Looking just as good as an alley-oop
Personality is a lot of what the NBA is built upon, and there is certainly no shortage of it her in NBA Live 08. EA while it has some bad days there’s no denying it has some of the highest production values in the industry, and this pays high dividens in this title. It seems as if EA have really concentrated on the little things. Things so little infact that you could only notice them in zoomed in replays. These little things I’m talking about consist of each player having there own unique tattoos that they actually have in real life, for example Shaq’s superman tattoo. And another little detail I noticed was that Chicago Bulls centre Ben Wallace changes his hair style between games. One game he will have his iconic afro, and then the next game he will have some cool cornrows. Hows that for attention to detail. Other little effects that have been done great is the dripping sweet that you will see on players faces, and how there uniforms swerve in terms of the player movement.
player models and animation. These are the main things a sport game will be rated on into terms of its graphics. It’s the players likenesses that steal the show. If you’re a common NBA watcher, you will, and I bet my house on it, be able to choose out the stars straight away. They are freakishly real. A lot was made of the motion capture in this game and it shows, as the animation is superbly done. The ball handling animations are particularly cool, and there’s also plenty of those of the shizzle ma nizzle dunks to be wowed by.
Unfortunately this is were the good news ends, as the overall impression of the game in terms of its visuals would be called jaggy at best, yes EA’s fixation with no AA in its PS3 games in particular is in full flight here. Along with a few frame rate stubbles, and a poor looking crowd, it seams as if they have got all the on field antics down pretty well, but the rest has suffered. There is no excuses why there should still be frame rate issues with EA’s large sport range.
The sound of the NBA
Sport games aren’t exactly a showcase of sound. As long as a sporting title has decent commentary and some modern music your away laughing right. This would have to be my first sporting game were the sound has been of top draw quality. While the crowd noise is proberly the weakest aspect of the sound element it still re-mains pretty strong. They re-act to what’s going on, on the court, they even yell out “3” when a home player puts up a shot from beyond the arc, and they also bring the house down when an opponent is at the three throw line. The music is ya standard NBA affair, so you can expect some hip-hop, some slow jams, and there’s even an appearance of music genius Timberland. The on court sounds are as strong as ever here. The squeaky noise of b-ball shoes on court will be instantly recognizable by b-ball players alike.
The main component that makes the sound element so great here is the un-rivalled commentary. I’m not going to lie to you, but the commentary will get repetitive, but what game does not have repetitive commentary? So why is the commentary so great then if the only thing your said about it is a bad thing. Well then you name me a game were the commentators are on time with what’s happening on the court, were they will often talk about individual players, past and main skills and cons, were the commentators argue against each other when they don’t agree and were the commentators will dispute a referees call when they see fit. And well then you will get an idea of why the commentary is so great.
Going Down Town
First of all lets get in the off-court bull $h!t out of the way. You will never find yourself getting bored as there’s plently of modes to play through, including the all new Fiba world championship which really does give the game a much wider appeal. EA are pretty famous when it comes to creating in-genius ways to navigate the menus, and this is no different when it comes to this years batch of games. The side scrolling menus are a piece of pi$$ to get a-hold of, and makes things easy to navigate. Stat whores will be in heaven here with loads of stats covering the NBA, And even in-game they will show important stats as the game goes on like the top scorers, and free throw percentages. Speaking of free throws, I love the way they have incorporated the motion sensing SIXAXIS into this facet of the game. This involves you to actually play out the action and moment of a free throw and if timed right you will be bucketing points. Ever wanted to see yourself in the NBA shooting that full-court shot that won you the game, well now you can with a welcome return of the creation zone.
Each year before release EA will publicise its games new main features and in Lives case it was the new “Go to moves” that were hyped up the most. These are the signature moves that separate the men from the boys, Yep these are reserved for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Le Bron James, You Ming etc, etc. Ea even got the players in to do some mo cap work to get the animations spot on, and it shows, as its different from anything else. What this does is add to the personality of the game and draws the line between the great and the average. Other new features that were implemented into this years version was the NBA street like trick stick, and “Hotspots”. The special dribbling tricks are mapped onto the right analogue stick and while it’s a cool addition it wont really affect the gameplay to much. Same thing applies for these “Hotspots.” While holding the LI button, the Court will be displayed in a frenzy of colour. Red meaning the player is hot yellow meaning he’s warm, and blue meaning he’s stone cold. What seems like a decent concept doesn’t really convert. But If your quick enough it will come in handy when looking for a higher percentage shot.
The AI is solid at best without being a headliner. Opposing teams will use there stars to great affect, however there seems to be lack of intensity in there play and this is a great segway to my next point. The game is far to easy. I’m playing on Dynasty on the hardest difficulty which is “Superstar” with the Chicago Bulls, I find myself winning matches by 20 points at least. A few gripes I have with the games are the brain dead refs, its like all the refs in this game are taking bets. They will often and I mean often miss an out of bounds call when a player steps out, they will hardly ever call a back court violation, and you could practically play rugby if you could as these refs have never heard of travelling. You will also see players do some silly circus $h!t at times, like trying to get a shot of when behind the backboard, getting blocked by the rim when shooting from under the hoop.
Anyone for a 1 on 1
Understandably the online aspect of Live 08 favours the US of A. with separate lobby’s for the East and West of America. But don’t be frightened by that as us foreigners have out own lobby called, rest of the world. Pft still not right is it, come on EA get it together aye, the world doesn’t re-volve around America. There are plenty of other lobby's however .There’s also a good number of modes on hand here, you have your regular quick play, unranked, ranked but then there’s the leagues that can hold up to 32 players. You can also play online with a mate by your side. I’m not to sure if you can do 5 human players vs other 5 human players. Again the stat whores are well looked after here, with your own career stats and you can also look your PSN mates stats with the EA locker room. You can compare yourself against the world with the worldwide leader boards. Also us online supporters get a few bells for playing online as it will update your rosters for the single player game aswell, which is nice. Living in NZ its pretty hard to get a lag free game going with a yank but despite the distance between us there’s not to much lag at all, and it wont affect your timing of the shot or anything major.
The “Bird” factor
As fact would have it, my full name is “Gary Bird” so whenever I’m near a b-ball court and im asked what my name is I often reply “Bird, that’s Gary Bird” And 99 times out of 100 I’ll get the reply “are you related to the legend Larry Bird” and for a laugh I’ll go along with it and say “Yes as god would have it I am." And then next thing ya know I have 20 more odd friends. PS. Its turns out that from what I know im no relation to him but, hey everyone else is none the wiser.
NBA Live 08 is a vast improvement of the half baked 07, however there’s still a lot of room for improvement, first of all the devs really need to work hard to understand the architecture of the PS3, if they are to impress. Now that they finally have a solid base to work upon now for next gen consoles, we should be seeing this franchise return to its former glory of no1 basketball sim. But right now they just have to take heart in the knowledge that Live is catching up to 2K.