Developer – SCE San Diego Studios
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment America
Number of Players: 4 (online 2)
Required Hard Disk Space: 1.5GB
Supported HD Video Output: 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Online Broadband Required
Playstation Network Compatible
With only a few weeks to go before the start of the National Basketball Association season, NBA on the PS3 returns with NBA 08. This year SCE San Diego has delivered NBA 08 to the PS3 with promises of updated character animations, broader SIXAXIS functionality, a revamped user interface, in-depth audio commentary and an all-new progression system where players earn skill and experience rewards. Furthermore, this year’s instalment of the franchise has been touted as running at 60 frames per second. Given Sony’s NBA 07 was a PS3 launch game which received less than stellar feedback, I was curious to see if the franchise would take the next step and deliver an improved product. In fact, the big question I had was if NBA 08 could rival EA or 2K’s NBA franchises. At the end of the day NBA 08 is an upgrade from last year’s version, however the game is still riddled with issues and frankly there are simply better options available for PS3 owners and hoops fans alike.
As far as the visuals are concerned, NBA 08 for the PS3 has made some adjustments since last years version of the franchise giving gamers a cleaner and more realistic looking game. The arena's looks exactly like their real world counterparts, the improved player models look solid and are recognizable, the menu's are very user friendly and very stylish, and the bright colours featured throughout the game look great in full 1080p HD.
NBA 08 for the PS3 runs at 60 frames per second giving you a fast paced game featuring no noticeable slow down. The game runs very smooth and I often had to remind myself that many of the slow downs and frame rate issues we have seen in the past with sports titles are non-existent in 08. The fact that you don’t notice any problems is always a good sign when it comes to playing sports games, including a fast paced game such as basketball.
When I gave NBA 08 for the PS3 a spin, the first thing I did was jump into an exhibition game with my favourite team the Phoenix Suns. Right away I noticed was how good the basketball courts looked and how they are an accurate reflection of the real world arenas. From the lights reflecting off the hardwood to the team logos on the court; NBA 08 does a wonderful job creating the right atmosphere. It sure didn’t hurt that the colours are vibrant and in look phenomenal in full 1080p HD too.
One of the big noticeable improvements from last year’s instalment is the player models. The players appear much more realistic this year and you can tell much more time was spent individualizing the models and giving each player a lot of detail. From the player’s haircuts to the way they wear their wristbands, the detail is impressive and certainly on par with the other major NBA games already on the market for the PS3. For the most part the players moved pretty smoothly, however there were some exceptions. For instance, I did experience some minor clipping throughout the game and the defence AI seemed a little too robotic for my liking.
NBA 08 for the PS3 also features more camera angles giving you a much better look at the crowds, benches and players. The additional cameras are nice, however I would liked to have had the option to pick a preferred camera angle as you can in other sports titles on the market (e.g. NHL 08). Often I found the camera angle not at the right height or depth and as a result I often found myself out of position as I could not get a good read where my player was positioned on the court.
There is something about popping in a game and watching the THX logo appear on your screen. You always know you are going to get high quality audio when the game is THX certified. NBA 08 is one of those games and as far as the sound is concerned the game is excellent. From the soundtrack to the commentating, NBA 08 does a wonderful job at creating an NBA atmosphere. The sounds of the game are varied and effective as well. Everything from the crowd cheers to the ball bouncing, squeaking runners and the player chatter; all of it is very good and adds to the overall atmosphere of the game.
NBA 08 features all new commentary. Kevin Calabro of the Seattle SuperSonics provides the play-by-play while Mark Jackson from the YES Network provides the color analysis. For the most part they do a solid job calling the games as their voices are clear and they comment on the game accurately and in a relatively timely manner. On the downside, the repetitiveness is an issue at times (as it is with pretty much all major sports tittles) and after a few games it does become somewhat noticeable. Also, some of the humour seems a little cheesy and stale. In short, compared to NBA 07, I find the commentary improved but as always there is plenty of room for improvement. It should also be mentioned that the PA announcer is also very clear and it is cool to hear your favourite players name over the PA, even if it's only for an assist.
