Review: NBA 08

NBA 08 is probably the only basketball title for 2008 that’s been released in 2008. Already that’s some sort of penalty but we’ll excuse that and look at the game which boasts “Full HD (at) 1080p, SIXAXIS controls, brand new animations, expanded character movement,” and “improved team gameplay elements” among other things. Why there’s even mini-games!

The lights are hot, the court is shiny, and the fans are roaring for you to take the stage. Their stage. This is the NBA and you can make history. Here we are with another basketball title and this time we’re seeing Sony shoot for something better than their last offering, NBA 07. Will they make a slam dunk or just bury their head in shame?

NBA 08 is probably the only basketball title for 2008 that’s been released in 2008. Already that’s some sort of penalty but we’ll excuse that and look at the game which boasts “Full HD (at) 1080p, SIXAXIS controls, brand new animations, expanded character movement,” and “improved team gameplay elements” among other things. Why there’s even mini-games!

Now if you like your basketball titles, the first thing you’ll probably notice from NBA 08 is that it has an almost arcade and strictly console feel. The menus feel like the developers were too lazy to make anything interesting and the star based loading screens connecting menus to their sub-categories just make everything feel cheesy and cheap. But we won’t hold anything against anyone here.

Instead we’ll look at the gameplay. You’ll play in either exhibition, seasonal, or play-off games where you’ll be able to control a team in a basketball game. It’s basketball. I shouldn’t have to explain how a basketball game works. To their credit, Sony have given some online play for NBA 08 which means you’ll be able to take on your friends as well as compete in a team styled basketball title online. There’s even a mode which lets you replay some of the best games in the NBA which is cool. You aren’t given a lot of freedom in those games and they play more like a mini-game stuck inside an exhibition game, but they shake things up nicely.

Options like that as well as building up your own character begin to make up some of the cool parts in NBA 08. What’s not cool however is the selection of mini-games. All three of them. Shooting hoops from places on an almost board-game styled court, shooting pointers quickly… they’re not my idea of quick and easy fun and they don’t really have anything going for them.

Click to enlarge

The controls aren’t bad but they’re not brilliant. The passing, shooting, and dunking is relatively easy to pick up as are the basic controls but instead of going for something usable, the developers at Sony have decided to make the most of SixAxis and force you to twist and shake the controller to get dribbling action in there. I’m not sure who at Sony thinks that shaking a controller is similar to dribbling or doing special moves but they might want to grab a basketball and try it themselves as the actions just make the gameplay seem stupid.

The graphics shine in 1080P and while that might lead you to believe that Sony have done a great job with the graphics, hold on for a second. The models are decent, the textures aren’t bad, and even the character animations are somewhat decent, but you can’t help but feel that something is still sloppy with the game.

Maybe it’s because the players move the ball through each other as if they weren’t made of flesh and bone. Maybe it’s because the camera doesn’t care about you and will screw over your dunk by placing your view behind a score-board. Overall, the graphics are mixed. Sometimes the players look great and other times they look like they’ve been beaten by a really angry horse. The courts always look great though.

Click to enlarge

The sound is similar in this regard. While the crowd cheering and player sounds end up working well, the announcers are some of the least convincing you’ll ever hear. Sony tries to enforce that this is a game for hardcore basketball fans by sticking one of the announcers doing some sort of a rap in the beginning, but this only makes the game feel cheesier. The music is a mixed bag of electronic, rock, and hip-hop but this more undermines the game as you can’t really control the tracks and it’s just not loud enough. One could say that Sony have tried to be too much like their other basketball title counterparts and have come up short with NBA 08.

Unfortunately no one here at the Cyber Shack has reviewed the previous Sony NBA title for the PlayStation 3 so I can’t tell you what’s different. What I can say is that there’s something that just doesn’t sit well with me in this game. It feels sloppy and under worked. It feels like out of the many basketball games out there, I’d rank this the lowest as of this moment. With NBA 08, it seems as though the developers wanted to be unique and lazy at the same time. Sure, it’s got a full and current roster but it’s just not as good as any of the offerings from companies like Electronic Arts and 2K Games. You could do a lot better than NBA 08. Maybe next year.

Should you buy it?: Not really. I’d go with the 2K Games or EA Sports basketball titles over this one.

Click to enlarge

Developer: SCEA San Diego Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Classification: G
Formats: PlayStation 3
URL: NBA 08

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

Leave a Reply