggest overhauls. Now Scott Pollard actually shoots with his flat-footed approach like he does in the real game, while Shawn Marion's thrusting, superquick shot is in there as well. But it's not just the big guys that have received their own signature styles--the 2K Sports team has gone to lengths to make sure that every player in the game shoots, moves, and defends just like his real counterpart on the court.

Signature style means that every player will play like his real-life counterpart.

While new animations are nice and all, the signature-style feature should have some interesting effects on gameplay. Blocking against Marion's quick gunslinger shot, for instance, will be difficult when you're playing on defense. You'll want to spend some time getting to know your player's signature strengths. By playing with smaller guards like Jason Terry or Tony Parker, for example, you'll quickly learn to take advantage of their teardrop shots, which are deadly effective from anywhere near the basket. And don't forget the dunks. From Shaq's devastating inside slams to Vince Carter's reverse windmill, you can expect to see plenty of new dunks in the game.

Just as in any sport, player tendencies play a huge role in how any team performs and, with 2K7, the concept has been greatly expanded for both teams and players. Last year's game had only a handful of player tendencies that guided a player's actions on the court. This year, that number has been increased to include things like how often a player passes, how much he prefers to gamble on defense, his tendency to post up, and so on. All of these factors weigh into how the artificial intelligence handles a particular player.

This year, team tendencies play a big role as well. The 2K development team is quick to admit that teams in 2K6 tended to play like one another except in the more extreme cases (Phoenix's style, for example, certainly wouldn't have been confused for the Pistons in last year's game). Thanks to a robust team-tendency system, teams are rated on a number of attributes, such as perimeter, low post, foul tendencies, willingness to pound the ball inside, and so on. Even better, all of these tendencies are controlled by sliders that you can adjust at any time. So if you want your Pistons to play more like the run-and-gun Suns, you can make a few slider adjustments and let them go to it--just don't expect your players to be very good at it. Think of team tendencies as how the head coach influences the team. For instance, even if your team is full of three-point shooters, your coach can dial down the three-point shot for a game or two and have them try to work on different parts of their game.

AI may not be on the cover any more, but he's still got the skill to pay the bills.

Animations aside, 2K7 is still going to feel familiar to fans of the series when it comes to controls. The shot-stick system has been adjusted to be relative to the rim this time around. The controls you use will be dependent on your position on the court. If you want to shoot a J from the floor, for example, you'll simply push the right stick away from the basket. On defense, the strip-and-rip system from NBA 2K6 has been tweaked as well. Instead of attempting steals to the left or right by pushing left or right on the stick, you'll shade your coverage left and right on the man you're defending. By pushing toward your opponent, you'll attempt a strip, and by pushing away from your assignment, your player will stick his hands up in the air. What should be interesting are the rock-paper-scissors battles that will emerge using this new defensive system when playing in the post, for example. If a player decides to spin right or left, and you are shading your coverage to the correct side, the result will be a neutral collision. If you guess wrong, your opponent is going to leave you standing still as he makes his way toward the basket.

Another gameplay feature of note is the addition of more loose balls scurrying across the hardwood during tight possession contests. You'll even be able to dive for a loose ball by pressing the Y button. Should you gain possession of the ball, you'll roll into a sitting possession, where you can either dump the ball off or call an immediate time-out. Player spacing has also been addressed. On offense, players will look to create lanes to keep the ball moving around the offensive zone, while defensive players will be watching out for opportunities to fill those lanes up and prevent a drive to the basket (or better yet, draw a foul or two). The post game will feature a lot more fighting for space and more movement underneath the basket as players swim and jockey for position, and you'll have post triple-threat moves to choose from--such as Kobe's lean, the pivot to face-up position (where you can let loose with some Tim Duncan-inspired magic), or the always-fun butt bump to clear some space under the net. Feel like a sky hook or two down low? Take control of C-Webb or Zydrunas Ilgauskas and go to town.

New controls in the game aren't just for the players. As a coach you'll have access to a new coaching-on-the-fly system that is reminiscent of the feature found in recent versions of 2K's NHL 2K series. At any point in the game, you'll be able to access coaching menus to do things like call set plays, dial up or down offensive and defensive pressure, and make substitutions using a quick and easy-to-use menu system. Making subs without having to pause the game…now that's the kind of thing we like to see.

And speaking of easy-to-use menus, NBA 2K7 is also boasting a much-needed presentation upgrade from previous games in the series, which frankly, were looking more than a bit dated over the past few years. In addition to a newly designed front-end look, you'll also have quick access to the menus by using the right analog stick. During the games themselves, you can expect to see a new halftime show, starring Kenny Smith of NBA on TNT fame (sorry folks, Charles Barkley not included). During the show, Kenny will break down the big plays of the game, as well as call out those players who earn his official "stamp of approval." There's also a bunch of new camera angles (36 in total), ranging from on the floor (with a cool coach's camera angle) all the way up to the cheap seats (with the nosebleed camera). The best aspect of the presentation has to be the load times, which have been reduced to just a few seconds, even when moving from one game mode to the next.