The soundtrack for NBA 08 is also very good and was a pleasant surprise. To be perfectly honest, I expected your typical hip hop tunes which we are so common in NBA games. I really wasn't expecting much in the way of a quality soundtrack but fortunately, NBA 08 delivers a solid soundtrack with a variety of genres ranging from hip hop to alternative music. Many of the artists are not recognizable but the tunes do sound good.
When it comes to basketball games I am a bit of a novice. There aren't many advanced moves I pull off during the game and for the most part I just focus on solid passing and shooting. If you are a rookie to playing basketball games I think you will be impressed with NBA 08 for the PS3, however if you are veteran hoopster who has already had a taste of EA and 2K's instalments, you might be somewhat disappointed. Overall, I find NBA 08 an improvement over last years version, however some of the same problematic issues from last year continue to haunt the series, but I will talk about that a little later.
First of all, I will get into some of the new features present in the game. This year NBA 08 introduces a progression system where players can use skill and experience rewards that they have gained to customize the playing style and the look of their custom players. For instance, after about an hour of playing I was able to unlock nicknames for my customizable player. It very much reminds me of 2K's The Bigs, where you can unlock similar items for your customizable player.
Another great feature of NBA 08 for the PS3 is the NBA Replay. Essentially you can relive some of the greatest moments of the 2006-2007 NBA season in NBA Replay mode. Here you can re-enact some of the great plays and shots from the past year on a week to week basis. For instance, if you pull off the shots from the targeted locations or make three assists within the time allotted, you successfully complete the exercise ultimately gaining more experience points. This is just one example as every week and every scenario offers a different challenge. Overall, the Replay mode is a great feature and nice break from traditional 5-on-5 play. On a final note, the NBA Replay (Games of the week) feature also lets you relive moments from the past week with 5 downloadable scenarios every week.
NBA 08 also features greater Sixaxis controls. You can use the Sixaxis to make jukes, crossovers, raising your hands on defence, or lowering your defenders hands on defence. For the most part, I did not find much use in the Sixaxis controls as I prefer the use of the buttons, triggers and sticks. However, many may find the Sixaxis controls useful and it just may make them a better b-ball gamer for it.
As with the PSP version of the game, NBA 08 for the PS3 features mini-games such as Own the Court, Playstation Skills Challenge, and 3-Point Shootout.
Own the court is where you go head to head against another player and you have to make shots from all the pre-determined targets on the floor. The more shots you make from the targets, the more points you get on your way to 'owning the court'. The Skills Challenge is a fun little game where you move your player through an obstacle course of sorts. You have to move quickly while still making your passes and shots. Here the fastest time wins and don’t be surprised when the AI beats you on your first few attempts until you get an understanding of what you have to do to progress through the course. Finally, the 3-Point shootout is self-explanatory and follows the same format we have seen in NBA's All-Star Weekend. Overall, the mini games are enjoyable and are a nice break from traditional NBA gameplay.
For many b-ball gamers the majority of time will likely be spent in the season mode. Picking your favourite team and pounding away at full season is always enjoyable for those hardcore fans and was certainly enjoyable for me as well. There are three difficulty levels, and all are noticeably different in terms of the overall difficulty. The traditional 5-on-5 game itself plays pretty good and seemingly all my games were very close when it came to the final score. Nevertheless, the game does have some problem areas with the control scheme and AI has some annoyances which were difficult to overlook. For instance, the defensive AI seemed a little too good at intercepting my player's passes, which also lends to some criticism of the games control schemes. I found passes were very difficult to gauge in terms of not only speed but precision as well. Perhaps this is due to my lack of experience, however when I wanted to put some 'mustard' on some of my passes I was unable to do so which resulted in frequent turn-overs. I found that it was a very frustrating experience to say the least.
Another area of concern was with the actual process of shooting the basketball. When your player shoots the ball a glow appears. Red means the shoot is a bad one and has no chance of sinking while green means the shot is good one and will drain. The yellow or gold colour means it has a 50/50 chance of making it. The problem with this system is that I found myself getting pre-occupied with the glow bar as opposed to focusing on my players release point.
The multiplayer component of the game is solid, however I did experience some slow-downs. Admittedly I did not spend as much time online as I could have with NBA 08 for the PS3, however the time I did spend was enjoyable and was a humbling experience. Needless to say, there are a lot of good b-ball gamers online.
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