NBA Live 08 Updated Hands-On

Online leagues anyone? We've got EA's latest hoops game in house for a hands-on look.

It's no secret that expectations are high for EA Sports' upcoming basketball game, NBA Live 08. Ever since the game first debuted back in May, we've heard that the focus has been on five-on-five gameplay and that the series is taking a back-to-basics approach, aimed at getting the fundamentals of on-court play before piling on extras. After spending some extended time with a preview build of Live 08, it's clear that the developers are working on improving the caliber of the Live series' gameplay while still tossing in new features at the same time.

In terms of additions to the game, the biggest news of all for NBA Live 08 comes in the form of online tournaments. Here, up to 32 players can compete in leagues that, according to producers, are based on online presence. In other words, EA does not handle the scheduling of tournament games; instead, the game merely handles the results and statistics then declares a winner when all games in the tournament are complete. Setting up a league is as simple as going to the appropriate menu and selecting "create online league."

The person who creates the league is the default commissioner and he or she has the option to set league rules. These league options include the following: league name, abbreviation, description, password, maximum number of users (from 2 to 32), games (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11), maximum DNF percentage (any or increments from five percent up to 95 percent); reputation (Xbox 360 only; 2+ stars, 3+ stars, 4+ stars); quarter length (2-12 minutes), and fatigue (on or off). In order to keep leagues open, there can be overlap within the same league, so you can have multiple 76ers or Celtics (or any other, team for that matter) in the same league. Players will be able to keep track of their progress in the league via the "league standings" screen, which will keep track of things like recent game results, as well as the number of games each participant has remaining against every other player in the league. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be Web site or e-mail support for your league, but our fingers are crossed that this kind of thing is implemented in the future.

Other noteworthy online options in the game include a versus mode, which pits you and up to three friends on the same console against an online foe (also with up to three friends), as well as and online quick pick play, which lets you play a game after building your team from scratch from various NBA stars. There's also plenty of ESPN-related content in the game, such as ESPN videos playing in the newly refurbished practice gym (where you can horse around with your favorite NBA star), as well as live stats, results, and stories that you can filter by league or team.

Player models are looking sharp.

Other new game modes in NBA Live 08 include the FIBA World Championship, which will let you compete in an eight-team tournament using either top international or NBA teams. Want to see how far your beloved Atlanta Hawks match up against such international teams as China or Spain? This is the mode for you. Quick pick play is a new feature that plays similarly to the online quick play: You draft 10 players on any NBA team and then hit the court against your opponent's 10-man team. The new scenario play mode lets you either create scenarios of your own or go up against randomly generated challenges that will put your basketball skills to the test. Variables you can set in a scenario include home and away team, home and away scores, quarter, quarter length, time remaining, time remaining on the shot clock, home fouls, away fouls, team with the ball, timeouts remaining on both sides, and game situation (jump ball, inbound - sideline back, inbound - baseline front, and so on.) All of these modes are in addition to the standard game modes that were in last year's game, including quick play, dynasty mode, and the NBA all-star weekend, as well as all of its associated minigames.

When it comes to on-court play, Live 08 has its moments where improvement is obvious. Namely, the so-called "own the paint" moves give you a good deal of control when attempting to back down your opponent near the rim. By pressing the L2 button on the PlayStation 3 controller, you put your opponents back to the basket and lean into the defender. From here, you have a number of options. Tapping the shot button will let you fake a shot, while pressing it will let you take a jumper. If you first tap the shot button, then press it again while the fake animation is playing, your player will attempt a counter shot. If you mix in the analog stick, you've got a multitude of spins and other moves at your disposal. Of all the new gameplay features, it's probably the most responsive--and more importantly, consistently successful--control feature in the game. It also adds a new dimension of fun to playing underneath the basket.

Playing down low is brought to life with Live 08's own the paint moves.

When you aren't owning the paint in Live 08, you'll be taking advantage of the quick strike ball-handling moves, which will let you easily string together moves, such as stutter steps, crossovers, and spins as you make your way through your opponent's offensive zone. Moves are tied to the right stick, and it's easy to string together multiple moves to truly make your opponents look silly. Well, we should say, it's easy to put together move combos provided the player you're controlling has the skills. You may be able to dazzle your fans--and maybe even break an ankle or two--when using quick strike moves with someone like Tracy McGrady or LeBron James. But if you try the same thing with Adonal Foyle, you're on a one-way road to Turnover Street. In all, unless you're in control of a bona fide NBA superstar, you're better off simply passing the ball around and looking for an opening to the basket. In addition, certain NBA stars have moves available to them that can't be pulled off by anyone else; fadeaway shots, for example, executed by pulling back on the stick while shooting, can only be used with a handful of players including Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, and Kobe Bryant.

