NBA 08 PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developed by: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Release Date: Out Now
Despite there being a fair few 'next-generation' basketball games to date, there hasn't really been one that's truly impressed. Both EA and 2K have yet to release a game on the PlayStation 3 or 360 that's surpassed anything we've seen on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox. Maybe 2008 will be the year when we finally have a great basketball game that does the latest round of consoles justice. First up in 2008 here in Europe is NBA 08 from Sony. For the most part it's an enjoyable game but it has its shortcomings and isn't quite as good as it could have been.
When you first load up NBA 08 you'll be asked to pick your favourite team, your rivals and to create a player. This player can be assigned to your team or left as a free agent. Should you choose to assign him to your team, you'll get the option to have him as a starting player or to have him on the bench. Naturally, to begin with, your player isn't anything special with the idea being that you'll develop him as you progress through the game. As you play matches you'll earn experience points which can be used to improve your player, if you wish. You don't have to bother with the create-a-player aspect if you don't want to but it does add an extra dimension to the game.
The single-player modes on offer in NBA 08 are Exhibition, Season, Playoffs and Mini Games. There is also a scenario mode dubbed Games of the Week. Here you'll get to try your hand at 68 scenarios from the 06-07 NBA season. There are also many additional scenarios to be downloaded with new ones being continually added. It's worth pointing out that whichever mode you play in, you'll have the possibility of earning experience points for your custom player (even though you won't always be using him). Should you not want to use these points to improve your player, you can use them to unlock other items in the game. The game doesn't contain a Franchise/Dynasty mode and that is something that will disappoint many because it means there's not a mode here that encourages long-term play or that has the depth that many fans of NBA games insist on. Online play is supported but there are no online leagues to participate in, which again will come as a disappointment to those who want more than just one-off exhibition games. There is an online exhibition leaderboard so you can check how your performances compare with other players from around the globe.
The big question of course is how the game plays. Thankfully NBA 08 is a pretty satisfying experience. Motion-sensing controls are available, in a limited form. Cross-over moves for example can be done by gesturing with the Sixaxis controller if you wish. You can also perform blocks by lifting-up or lowering the controller. It doesn't really add anything to the game and you can disable the motion controls if you wish. You'll button press to shoot instead of using the right analogue stick (like in the 2K games). A gauge appears when shooting and taking free-throws which makes scoring them far less frustrating than in other games. You could argue however that scoring 3-pointers is a little easy at times. The right analogue stick is used for skill moves and works pretty well.
NBA 08 might not have the presentational razzmatazz of the 2K and EA NBA games but in some respects that's rather refreshing. What it does have however, is a rock solid frame rate. Far too many basketball games on the PlayStation 3 have suffered from poor frame rates and it's refreshing to finally see a game that manages to not only look good but that doesn't have performance issues. The player models and the courts all look good, particularly on a HD display. There are some clipping issues, which are a little disappointing but on the whole there's little to complain about with the game's visual quality.
There is plenty of speech that is not subtitled in NBA 08 but on the whole it's not a game that will give deaf gamers any problems. The speech during the game's introduction isn't subtitled but it's of no importance. Game commentary isn't subtitled. Thankfully this isn't a problem as it doesn't really add anything to the experience anyway, as it is often out of sync with what's happening during the game. Text descriptions are shown on the bottom right of the screen for any fouls or other decisions. You are notified in text of any points you earn during the game. The objectives for the scenarios are given in text so you'll always be aware of what needs to be done. Loading screens have text tutorial tips, which provide some useful information. Even with the omissions then, there are no real obstacles to deaf gamers enjoying what the game has to offer.
NBA 08 might not be the first 'next-generation' basketball game to be regarded as a classic but it's certainly a good game in its own right and it certainly has its moments. The lack of a Franchise/Dynasty mode does hurt the game somewhat however and it's a fair bet that this is the biggest complaint that most will have with the game. There are no online leagues either, which can also be regarded as a disappointment. That said however, I have enjoyed playing NBA 08 and despite the lack of a Franchise/Dynasty mode I'd still say it's one of the better basketball games from the last few years.