Review: You'll be having a ball with NBA Live 08
What with being British and all, I find it hard to get excited about American sports. The new NFL season coming to town doesn't really appeal to me, nor does baseball? well, most of the time anyway. However, there is one American sport that for some reason seems a lot more interesting and fast paced. You're reading a review of NBA Live 08, so take a guess as to what sport this is. Yes, basketball! There's something unequivocally cool about shooting some hoops and the translation of this to video games hasn't been too kind over the past few years.
We're not going to waste time here, NBA Live 08 hasn't yet caught up to 2K's phenomenal basketball series but it falls pretty damn close. While 2K's series has already set the benchmark for next-gen basketball games (several times, in fact), EA's NBA Live series has always trailed behind by an oh-so-short distance. But finally, it's catching up and giving the opposition a run for its money. How does it do this? It's down to several factors which we'll go into in more detail later. In short though, the reason NBA Live 08 is better than the previous games in the series, is because EA has done more than just updating the graphics and cover artwork. Hurrah!
First up in the new additions side of things is Hot Spots, which are activated by holding down the left bumper. This displays sections of the court where you're most likely to succeed in shooting ? a red section is hot and blue is cold. This changes with each player and their stats, and doesn't make the game literally easier, but, shall we say, less of a pain? Whereas before people moaned about missing shots, they can now cheer because they'll be passing shots to other players in a better position (even where there's plenty of room) instead of taking and missing them. It's a great new feature, especially for newcomers to the series.
Elsewhere, you can now intervene in a game while it's being simulated in the Dynasty mode to try and save your team from defeat if they're performing really badly. What else? The online multiplayer has been updated, making 38 player tournaments are possible. Another thing I'd like to congratulate EA on is what seems like more responsive controls. Passing seems a lot more responsive this time round and controlling characters is easier, something necessary in a taxing game like basketball where it's those split second reactions that count. Other than those few additions the game is pretty much the same as it has been since NBA Live 06 arrived on the 360 in late 2005.
In traditional style the graphics have been improved vastly, once more, in an attempt to try and take on 2K's behemoth series. The graphics are great with players sweating realistically, stadiums and courts looking top-notch and floors shining? in real time! The crowd looks a little more realistic than it did last year and thank god a hell of a lot better than it did the year before that. Good, because call me crazy but an audience made of cardboard isn't my cup of tea.
Commentators Marv Albert and Steve Kerr take to the microphone this time to bring you the lowdown on what's going on. The commentators are accurate to a high degree and when there's little happening on the court they'll wait with anticipation, talking about the players, season and anything else that springs to mind. Sadly they're always quick to knock your team when you're giving a bad show, so prepare to mute the stereo when this happens!
While on the topic of audio, NBA Live 08 sounds beautiful through surround sound with the crowd cheering you on, the ball hitting the floor and commentenary coming out of another speaker. Some people say that nobody cares about the sound of a game, but on this occasion those people couldn't be more wrong.
It all comes down to one question now ? what do you want from a basketball game? If you're a follower of the NBA Live games then there won't be a lot of new stuff here, but if you're looking for a much improved version of last year's game it goes without saying that NBA Live 08 is the only choice.