If you have trouble playing defense in hoops games, the new defensive help system in Live 08 might be of some use to you. By pressing the L2 button, you can shadow the player with the ball, letting you more easily match his moves. It's an easy way to force a guy to the outside, but it's not foolproof. Depending on the offensive and defensive ratings of both players involved, it's quite possible that you could get burned with a slick move. Interestingly, if the opposing team passes the ball, Live 08 will automatically switch your player control to the player closest to the ball. Although there's no option to turn this feature off that we could find, you can go into the menu system and choose to control one position for the entire game if you like. For example, if you like playing the point guard position, you can lock your player control accordingly. While you won't have control of where the other players on your team will move, you will be able to call for a pass or force a player to shoot by pressing the appropriate buttons.

Test your sharpshooting skills in the 3-point challenge.

When it comes to NBA Live 08's visuals and gameplay, the good news is that new animations can be seen in the own the paint move, as well as the quick strike moves. They can also be seen in the games relatively quick pace (at least when compared to previous games in the series), and better yet, all of these moves flow nicely into one another. That said, it seems that there's still some work to be done. While the publisher has been touting the branching animations in other EA Sports games, such as Madden and NCAA, it's still very easy to get sucked into animations, some of which are difficult to branch out of--if not impossible. During our time with the game, we had several occasions where we were pushed out of bounds after being drawn into these pre-scripted animations.

With games like NHL 08 and now NBA Live 08, it seems like EA Sports is finally getting behind the notion that sports gamers have held for a long time--online leagues are fun. Here's hoping the idea spreads beyond hockey and basketball and continues through every game on the publisher's roster (Madden NFL 09 anyone?) NBA Live 08 is due for release in early October so stay tuned for more coverage on the game in the coming weeks.

[UPDATE] After spending some more time with the game today, it seems that, while on defense, the auto-player select option described above only happens when you are holding down the defensive assist button (left trigger on Xbox 360, L2 on PS3). If you aren't using the defensive assist controls, the game will not automatically switch to the player closest to the ball; instead, you can choose to switch to any player you wish either by pressing the A button (X on PS3) or by choosing your player via icon switching by first pressing the right button (R1 on PS3) and selecting the icon of the player you want to control.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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58 comments
toysoldier04
toysoldier04

the online league is sellin 4 m3 2marra is da day

Amir29
Amir29

To be honest, I never really liked NBA 2K's approach to Basketball. I'm the type that needs fluent animation and control. NBA Live never had either, and NBA 2K had the control but animations were never fluent (Especially when dunking or going for lay ups). However, I just downloaded the NBA Live 08 Demo and it seems that this is now a thing of the past. Animations, and controls were very fluent and immediately felt like second nature when playing. Definitely excited about this title. So much so that I'll be reserving it within the hour.

swatboy82
swatboy82

i kno people probably arent lookin at this article anymore but i think i have an idea of how nba live in the future can overcome nba 2k...you know what would be a great game mode??? Going into the past or something...like different decades..even if its just like the 80s..i kno it would take a lot of work but imagine being able to take your own superstar and play then with all the legends or just playing as one of the legends in a franchise mode...also i think it would be fun if they added technical fouls and u can control your anger and even throw a punch or two lol...people would play it i think...you do this live..and you will beat 2k

ocdog45
ocdog45

the online seems better. which is good because i can't play this game alone.

BrUnOdeFeNiX
BrUnOdeFeNiX

Maybe NBA 2k8 will be better...I don't know... We've similar problem with NHL 2k8 or 08?2 great games, either.

fax555241
fax555241

it will be better than 07 but not better than 2k8.

fax555241
fax555241

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

twashington9737
twashington9737

I dunno. I am a middle of the road kind of dude and like to see underdogs win and comebacks made but did anyone see that 2K8 trailer on this website???? I am not taking sides, per se, and "hate" to say it but I think Live 08 maybe in BIG TROUBLE! I have NEVER seen that kind of realistic movement in a basketball game or any sports game, for that matter. These are the kind of animations I have been waiting for since Double Dribble!...well, maybe not that far back but u get my drift - LOL! GO CHECK IT OUT - http://www.gamespot.com/video/939854/6178003/videoplayerpop?

