NBA 08 - The Life Vol. 3ESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer – Sony Computer Entertainment America
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment
Players 1-2 (1-8 using the multitap)
Online Capable (Broadband and network adapter required)
Logitech/PS2 USB headsets
NBA 08 The life Vol 3 is back for the PS2. Having played last year’s version, I had hope that the developers would do some tweaking and fixing of the various problems that were prevelant in 07. And after some time with the game I would have to say that fans of the series also want to check out the next instalment of The Life. The gameplay has never been great, but the well-written storylines of The Life has made a strong foundation for a game in need of some kind of identity. Will NBA 08 The Life vol 3 get lost in the shuffle as a plethora of basketball titles are coming to market now to coincide with the upcoming season? Let’s find out.
NBA 08’s graphics are pretty good on the PS2 given that it is an aging system. The game itself looks as if the developers have really maxed out all they can out of the PS2 hardware. However, something that became evident during my time with the game was that the frame rate is slow and choppy at times and this can be disappointing to any gamer. This point is highlighted soon after starting a full court game and the erratic frame rate is exposed quite often. It never gets bad enough for the gamer to want to put the controller down, but it certainly can be distracting and a hinderance to the gameplay at times.
The courts look pretty good too, but they have glassy look that never gets scuffed up, it almost seems too shiny and bright at times. The lack of 3D crowds is also disappointing. The almost static, flat shaded fans seem to animate on a one or two loop action cycle which I found kind of boring. The arenas also all look pretty similar to one another and I think that last years version of this game did a much better job of portraying each teams home building.
The player models look pretty good, although the big name stars resemble their on-court personas, sometimes others don’t resemble their real life counterparts. During the game players are either in sharp suits or in their team uniforms, which are bright and colourful with all the logos in the appropriate places. The player animations are for the most part well done, but not amazing and they sometimes come off looking rather stiff especially in graphic intense moments of the game. On the other hand the many various cut scenes are done with top-notch flair and style. It looks like a lot of effort went into them. Perhaps Sony is now focusing more on the PS3 and the PS2 is now on the backburner, but regardless of the reasoning this game just didn’t have the polish I thought that it could have.
The game’s audio performs respectfully. All the sounds of basketball are faithfully recreated in the game. The squeak of shoes, the bounce of the ball up and down the court, even the swish of the ball sailing through the net, everything is accounted for and adds to the enjoyment of the title. In a surround sound environment the game is really cool to listen too. The game seems to be coded in a 5.1 setting, which immerses you and allows one to feel like they are actually at a live game. The soundtrack is made up of the typical basketball mix of rock and rap with an emphasis on the rap, which I’m not a fan of but which sounds fine nonetheless. The commentary is fairly solid and accurate, although the banter isn’t great. Kevin Calabro and Mark Jackson replace the departed duo from last year’s version. They definitely do a great job of announcing, but they can be pretty quiet and are susceptible to missing the big plays.
NBA 08 for the PS2 is fairly light on game modes. The game does include exhibition and season modes, but again lacks a franchise or dynasty mode. For the aspiring GM’s out there a franchise and/or dynasty mode is necessary for the replay value in a lot of sports games, so it hurts this game not to include one. However you do get access to The Life Volume 3. Here you once again play as an infinitely talented point guard who has to make sure that the team gets back to the finals. The story continues and the coach is about to retire after several championship seasons and would of course like to go out on the highest of highs. The Life is still a very cool and it is a dramatic idea that a lot of sports titles may get some life out of (no pun intended). I suppose that’s why Sony figures that a franchise mode could be somewhat redundant.
The overall gameplay is solid in NBA 08. The shooting system still includes the colored-rings, a staple of Sony’s NBA games. Basically, when you want to shoot you’ll see either a red, yellow or green halo around the ball. If it’s yellow, you have a decent shot of making it and if it’s green you have a fairly good chance. You need to time your shot when the ring is green. The game also has the option to eliminate this for a simpler, hold-and-shoot mechanism. The rest of the offensive controls are fairly solid, although it’s still fairly hard to drive in for lay-aways or dunks. Overall I felt that the controls were, for the most part, easy to learn. The aforementioned tricolour shot meter is the way to play this title; its only draw back can be the chugging frame rate. The icon passing is also well implemented, although I did find on numerous occasions that passing long distances is a crapshoot. More often then not I found my passes going astray or out of bounds, all the while the computer is flawless on it’s passing, I almost never intercepted their passing balls.
For the most part the game is a bit of step back from last year’s version, but can be still enjoyable for most NBA fans. NBA 08 also has quite a few mini games such as 1 on 1, 3-3 and own the court. I didn’t delve into any of them, but it looks like it could fun at parties etc. The game includes a simple online mode. You can play one-on-one multiplayer games online or with up to four players on the same PS2. Aside from one-on-one games, the online functionality also includes a leader board. Technically, the game performs well online with very little lag.
While I’m not a huge NBA fan, NBA 08 - The Life Vol. 3 still had me playing longer than expected. Although I found the game to be very similar to last year’s version with minimal upgrades at best The Life storyline is really the attraction for me, as it can be somewhat dramatic and really adds to the overall gameplay experience. Unfortunately the game suffers from frame rate issues that were not present in NBA 07, thus effectively hindering some of the fun factor. I hope Sony decides to really come up with a true next gen version of The Life as this title has many merits; perhaps it is time to let the PS2 out to pasture for good.