With NBA live taking a seat on the bench and NBA 07 pulling up lame, the PlayStation 3 launch represents a great opportunity for Visual Concepts to establish the NBA 2K series as the dominant basketball sim on the PS3. And that's just what it has done. If you've played the Xbox 360 version of the game, the PS3 version isn't much different, so you pretty much know what to expect here. But if you're new to the series or you've played it only on the PlayStation 2, you're in for a treat. Signature shots, oodles of gameplay modes, feature-rich online play, and great on-court action are just some of the many areas in which NBA 2K7 excels.
NBA 2K7 features a dizzying number of gameplay modes. Quick play, 24/7, season, the association, tournaments, and a robust online component give the game tremendous replay value. There are also a number of options and sliders that let you tweak the game to your heart's content. Having so many choices to pick from is great, but navigating through all the modes and options is made needlessly difficult due to the new menu system. It's unreasonably complex, and you're forced to bring up menus with the right analog stick. Rarely are you able to simply go back a step; rather, you're forced to go all the way back to each mode's main menu and do things all over again.
The association is NBA 2K7's multiseason mode, and it's deeper than ever. You're placed in charge of an NBA franchise and it's your job to hire coaches, set up practices, perform general manager duties, and play the games. Watching your team's chemistry as well as fatigue level is very important, since players will tire after hard practices, thereby not giving you their best effort during a game. Should you need to shake things up in the locker room, three player trades are supported, though to be honest, we spent quite a bit of time trying to pull one off without success. You'll also need to prepare for the NBA draft by scouting players and even putting them through a series of predraft workouts. One thing's for sure--there's never a lack of activities to keep you occupied. For such a complex simulation, the association runs smoothly, without any major glitches. Dwayne Wade did win the MVP five seasons in a row, but other than that anomaly, player statistics seemed realistic and players retired at reasonable ages.
While it doesn't hold a candle to NBA Street, 24/7 mode is surprisingly robust for a secondary game mode. Deep create-a-player options allow for some crazy-looking characters, such as a mullet-haired baller that would make Joe Dirt and Randy Johnson jealous. Street-specific moves like bouncing the ball off an opponent's head and some over-the-top dribbling give the game a decidedly arcadelike feel. There's a story that accompanies your player's rise to street-ball glory, but its execution is downright embarrassing. You're a young no-name baller who happens to be on the court while Shaq is practicing free throws. Somehow your buddy is able to talk Shaq into letting you shoot against him, and after you win, O'Neal hands you a flier with details on a legends tournament in New York. The combination of a corny script, so-so voice acting, and silent NBA players who act out their parts like mimes make the story difficult to enjoy. If you're looking for a street-ball experience without the story, you can play one-on-one, 21, and half- or full-court in locales from Miami to New York's Rucker Park.
On the court, Visual Concepts didn't make any huge alterations to how the game plays. Newcomers will likely find the controls difficult to pick up, while series veterans will appreciate them for their seemingly endless depth. Player substitutions, play calling, and more can be done during play by pressing the appropriate direction on the D pad. Effective use of set plays is an integral part of getting open shots, partially because that's how real NBA teams do it, but also because players move around the court as if getting open and cutting to the hoop aren't high on their list of things to do. Crossovers, spins, and hesitation moves are done via the "isomotion" controls (R2 plus the left analog stick). Shooting is mapped to the square button, or, should you prefer, you can utilize the right analog stick for greater shot control. In theory, using the right analog stick to shoot lets you pick the best shot for the situation. A shorter guard posting up a power forward might want to opt for a fadeaway, while a taller player might go up strong and attempt a power dunk. In reality, using the analog stick results in players frequently putting up unnecessary low-percentage shots, rather than the simple shot you were hoping for.
Like so many other PlayStation 3 launch titles, NBA 2K7 doesn't make much use of the Sixaxis' motion-sensing capabilities. But you can shoot free throws by tilting the controller back and then tilting it forward as the shot is released. If you're holding the controller in your lap, it doesn't feel much like you're shooting a free throw, but if you go the extra mile and hold the controller up over your head, you can sort of replicate the feel of a real shot. Unfortunately, the whole mechanic doesn't work particularly well because you've got to tilt the controller forward to release the ball much earlier than when the player onscreen releases his shot. Because of the large number of unique shots, you're forced to adjust your timing for each and every player, so unless you have the time to learn each player's shooting motion, you'll want to adjust the free-throw slider straightaway. There's a practice mode, but you're shooting from a different perspective than you would in a game, meaning success on the practice court doesn't translate to success during a real game.
Final scores and shooting percentages are noticeably low, in part because teams play like their real-life counterparts. One night you might put up a bunch of points against Phoenix, which loves to push the tempo, and the next evening put up far fewer against the slower-paced Spurs. There's also an ugly side as to why scores are so low. Sometimes defenders legitimately play great defense, but just as often you'll skate in place, performing crossovers and hesitation moves against an invisible wall. Down low, the hop step is an effective way of establishing dominance in the paint, but it, too, is often rendered useless by unseen forces. Fast breaks are prone to coming to a screeching halt, either from a turnover due to an errant pass, forced because the camera was too close (on the default setting), or because streaking players stopped in their tracks to receive a pass (even if you use the lead pass). The big way in which the game seems to keep scoring down is with an inordinate amount of missed shots. Blown dunks and lay-ups, wide-open three-pointers clanking off the rim, and missed put-backs are all commonplace. A few tweaks to the gameplay sliders can correct the anomalies, but that shouldn't be necessary. But even then, it's tough to get players to go up strong for a dunk--they just try to lay the ball in most of the time.
