NBA Live 08 PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
The last NBA Live game we reviewed was a bit of a disappointment. NBA Live 06 for the Xbox 360 was very light on game modes, had frame rate and animation issues and offered weak support for online play. You could say it was a less than ideal introduction to the next generation of console gaming for the NBA Live series. Almost two years on and we have NBA Live 08 for both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. It’s a game that’s much improved from NBA Live 06 and a game that finally does the series justice on the latest generation of consoles.
If the last version of NBA Live you played on the Xbox 360 was NBA Live 06 (NBA Live 08 is the series’ debut on the PlayStation 3 here in Europe) you can’t help but be impressed with the additional game modes in NBA Live 08. The modes on offer include Play Now (exhibition game), Dynasty Mode, NBA All-Star Weekend (which offers Rookie Challenge, 3 Point Shootout, Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and NBA All-Star Game), FIBA World Championship, Quick Pick Play and Scenario Play. The online play has been beefed up somewhat too. The Xbox Live and PSN modes allow for the usual ranked and unranked games and there’s even support for Online Leagues for up to 32 players.
One of the key new features in NBA Live 08 is called Hot Spots. Essentially when you hold down the LB (or L1) button you’ll see different coloured areas appear that will show you where the current player you’re controlling has the most chance of scoring from based on his ability. The red areas are the places that your player is most likely to score from whilst the blue areas are places that your current player is very unlikely to score from. Those who know the NBA inside out probably won’t need this feature as they already know most players’ strengths and weaknesses but for those with only an occasional interest in the sport, the feature is a great way of getting to know what the players in their team are capable of. The defensive side of the game has been improved and thanks to the new Quick Strike Ball Handling feature, which allows for easier dribble combos, you’ll be able to add more panache to your attacking play.
NBA Live 08 plays a solid game of basketball but there are a few issues that prevent the game from being a great one. First of all it’s a shame that the game requires you to use the right analogue stick to perform a free throw. It’s a flawed system and even when using those players who are adept at free throws in real life (and with the game set on the easiest difficulty) you get an unnatural amount of misses. The PlayStation 3 version allows you to use the motion-sensing capabilities of the Sixaxis to perform the free throws. It’s a nice touch but sadly it’s no better than using the right analogue stick. The crazy thing is that you can simply press the B (or circle button on the PlayStation 3 version) to take the free throw automatically and it’s far more reliable. During open play you’ll find your players miss far too many easy shots (again even on the easiest difficulty settings). To compound this problem the AI is a fiend at hitting the basket, even scoring a generous amount of 3 pointers into the bargain, which can make for a frustrating time.
There is very little difference between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and both versions of the game look great. The player models look particularly impressive. Everything from the player uniforms to the beads of sweat that trickle down their faces and arms look great. Some of the animations don’t look quite as smooth as they should but this is a small complaint in all honesty. The PlayStation 3 does have some minor frame rate issues but they are not problematic. The Xbox 360 version has no frame rate issues at all though and remains smooth throughout. The 360 version looks a little sharper and less jaggy than the PlayStation 3 version but the differences in this respect are minor. Both versions have load times that are a little too long. The developers have attempted to distract you by giving you a few basketball questions to answer whilst the game is loading. It’s a nice touch but you still can’t fail to notice that the load times are on the long side.
Deaf gamers will have no problems with either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 versions of NBA Live 08. The game commentary isn’t subtitled and deaf gamers will miss out on all of the dialogue associated with the presentation of the games. In every other respect the game is fine however. All of the information and feedback that you receive in Dynasty Mode is in text and numbers so you’ll have no problems. The game’s tutorial advice is all in text too. The game manual, while brief, does a good job of explaining the game’s controls and game modes.
Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of NBA Live 08 are solid basketball games. In terms of game modes and online play NBA Live 08 certainly hits the spot. Where some may be a little disappointed is the problems that occur during a game. Players missing far too many easy shots, the free throw controls being far too inaccurate and an AI that not only seems to have little problems putting the ball in the basket from close range(even when the AI is set to its easiest level) but who also has a knack for scoring three-pointers with unnatural regularity.