NBA Live 08 full impressions

Posted June 27th, 2007 at 7:19 pm

It is only June 27th, yet a group from the community has already spent a significant amount of time with NBA Live 08. The importance of that can't be underestimated. Because the game doesn't come out until October 2nd, we were able to discuss in detail what we liked, what we disliked, and what we would like to see changed for the upcoming release.

Not next year's version, but this will actually affect the one that will be coming out in four months. The input that was given is being taken into consideration and, hopefully, will have been addressed for release. It is something that we'll be able to look back on and see exactly how much impact this community event had on the final product.

A few things of importance to note. The early point in the development cycle means we're obviously seeing a work in progress. Thus, there were many visual bugs, gameplay oddities, etc. that there is really no point in me listing out here. We talked with the producers for the game about those and they saw them along with us so if they weren't aware of them beforehand, they are now. Also there are embargos on some features for the game, so until certain dates we are not able to reveal them.

The first thing that is noticed when checking out the game are the great visuals. The graphics are excellent, down to the player models and courts. The 60fps makes the game so much more enjoyable to play. Everything is smooth and flows well. It really makes a difference that everyone will appreciate right away. 

The Go-To Moves that have been talked about are neat, they add a touch of authenticity. It takes the idea of signature shots to the next level, because not only do players in the NBA have their own signature shots but they also have their own moves that they favor. One important thing to point out here is that Go-To Moves do not mean you're going to automatically make the shot. It still is situational, just like any other attempt on the court. The very first example we saw was a Dirk fall-away jumper that hit the front of the iron.

One of the reasons I haven't really gotten much out of basketball games the past few years is I've felt that they are too complicated, they've forced too much of the simulation aspect. The games just aren't as fun as they used to be, and that to me is a big reason for it.

The biggest feeling I got from playing was that it was simple, it reminded me more of the time when I was really loving basketball games. You could just play your style, be successful or not in that unique way, and enjoy doing so. I didn't run any plays other than calling for screens on occasion. Yet due to the off-ball movement and spacing and whatever way I pushed things through passing or movement, I was able to get a realistic offensive flow. 

I kept an eye on Ray Allen (who is deadly in the game) and would look for him to get open. He would free himself up, or the defense would drop off him and I'd be able to hit him for the open shot. 

The shooting felt really good and looked natural. The timing for release was right on. 

The AI plays really smart and like their real-life counterparts. They'll exploit mismatches and run plays, set screens for themselves, run or play half-court offense depending on what them they are, ect. Your AI teammates are great to have as they're moving off the ball and making things happen by themselves. You can just stand around and watch as they do that, it's pretty neat to see. 

Overall the game was really fun. That is something that will come across especially if being compared to 07. We had several games go down to the wire, including an epic battle between myself and Mario (from the EA Forum) in the tournament which I'll recap in another post.  

So there were several things that were problems with the game, most rather apparent. If it stands out to us in the first game we played or even just over the course of the 6 hours we were playing then it's safe to say that they were obvious issues. The great thing about this community day, is that we were able to discuss those with the Live team and they took note of everything we talked about. Not only did we point them out again at the end in a Q&A but they had listened and watched along with us and taken note of many of them already.

The #1 issue was with the interior defense. Actually it was the near complete lack of it. Offensive players were able to use a wide array of moves for easy scores, in most cases via dunk. That led to shot percentages generally in the 55-75% range even on Superstar difficulty. It was really frustrating because there was basically nothing you could do to stop it except hope to draw an offensive foul.

Playing defense on the perimeter wasn't as much of a problem but it was difficult to stick on a player. A quick guard could get by you nearly every time. In some cases your teammates would help and keep them out of the paint, but in others they got into the lane easily and because of the poor interior presence it led to a bunch of easy scores. 

Overall you felt at a disadvantage when playing user defense. It was better to let the CPU play defense on the player who had the ball. You were more likely to move away accidentally and end up out of position. So in some cases we just played the passing lanes off the ball instead. 

While the rebounding in general and going for loose balls was improved greatly, there were still some things that stood out to me. There were too many offensive rebounds, and even more apparent off missed free throws. There was a lack of agressiveness from some of the players. There would be a couple attempting to get the ball, while others might just stand around.  

Alley-oops were too easy to execute, even in situations where it shouldn't have been attempted like to players in traffic. There were a couple times where the ball sailed out of bounds, but the success rate was too high.

The spacing along the out of bounds line was too tight and also a little difficult to see at the bottom of the screen. You didn't feel comfortable there because you'd get called for stepping out of bounds. It basically took away shooting threes from the corner, unless you went straight up after passing to a player who had been set there by the CPU.

The fouls were a little sketchy. Offensive vs defensive fouls seemed mixed up at times. There was also a high % of made shots off mid-air contact including when fouled. Meanwhile reach-in fouls on the perimeter as players attemped for steals were too rare.

To sum it all up, the game is pretty impressive for this early on. If the problems that we talked about are really addressed, it is going to be a solid year for Live. At the very least, it should be a fun game that plays like real basketball. I'm encouraged by the direction the franchise is headed. In terms of being the "best" game on the market it may still fall short of 2K8, however it looks like it could very well be closing the gap this season. 

I'll have another write-up recapping the day's events and the tournament we had up soon. On Thursday, among other things we'll be attending the NBA Draft so I'll have that experience to go over as well late that night.