HollywoodR15
HollywoodR15

bwgamer, u do know that the NFL was shopping the exclusive rights to EA and 2k right? That is why EA bit the bullet and paid the NFL x amount of millions for the exclusive rights, it is not like EA was pressuring the NFL because 2K was giving them competition, they were still more than tripling the sales......but yeah the games LOOKS good, lets hope it PLAYS good

bwgamer
bwgamer

If this version of Live fails the only way for EA to survive is to pull the same junk they did with Madden and form a monopoly by purchasing exclusive rights to all NBA professional players. I still haven't got over that from EA and the NFL for doing that. I know it's business but sad but true we the consumers lose out when there isn't a fair market for competition. But anyway, hopefully Live will succeed for EA's sake, but all and all 2K has put it too them that past few years so they must make a great Live this go around.

mixhawkeye
mixhawkeye

Screw all the politics and hate about EA cuz this game looks pretty good. I'm going to wait a week or two after it comes out before I go out and buy it. though. The game right now looks awesome, but I want to see my friends reactions and the reviews first before my final decision to buy it or not because last years NBA LIVE wasn't nearly up to par pn the mechanics of the game or the fun factor. 2K was better last year. Hopefully LIVE can pick it up this year.

CokeandTheworld
CokeandTheworld

While the last three games on next gen consoles in the live series have been rather **** the 2k sucks as well in my opinion. I haven't played a great basketball game since NBA live 2006 for regular xbox and PS2. I'll definitely be picking this up when it comes out in october. I am glad I actually play more ball in real life then I do in games cause it seems to take several years for sports game to be done right with EA.

GamerKing22
GamerKing22

I really doubt Live 08 will be that different from 07. It's sad that people are trying to give props to things in the game that don't even make any difference in the quality of the game or the game play itself. IF NBA Live doesn't do well, EA needs to fire the whole development team and start completely over. Until EA proves itself in the areas that matter in a sports game, the Live series is dead. 2k has the ball and is way ahead of EA at this point... It pathetic that EA is just now realizing they need to be trying to catch up.

btstlouis
btstlouis

Sounds good that they are going back to solid fundamentals

Ace303
Ace303

Waiting for a demo.

LookOutSnake
LookOutSnake

Backing guys down with L2? Stringing moves together for a dribble drive? Why am I not impressed? I know...could it be because I've been doing those things for months in 2k7? Yup, that's probably it. Try harder, EA.

swatboy82
swatboy82

Lostboy1224, yea i agree the little things do help like how the bench players when they are coming in they check in and stand when game is close..how the time outs the cheerleaders and mascot come out although they should have more different things..i think they should improve commentary and the halftime show and post game, also i think it would be great if 2k added something like the mlb game where you control your temper except you can get ejected or technical fouls..i kno it gives the nba a bad image but it is part of the game..if live had the little things right especially the jumpers it could be the better one

Lostboy1224
Lostboy1224

What has won me over every year with NBA 2k series is that they do all the little things right that make me feel like I am playing real basketball, and not just shooting and dunking. Control and what happens away from the ball is everything in this game. If they can't get that right then they are just going to end up on the used-games shelf at your local game store shortly after it arrives for sale. I am not hating, I am just asking to prove me wrong EA.

youvalss23
youvalss23

NBA Live 08 is gonna be the same as 07 + few gimmicks. Why play a game that u can get to the rim and dunk every possession? It's boring! NBA 2K8 is a real sim basketball, So if u like sim b-ball play NBA 2K8. If u like NBA Street play Live 08.

nbabest9
nbabest9

Finally a reason to head back to NBA Live.

swatboy82
swatboy82

the new madden was good but still could have had more so i AM hoping live will be good but for some reason i doubt it they havent added anything big that will change the game does anyone agree with me that the animations of the dunks where you jump on someone and the blocks are good..the steals being free is good but the blocks would be better if all you have to do is move the stick up or something like in the ps2 versions and a block animation comes or if you dont do it right like against vince carter there is an animation of him dunking all over you anyone think they should bring this back? jus wonderin

linwood_c
linwood_c

Previews are always going to be positive. I've never, and I mean NEVER seen a negative preview. Why, because being positive ensures that you have the door open for more "exclusive" interviews later on down the road. There are a lot of EA advertisements on this site so I'm becoming skeptical of the EA game reviews. Hopefully, LIVE will be "promising" like the article points out.

