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NBA Live 08

NBA Live 08 is the latest installment in Electronic Arts (EA) Sports' basketball video game franchise. The game is a multi-platform release for Microsoft Xbox 360, Personal Computer, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation 2, and Sony PlayStation Portable. This review covers the PS2 version.

There are a couple major differences between the PS2 and the PS3 versions. First, the PS2 graphics are stripped down to its high-definition counterpart. As such, the visual do not look very good and the game play does not appear as smooth or natural. On that note, the PS3 version still has its issues with "gracefulness". While the character models are pretty sharp looking, their movement sometime looks clumsy and out of sync with reality. Referring back to the PS2 version; there is some good news about its limited visual capabilities. It has the capability for 480p progressive scan output. The 480p output is sharper, but still nowhere near as good as the PS3 version.

Second, the PS3 version does not have as many gaming modes as the PS2 version. The PS3 version does not include "Season", "Playoffs", "Slam Dunk School", "1on1", or "Freestyle Challenges". On the flipside, the PS3 version has more extensive online multi-player gaming options. The PS2 only supports up to 2 human players, while the PS3 version has the capability of up to 4 (system) and 8 (online). However, a patch is forthcoming that will allow up to 10 players in 1-on-1 to 5-on-5.

PS2/PS3 version aside, NBA Live 08 has the right level of game play for a basketball game. For the most part, it plays out fluidly with easy to learn controls and an exciting gaming experience for basketball fans. Here is a breakdown of the different modes included for the PS2 version:

  • Play Now: is the basic exhibition mode. It is a standard 5-on-5 match where you can pick the teams (or use a random set), choose the starting five, the players from a fixed roster, select the venue, and other related options. In short, it is the quickest way to a 5-on-5 match without the concerns of team management. Play against the CPU or a friend.
  • Play Online: is the multi-player option that provides NBA Live 08 gamers with the ability to go online and compete against friends and strangers. You can compete in ranked and unranked games. The online match system will try to find a game that matches your skill/style. It is limited to up to 2 players.

  • Season: is a mode where you wear the general manager hat. It is not complex and does not require as much thought to play (in regards to team management). The most work you do is managing your roster and acquiring new players in fantasy draft.
  • Dynasty Mode: is where you take on the hat as general manager. This mode is the most comprehensive and complex, requiring you to really put thought into the development of your franchise. You will need to recruit a coaching staff, negotiate player contracts, satisfy the team owner, conduct team management, build team chemistry, etc. It is similar to other EA Sports games. For single-player gaming, you will probably spend most of your time here.
  • Playoffs: is another mode played as the general manager. Like the season mode it is managerial-duties lite. The duties are limited to team roster organization. The goal of the mode is to play through a tournament and win the final game. The team selection can be manual or automatic.
  • FIBA World Championship: is a tournament mode, where you can play as one of eight international teams (or a franchise team) for the world title. The teams included are Argentina, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, China, Spain, and USA.

  • NBA All-Star Weekend: is a collection of different games/challenges. They include "Rookie Challenge", a team of rookie players face off with a team of sophomores, "3 Point Shootout", score as many 3 pointers in sixty seconds as possible, "Slam Dunk Contest", fight your way through a slam dunk competition, and "NBA All-Star Game", a match between the eastern and the western all-star teams.
  • Freestyle Challenge: is made up of "Slam Dunk Showdown" and "3 Point Showdown". In both mini-games you face an opponent in head-to-head action, trying to complete as many slam dunks or 3 pointers. You can lose points if you miss shots or get even more points if you score with the money ball.
  • 1on1: is a mode that is just as it sounds, it is a one-on-one match between two NBA players. The mode allows for configuration of the number of points to win and possession rules. It plays out like real one-on-one street ball.
  • Individual Practice: is a practice mode. You can select your favorite NBA player and have the court all to yourself.
  • Slam Dunk School: is a practice mode geared towards teaching you how to do NBA Live 08 slam dunks. It is divided into three levels: beginner, alley-oop, and advanced.
  • My NBA Live 08: provides access to unlock game specials (like new shoes and tattoos), look at the EA Sports Hall of Fame, enter NBA codes, configure EA trax, and review tasks required to earn points (to unlock specials). There is also an online "My NBA Live 08" option that allows you to customize and access online related information (leaderboards, news, play history, etc.).

Overall, NBA Live 08 has strong game play and controls that feel pretty fluid and are easy to pick up. Live 08's single-player modes also offer a solid experience in NBA team management, covering several different aspects from contract management to team chemistry.

Another strength of NBA Live 08 that was not previously mentioned is the notion of Go-To Players and Go-To Teams. The Go-To's are specific players or squads that develop a strong chemistry while on the court. They will become really good at performing certain tasks on the court or playing against specific teams. They'll get automatic boosts in performance and do better than normal. There is also a really cool strategy planning feature, where you can view all kinds of interesting information at the end of a match. The information details where shots were taken on the court, the balance of ball possession, and other statistics that are useful to understanding what went well and what didn't go well. Use this strategic data to improve your game.

As for the technical aspects, NBA Live 08 (PS2) has decent visuals and audio. In comparison to its HD-counterpart on the PS3, it is clearly not the best looking game. The players are blocky, the court textures are poorly defined, and the crowds are very generic. Heck, even the menus look fuzzy. I suppose if I had not seen the HD version I wouldn't be as critical, but the graphics of the PS2 version are very limited. The good news is that if you have a progressive scan capability, NBA Live 08 (PS2) can be outputted at 480p. While it is nowhere near as crisp and clean as 720p, it is much sharper than its non-progressive mode. For audio, the game has solid play-by-play commentary.

In the end, NBA Live 08 is strong for a basketball game. However, this PS2 version is not as exciting as its high definition counterpart on the PS3. This is mostly because it just looks bad (in comparison). If given the option, go for the high definition version and enjoy seeing more crisp and clean visuals. Still, if that is not an option, then the PS2 version should suffice if you are gunning for a good basketball video game. Plus, the PS2 version has a few more modes and mini-games that you might like, although they shouldn't be huge selling factors.