NBA 2K7 Review
|Release Date:||November 3rd, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (Sinna01)|
Basketball. The noble game of truly superhuman African-American gentlemen putting a large orange ball through a hoop on a tall stick. Aside from having watched Space Jam this was essentially all my knowledge of the sport before picking up a copy of NBA 2K7, the latest in the popular sport franchise from 2K Sports, so I was more than a little surprised to find out how engaging it turned out to be, even for a complete novice.
Basketball is of course played on a comparatively small court for two teams of five truly titanic human beings. Which, whilst also guaranteeing any number of ground shaking collisions, also means that any console does not have a great deal of terrain to render at any one time. The modern sports fan may demand miles of lushly detailed golf course and panoramic pans of painstakingly realised football pitch, but a basketball game will typically have a full 50% of the area of play in camera at any one time. Whilst this is an obvious relief for the poor programmers, it means that the player will demand their money's worth from just about every other aspect: the physics, collision detection, animation, individual characteristics and responsiveness will need to be spot on to make for an engaging game in a confined area. It is a testament to NBA 2K7's quality that it not only achieves these features, but also manages to be quite accessible to those without long standing familiarity.
Sports games typically fall into one of two categories: the absurd and the realistic. NBA 2K7 bridges these two extremes pleasingly, partially by the fast paced and physical reality of the sport itself, and also in part by forgiving implementation. An example of this is in the AI control of your other four players at any one time, who seem to unerringly divide themselves between front and back of court, with your passes rarely going wild without direct interference. Making a shot for the basket is also easily done from any part of the court, either by pulling the right stick or by pressing down 'O', your chances of success dictated by distance, opposition, stats, and the player's own timing. Analogue stick shots are harder to get right, but if done well will be significantly more accurate than the one-button approach, which is an intelligent way to reward the player's own skill.
The graphics are gruesomely good at times. A great deal of time and processing power has gone into facial expressions of rage and pain, reproducing exactly how a 7'4'' athlete would slide over a polished floor on his ass, and just how sweat would omni directionally explode off the next sportsman as he performs a board shattering dunk. I am assured by more educated types that the players are excellently modelled on the actual sportsmen, which I can certainly believe. Some of the texture details and high-population angles can be a little rough, as well as a lack of a sense of mass to jumping players, which is sometime the result of developers not devoting enough time to localising the game to each onsole.
Another standard feature of your latest sports game is progressively realistic commentary, lately excellently demonstrated by FIFA 07, and NBA 2K7 is every bit as good in providing the illusion of real-time punditry. The commentators shout, use totally impenetrable metaphors, and are sometimes hilariously funny in their disparagement of poor play. A friend and myself actually had to stop playing to go and clean up after the excellently implemented half-time show announcer declared in deadpan seriousness "This game, my friend, has been awarded the Drop It Like Its Hot prize". Much snorting of beer out of noses ensued.
Whilst the b-ball is obviously the core of the gaming experience, there is an abundance of peripheral and additional features to enjoy designed to make up for the arguably repetitive core game-play. Single player mode allows you to play through an entire season, using the time between games to set up individual practice routines for each player, allowing you to round off weaknesses or to shape a team towards a particular tactical advantage.
Another game mode is NBA 24/7, a story mode that back in the day would likely have comprised a title in itself. This involves you designing your own 'baller', and then perusing fame and glory with him - from Community Centre try-outs to the moneyed heights of NBA stardom. This mode of play is more distinct from the main game than you would first imagine, as playing through various events such as 1-on-1, half-courts, and full games, you will only control your designed player. You can command any of your team-mates to pass or shoot, but you can no longer directly take control them or swap a player, which makes for a greater sense of team play and tactical thinking. The actual plot of this story mode is, however, fairly weak, and the constant pursuit of reputation points sometimes means repetitively playing short games over and over until it triggers the next event. The 'design your own baller' feature is also a shade disappointing, in as much as it turned out to be more realistic than I had hoped. I was going to take the world by storm as the first fat, white, hairy, short (at 6' 1'') English NBA superstar. Skin colour only comes in shades of African-American and the two body types are either 'Buff' or 'Ripped', which is obviously sensible in context, and the closest I managed to come to my simulacrum looked strangely like a pumped up Sayid from Lost.
Some even less sensible additions include The Crib, your high rollin' baller's apartment where he naturally hordes his collection of Bobble Head dolls, a playable dart board and air hockey table, and a trophy collection. Quite why the developers spent god knows how many millions of dollars bit-mapping Shaquile O'Neil's considerable frame and developing a new physics system, and then turned around and spent 15 minutes making an air-hockey simulator is well beyond my comprehension. It's still fun to play, due to the sheer ludicrousness of its inclusion, as is the darts game.
There were a few aspects of this title that annoyed me, but most of them are intrinsic to a sports title and I'm sure many a fan would disagree with me. Playing the 24/7 mode can sometimes be enormously frustrating when a particular opponent needs be defeated, and hour after hour praying to make 12 lucky shots in a row can be exhausting. Also the amount of statistical difference each player has can be frustrating - whereas in other sports titles this tended to tip the balance one way or another, in NBA 2K7 it can leave some players totally impotent against their opposition, unable to steal from them, block them, pass them, or keep up with them. Using FIFA as an example, pretty much any player could tackle any other should you position them right and play smart - in NBA 2K7 three of your players could stand in a ring around an opponent and furiously try to steal the ball as he lazily dribbles it, and nothing would happen if the stats said so.
The soundtrack is of course completely over-the-top, banging out a variety of Hip-Hop acts such as Ludacris and Snoop Dog, which, along with the bouncy cheerleaders, make for entertaining half time distractions. On the other hand it certainly isn't GTA in the music's variety and quantity, and you will likely find yourself adding your own soundtrack. Come on, you know you wanted an excuse to buy the Bring It On soundtrack.
I would recommend NBA 2K7 to sports fans, and those not usually fans of the genre but want a new sporting multi-player experience. Those that want to show off their flash new console this Christmas should consider giving it a go too. Whilst I'm not a huge fan of sporting games, NBA 2K7 was largely easy to access and lots of fun to play with friends, so I'm giving this my "Drop It Like It's Hot" award. Which I think is a good thing. We're still not sure.
- Crisp, impressive graphics and animation
- Slavish attention to stats to please all sports fans.
- Presented with big shiny American brashness.
- Excellent commentary
- Dropping it like it's hot.
Not so good stuff
- Complicated controls
- Limited music loop
- Dull single player mode
- Poorly designed interface menus
- Occasionally impenetrable for the basketball ignorant.