Dev203d
Dev203d

I don't know about this, I mean NBA Live 07 had the same hype, they said NBA live 06 was a mistake and that they would improve but they didn't really do anything. I don't have high hopes for this game, but I am hoping that it will be good.

swatboy82
swatboy82

man what they need to bring back are the animations in the ps2 versions...like how you can posterize a player and the animations for the blocks on layups and dunks...but unfortunatley i have a feeling this game is not going to be good and 2k is gonna beat it again..if the jumpshots look real in live and the dunks arent ridiculous where you can be yao ming and your head is above the rim and you barley even touch the rim when you dunk this will be good but if they did not fix that they should just stop cuz they have disappointed fans so much..they should sell this for $30 that is what 2k did when they were going down and they have now become a success that is the least they can do for making such horrible live games in the past..only thing i like about live is the players look real and the jerseys look great in 2k the jerseys are too bright and dont look real at all...

jdr589
jdr589

seems to me all sports games are going down hill

Eman5805
Eman5805

Seems VERY strange how both 2K and Live have the new feature where you can get AI help when controlling a player that works virtually the same way...

DeltaSpirit
DeltaSpirit

leagues great addition but wwwwwwwway over due

gamingskills
gamingskills

Wow this is Live 08, 2K7 animates better from the players down to their uniforms also do you see how the rim and backboard animation after a slam dunk, me neither there is hardly any movement. This game is going to bad again! I know what basketball game I will be purchasing this year, 2K8 anyone.

Crash_FOX
Crash_FOX

Can you (in versus mode) be able to have more than just friends on the same console to play 4v4 basketball? That would be awesoome! Looks great, but having troubles agaisnt 2k8.

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

An online league? Welcome ot the 1990s! Don't get me wrong, the online league is a welcome addition but gamers have been asking for it since 2K had it almost six or seven years ago.

maaly81
maaly81

I like the models but its still looks like an awkward game. They are still using the same engine

manapsal
manapsal

at least the FIBA mode seems cool

thekey
thekey

This game may have a new coat of paint but this game looks like it still sucks @$$.

metaljeff
metaljeff

Forcing you to switch defenders as the other team passes the ball is SSSSTTTTUUUPPPIIIDDDD!!!!!!.....EA Sports arsimply not up to the CHALLENGE....this game was so bad last year, they should retire NBA LIve before they disgrace themselves further......

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

I hope this game will resurface again. I lost interest after NBA Live 2001; or should I say, after NBA 2k2!?

mors_x70
mors_x70

What the heck? You can't turn off auto-switch on defense. I believe this is a major issue that must be fixed. I liked being able to switch to the best defender of my team to control the paint or the perimeter. Being forced to automatically switch between defenders is a bad idea when all you want to control on defense are guys like Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan instead you end being punished by players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James for having point guards automatically switch on them on defense.. EA please fix this before release... Thanks and Good Luck...

mavs_31
mavs_31

I'm going with 2k it seems better but I can always try it on my friend, he always goes with live....

timbjr
timbjr

Oh man, That no option for switching sucks a lot of ass, thats def going to cause a lot of problems during gameplay. I guess im not really looking foward to this one much, I just hope its better than the last one.

LoserMike
LoserMike

Uhh... there's no option to turn-off being automatically switched on defense??? That's a big problem as I just like playing with Centers/Power Fowards on defense. I would roam and try to get blocks like Ben Wallace.

pmase14
pmase14

I agree with you "aygol" but... If gamespot is right... Live is back baby!!! woooohoooo!!! Time will tell. If it's as good as it is, this will be the 1st time I buy NBA Live in 4 years. (2k has been a better product for years)

youmadhuh
youmadhuh

Live is back baby!!! woooohoooo!!!

aygol
aygol

Every year they say that their games are awesome and then they turn out to be crap. I'm tired of this. 2K is better than this.

fathertroy
fathertroy

hmm.... ill still w8 for the review

badman11226
badman11226

Hey even though i like 2k basketball, nba live 08 really look good so far on vids. The graphics look better than last year awful 07 and so does the gameplay. So i might give 08 a try its has been a 4 year drought since I play nba live. Since EA step up on madden, i guess they will do the same for nba live 08.

xAngelxDustx
xAngelxDustx

there is no way this game will be better than NBA 2K8...the 2K series has always been better than the live series..thats a fact...I feel bad for EA..every year they try to improve live, but every year they end up creating a bigger mess than the previous year

PrinceUchiha
PrinceUchiha

I guess the next-gen consoles helped Live in the graphics department but 2k Sports always looks real, we'll just have to wait for the gameplay to see which is better. I think it might be 2k, but who knows I could be wrong.

rl_41
rl_41

Maybe EA will step up here like they did with madden. Then again, 2k does have the upper hand for my money so far. SHOW ME SOMETHING!