Where's Shaq-fu when you really need him?

Finally, while we don't know the full scoop on many of the game modes featured in NBA 2K7, the producers did drop a few hints about the online portion of the game, including more-efficient ways to schedule games between players in a league, the ability to save your preferred game settings when playing online matches, and team sliders for online play. The most exciting online feature, however, has to be the live online draft, which will let you set up a time for your league's draft and then conduct the event from either your Xbox 360 or PC via the 2K Sports Web site. We hope to see more surprises about the online portion, as well as more details on the game's many modes as we lead up to its release in September.

Discussion

50 comments
Zeroni76ers2131
Zeroni76ers2131

Live graphics are much better and 2k6 players looked like they put to much makeup on

csun15
csun15

This game kills live

gozyaj
gozyaj

Its like a real one basketball when i see the video of the game. NBA 2k developer Visual Concept did great and deliver great sports title in every console. Whooow...Next gen NBA 2K, Its Spectacle!!!

Omegadg2000
Omegadg2000

Signature moves interview 4 days late and counting....

Trip86
Trip86

This game is a reason to buy the 360, i cant wait!

maaly81
maaly81

The only reason I got the XBOX 360 was for this game series. PS3 will not carry the tilte as far as I know. It looks to be an exciting addition to the always great 2k basketball line.

stafonb
stafonb

As always, you guys at Game spot always give a thorough review to let the avid gamer know exactly what to expect from premiere games before they hit the shelf. And interestingly and satisfyingly you are pretty accurate in your reviews. I know the developers of 2K Series will deliver an even better product this year than last. What I am really disappointed about is the exclusive rights deal that EA struck with the NFL. We all know that the 2K Series have superceded the EA Series in basketball and apparently will hold this title for years to come. The disappointment comes in when I can only wonder what would NFL 2K7 Football be like????? I wonder how many others wonder............

Omegadg2000
Omegadg2000

[quote]For more on NBA 2K7, be sure to come back tomorrow for our signature-style interview with the producers of the game. [/quote] Brian Ekberg! YOU HAVE FAILED US!

shaggyaz
shaggyaz

DAMN I CANT WAIT!! This is looking like its gonna be one of the best bball games yet

Chris2333
Chris2333

Man that Draft thing is the best idea ever.. Ive waiting this in nfl2k games for ever especially in nfl2k5.. NOW NBA2k7 has it.. Im not really into basketball or basketball games.. ill watch a BBall game like 2 times a month.. I only enjoy playing Bball in real life.. But that draft feature for leagues got me really excited!

ajkalan
ajkalan

I hope 2K updates their woefully underpowered create-a-player mode. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of many games, and the NBA 2K games have had the exact same CAP options for at least the past three years.

jono1811
jono1811

I am so getting this game. Sounds like it's going to rock. My prediction.. Gamespot scores it a 9.3.

Omegadg2000
Omegadg2000

A couple more faults I've mustered up. In the new trailer, the nets look really crappy, very un-nba like. And the rim color as well. Also, barely any net animation after a swish. In addition, the characters slide their feet into a dunk or layup, no real weight factored in or foot placement.

KINGxZEUS
KINGxZEUS

this is crazy, where is the interview. I really would like to see this. This is something that both Live, and 2K are doing(signature shots). So it will be very interesting to see who can better immitate their real life counterparts, the Live players or the 2K players. But ive seen Lebrons shot from the 2K game, and it looks perfect, so this will be interesting.

Omegadg2000
Omegadg2000

Where's the signature moves interview? BTW, the only victory live has over 2K this year is 360 movement, if you watch the 2k7 videos players slide like crazy and theres VERY LITTLE collision detection unlike in live. 2K7 is sensatiably better nevertheless.

rl_41
rl_41

one of my reasons to get a 360...

KINGxZEUS
KINGxZEUS

And also, i would like to know if that signature style interview is going to be on here also, ive checked 3-5 times today, and it stll hasnt shown up, i need to see it, because the ign videos, showing the signature shots for VC, and TMAC looked amazing.

KINGxZEUS
KINGxZEUS

Yeah,anubanUT, have you checked out the reviews from ign.com, live has put in some pretty impressive features. The thing is last years NBA Live, had amazing graphics, but the gameplay fell a few quarters short of a buck, but this year i think it will definitely play as good as it looks.

AnubanUT2
AnubanUT2

Well as a basketball lover all I know is both look great and I l'll be owing both of them and loving every minute of it. Man I just love to play B-ball and both games are a lot of fun.

