NBA 2K6 E3 2005 First Look

2K Games gets its hoop on with this upcoming basketball game for the Xbox 360.

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After the initial excitement from peeking at the game during the MTV Xbox 360 premiere, and then the slight buzz kill from seeing a different build of the game during Microsoft's press conference, we finally got to see NBA 2K6 for ourselves, running on an Xbox 360 dev kit. The game is still in a very early state. Though one of the big visual improvements in the game will be the use of fully modeled clothing physics, we only got to see this in real time on player shorts, as jerseys were not yet implemented. Seeing a game between the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat with 10 shirtless players on the court was a little bizarre, like seeing a streetball match in an NBA arena. However, the lack of shirts meant that we could see how much improvement has been made in detailing player musculature. Ripped six-pack abdominal, pectoral, shoulder, back, and arm muscles are easily apparent, even when the viewpoint is zoomed out a ways. Overall, player models look more detailed at this early stage, although the shader work on exposed skin could use some sharpening up.

Other graphical improvements in NBA 2K6 include lighting and reflections on the floor. Though it looks somewhat overexaggerated, you can make out player reflections on the waxed wood floor of the arena. Perhaps the most striking visual improvement is in how the crowds look. With the added horsepower of a next-gen console system, each spectator in the crowd appears to be fully 3D, so this means that the days of looking up into the stands and seeing a bunch of cardboard cutouts are just about over.

Feature-wise, nothing new was demonstrated or apparent to us from the brief demo. 2K Games representatives noted that there will be a "strip and rip" steal system implemented on the defensive side of the ball. So if you're controlling the on-the-ball defender, using the right analog stick will result in swipes and slaps that correspond to the direction you toggle. Push left and you'll poke with that hand. Push up and you'll attempt to pop the ball up out of the offensive player's hands. The system will extend to off-ball defense as well. Using the right analog stick will let you more quickly cheat and jump into passing lanes, just like Allen Iverson. A lead passing system will also be included, and the VIP system from NFL 2K5 will make its way into the NBA 2K series for the first time. This means you'll be able to save and trade your VIP file around and play against artificially intelligent opponents that will mimic the gameplay style of the VIP file's owner. Unfortunately, no new details on isomotion, association, or other features are available as of this writing.

We were also treated to a prerendered movie of the game, showing an NBA player (we won't say his name, *wink *wink) dribbling, shooting, and dunking on a blacktop court at night in an alley. This prerendered demo showed off in more detail how the cloth modeling is going to work and move independently of the player model. We also got a detailed look at self-shadowing on the player model and noticed some nicely detailed animation on dunks and shooting, which is due in part to a new skeletal and muscle system implemented in the game. These graphical bells and whistles were not all apparent to us in the real-time version of the game we saw running on the dev kit, but they represent the target look for NBA 2K6. The game is slated to ship in the holiday season of 2005, and we'll definitely be bringing you more detailed coverage as information becomes available. Stay tuned to GameSpot!

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