If you're a sports fan stuck with a PlayStation 2 as your only option, you're probably used to reading the phrase "it's the same as last year" with regard to this year's crop of sports games. If not, this should help--NBA 2K8 on the PlayStation 2 is basically the same as it was last year. It's a decent game, but none of the new features from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions made it to the PS2 edition, which is extremely disappointing.
There's no shortage of ways to stay busy in 2K8--there's just a shortage of new ways to stay busy. The series has had a street-ball component for a number of years, and it's back again. You can participate in full- or half-court games, one-on-one, and even 21 using real NBA players. The slam-dunk contest from the current generation is MIA. The street-ball mode is OK, but if you're looking for street ball there are much better games out there. In addition to that, you can create your own playoff scenarios. This option isn't all that useful or interesting, but it's worth mentioning because it's one of the only new features. Once again, the NBA 2K series sets the standard for online play. There's something for everyone to enjoy here. Hardcore fans can participate in an entire season, complete with online draft. You can create tournaments, as well as play ranked and unranked matches. We had some problems with drops and disconnects, but when we did get to play, the game ran smoothly.
The association is the bread and butter of the series. It's still the deepest basketball sim out there on the PS2, but not a whole lot has changed, and it's starting to feel a bit stale. The menus have been redone, but they are still a chore to navigate. A lot of the tasks aren't much fun either, such as scheduling practices and scouting future draft picks. All of these options may make it seem as if going through a season of the association is a lot of work, but the effect the options have on your team is minimal. It's possible to never schedule any practices and scout very little, and yet still do just fine. But you get what you put into the mode. If you really immerse yourself in the life of an NBA GM and coach, there's a lot to enjoy here. The new hoopcast simulator lets you monitor a game as it's simulated. You can watch text play-by-play, view team and player stats, check out a shot chart, and most importantly adjust team settings on the fly. Should you decide to worry only about the rigors of a single season, you can do that in the aptly named season mode.
Save for a few tweaks to the artificial intelligence and some new dunks, 2K8 performs just like its predecessor on the court. The games are generally up-tempo, and there's usually plenty of scoring. AI opponents are better about getting shots up before time expires, which will be a relief to anyone who watched it dribble out the clock instead of attempting a game-winning shot in 2K7. However, players still walk out of bounds and toss up shots from behind the backboard on occasion. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game have a significant problem with missed layups. It's an issue here, but to a lesser extent because characters are much more inclined to dunking the ball, even in situations where they probably couldn't dunk the ball in real life. Is it unrealistic? Yes. Is it better than missing an absurd amount of layups? Yes. Although it's good the PS2 version didn't inherit that "feature" from the current generation, it would have been nice if it had received at least something worthwhile. Neither the new dribble controls nor the defensive-lockdown feature made it over.
NBA 2K8 looks so similar to NBA 2K7 that you have to wonder if even the developer could tell the difference between screenshots from the two games. There are some new animations, and the signature-style moves look nice, but they're nowhere near as extensive as on the 360 and PS3. The frame rate is steady, which is impressive considering just how much is happening at once onscreen. Player models are still pretty good. They're all super-shiny during replays, but you can tell who most players are with little problem. The announcers do a nice job of calling the action, and they mix in a fair amount of game analysis as well. They do occasionally miss some big plays, and there are a few situations where you'll repeatedly hear the same call, but they're generally good.
If you own last year's game, and you're cool with dropping 30 dollars for what amounts to little more than a patch and some new rosters, you'll be reasonably satisfied with NBA 2K8. Just don't buy the game expecting any of the new features from the Xbox 360 and PS3--they aren't here.