CDWJUSTIN
CDWJUSTIN

i came back tomorrow and i see no "signature-style interview with the producers of the game" wheres this at are you gonna have it gamespot?

KINGxZEUS
KINGxZEUS

You know how the characters on the game moon walked last year, well EA has fixed that problem, go click on ps3, then scroll down, and look at NBA live 07, and the procedural awareness is going to be great, the EA characters look as if they are actually thinking, to tell the truth, i think they are lol, and its kind of scary. But really, i think the competition will be good for both franchises, it pushes them to put out a better product, and they will never be a bad thing for the consumers.

KINGxZEUS
KINGxZEUS

Well as a fan of basketball, and not just games, Both games have shown a vast amount of improvement. For all those people who say the developers at EA arent working hard, go and check out IGN.com, they have added a lot more to their game this year. In fact, this year i believe that either way you go, 2K or EA, you wont be dissappointed.

GhostDog8
GhostDog8

man this game looks so sick on the 360

bwgamer
bwgamer

NBA 2K series vs. NBA Live series is like Apple vs. Microsoft....Apple is always several steps in front of Microsoft in innovation. As is 2K over Live.

gusthegoose08
gusthegoose08

This game promises and looks like it's gonna deliver the goods

ReaperXxxx
ReaperXxxx

2K Sports better come out with some outstanding games to make up for their overall disgraceful effort with the 2K6 games. MLB and NHL 2K6 were unplayable, while the basketball games were merely mediocre in every respect. Hopfully the 2K7 efforts will bring them back to respectability.

crazylegzmark
crazylegzmark

This game looks very nice, can't wait to see the finished product

tubbablubba
tubbablubba

Sounds like the developers worked too hard. Maybe the first true next gen sports game?

RLJSlick
RLJSlick

I agree with punkyqb, NBA 2k7 will be miles ahead of the NBA Live series. Last time I've played NBA Live I was shocked how little it have improved.

Deth_Walkr
Deth_Walkr

Sinister snake they come out at this time because the new season starts at the end of the previous year and finishes in the middle of the current year.

punkyqb
punkyqb

2K shows that eventhough light years ahead of Pinball Live, they are still trying to push the envelope more and more, WOW. Madden looks great but NFL 2K7 would have made EA it's B ! + [ H !!!

AkaDemiKDaKiD
AkaDemiKDaKiD

for tha kid below me, they fixed all that...cant u read..??

Omegadg2000
Omegadg2000

Guys guys, our biggest gripe should be defensive controls, last year and the year before we HAD NO CONTROLS ON DEFENSE, this year doesn't seem to be THAT MUCH dfiferent!!!!! Also the isomotion was very frustrating, we were limited to about 4 moves in total and it was hard to pull off accurately.

christ4404
christ4404

its wonderfull that the players sweat like that. There are good animation good

sinistersnake20
sinistersnake20

Now when is this goingto stop I meen they keep on comeing out with games that shouldn'y be out. 2k7 in 2k6.......don't make sence to me!

wenbin09
wenbin09

this is how a sports game shld be made!!! with every details taken note of, regardless minor or major..

judge__judy
judge__judy

Sounds like alot of work has gone in to it

xcube15
xcube15

I hope it won't be plague of bugs as NBA 2K6 for the Xbox360 was and that they will be more carefull when they release an update for the game.

Dantecamp
Dantecamp

I think both 2K and Live are great franchises. It's kinda silly that we gamers tend to compare them all the time. I think they are different and you can enjoy both games. We should be happy to have alternatives, look at football.

unrealylife
unrealylife

Can't wait, I hope they fix all the issues from last years verson.

thekey
thekey

I'm preordering this, 4 sure!

SlimFrom303
SlimFrom303

This is what I am talking about!!! Even though it seems 2k is miles ahead of Live they are still pushing to become even better. They even added a better halftime show. 2k's work ethic is unquestioned. Basketball and football. But Live is also working very hard.

bminns
bminns

i dont know if im gonna like the rock-paper-scissors type defense, i guess i could get used to it

Eman5805
Eman5805

2k Sports always had EA's number with basketball games...just how its always been...but i'm thinking that NBA Live 07 will make a push upwards to challenging 2k7...though just barely

dhjohns
dhjohns

here I come, get the draft ready!!!

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

NBA 2K games are always dependable. This one is looking great.

ElJuego07
ElJuego07

Yea Cant wait to cross some ppl up.

waynehead895
waynehead895

Yeah I'm gonna get this one. Imagine what they could do with NFL2K if they still had it. *Shakes Fists @ EA*

ImporTRydeR
ImporTRydeR

Can't wait for it to come out. Gonna be Great.