The artificial intelligence seems to have been improved somewhat, and the CPU is more aware of the clock and won't just stand around dribbling away precious time. But the PS3 and 360 versions play mostly the same, and the CPU still does some quirky things. You'll still see players constantly rotating into mismatches. It's not uncommon to see a center guarding a point guard or vice versa. Not all of the AI is bad. When the computer is on defense, defenders will fight through picks, rotate quickly, and double-team the hot player. Players also have a difficult time picking up loose balls--they'll just stand there and watch the ball roll around. When someone dives to the floor to get a ball (99 percent of the time it's the computer), there doesn't appear to be any sort of animation for a defensive player to try and tie them up. Everyone will just mill about as the player on the floor sits there looking for someone to pass to.
2K7's online play is a great example of how to do sports right online. Whether it's a quick game of one-on-one, a tournament, exhibition, or a fully-featured league you're looking for, NBA 2K7 has got you covered. The league option lets you set up and customize an online season for up to 30 players. You can allow trades, upload preferred slider settings, and even set how long people have to play their games--it's incredibly deep. You're able to check out other player's VIP profiles and even scout their playing tendencies. Should you run into a jerk, a brief series of postmatch questions will let you leave appropriate feedback. All of the options in the world don't mean a thing if the game doesn't play well online, but there's no need to worry--the game runs smooth and is very playable.
Perhaps the most noticeable and most talked about aspect of the game is the new signature style animations. The developer went through the arduous task of adding hundreds of new player-specific moves, so you'll see Shawn Marion's awkward-looking jump shot, Yao Ming's unique free throw, and Kobe Bryant's unmistakable fadeaway. Basketball aficionados will no doubt love seeing their favorite player's shot accurately re-created for the first time, but casual fans probably aren't going to notice a whole lot of difference between players' individual shots, outside of the big stars, unless they're watching a replay or shooting free throws. If you compare the 360 and PlayStation 3 versions side by side, you might notice a few more signature moves, but the changes are minimal.
The rest of the graphics are generally excellent, but they are starting to show their age a bit. Most of the popular players are instantly recognizable and look realistic. It is the lesser-known players who don't look so hot, and even some recognizable players, such as Dirk Nowitzki, look poor too. Little details, like player sweat and jersey movement look great, however, players' shorts will occasionally disappear during breaks in the action, which, needless to say, looks just a wee bit freaky. The player animation is outstanding. There are lots of little touches that go a long way toward making it feel as though you're watching a real NBA game. Players move and react realistically to the action and will move their heads to track the ball as it's in the air, and they'll try to tip a just-out-of-reach rebound to keep it alive. You'll also notice players exhibiting more emotion--raising their hands in shock at being whistled for a foul, and hanging on the rim for emphasis after throwing down one of the game's fantastic looking dunks. The arenas are another highlight, accurately modeled and full of life. Cool things to look for are mascots and cheerleaders performing during timeouts, fans milling about the arena, and the referees signaling that a ball has been tipped on a shot.
NBA 2K7 is one of the few PS3 launch games that supports 1080p. The game looks nice in "true HD," but you're more likely to notice the aliasing around players' bodies, as well as blurry names and numbers on their jerseys. All of this extra resolution comes at the expense of the frame rate, though even in 720p, the action gets choppy. The frame rate's not too bad when you're playing from the default camera angle, but it isn't as smooth as on the Xbox 360. The frame rate really becomes erratic if you play using the baseline camera. It's not all bad news--there seems to be less clipping in the PlayStation 3 version.
Kevin Harlan and Kenny Smith do a fair job calling the action, but they fail to offer a whole lot of analysis, and they're quite repetitive. Plan on hearing about how a team can get a "two for one" with 30 seconds to go nearly every quarter. Sideline reporter Craig Sager gives his canned spiel at the beginning of each half. Kenny Smith shows first-half highlights and gives his "stamp of approval" to the top performers during the halftime show. It's not particularly interesting, and you'll probably end up skipping it after just a few games, but at least it's there. The players are quite talkative on the court, yelling when they're open, calling out picks, and pointing out double-teams. 2K7's soundtrack features a hefty number of hip-hop tracks, though you'd never know it, since for some reason most of them are set by default to not play, forcing you to go into the options and turn them on.
When everything comes together, NBA 2K7 looks and feels amazing. Watching a player in the low post receive a bounce pass, pivot one way, take a drop step the other, and finally slam the ball home is truly something to behold. Unfortunately, these instances of perfection aren't as frequent as they could be, given the preponderance of nagging gameplay issues. If you already own the game on the Xbox 360, there's no reason to pick it up again on the PlayStation 3. However, if you're looking for a great, well-rounded basketball game for your new PlayStation 3, you'll be pleased with NBA 2K7." .