First look at the Wii version of NBA Live 08

Posted July 10th, 2007 at 1:45 am
NBA Live 08 Wii

IGN has posted a preview of NBA Live 08 for the Wii. What they saw was early in development, but they seem encouraged by the direction it is going.

Personally I don't really see basketball as a game that will work all that well with the Wii controls. The shooting matches up, but so much of the game relies on quick reaction time and precision. It's hard to imagine all the other elements in a basketball game fitting in seamlessly to offer a satisfying 5 on 5 experience. Of course I would be someone to state that FIFA wouldn't make sense as a Wii game and they're making that. I suppose no one can say until they have it in their hands and get in on the action.

As with the other sports titles on the Wii, the real attraction could end up being the mini-games. However the online play could end up being a huge selling point as 4 vs 4 would definitely be a lot of fun if everything works right.

Click here for the full article or continue on to read excerpts from it.

In general, we'd compare this year's NBA Live offering to last year's Madden effort on Wii, as EA has a few solid ideas to work with, but it isn't necessarily as polished or in-depth as it could be. Don't get us wrong, NBA Live is a solid first basketball game on Wii, and if this early playthrough is any indication NBA should be more along the lines of Madden quality, and less along the lines of the lesser Tiger Woods effort, as it looks, plays, and acts like a true Wii conversion of an already booming franchise.

Along with the other titles this year, NBA Live will include family play, full Mii integration, and a party mode for mini-game goodness.

As for the general controls, NBA Live is pretty straightforward. Players take to the court with any of the officially licensed NBA teams, selecting a Mii to act as your team indicator and motion icon tabs (just like Madden), and jump into a more arcade-like NBA experience. On the court, simple gestures take over for timed button presses, so when you shoot a jumpshot you'll actually flick the Wii-mote up, and then forward to release the ball. Do this with the right timing, and your accuracy will be increased.

In addition to the jumpshot players can pass left or right with a flick of the Wii-mote, press A for a quick-pass to the nearest open player, perform a crossover dribble by flicking the nunchuk, or slam dunk with a twist of the Wii-mote. On defense, it's the classic control swap between shooting and blocking, passing and stealing, and the like. Flick up and down to jump and swat at balls, and move side to side with the Wii-mote to attempt a sweeping steal. The general pass button is replaced by a player switch function, and the rest of the controls are yet to be determined for the final version.

Since the game is still in its preliminary state there are some things missing right now. From what we could tell there was no way to call plays, set up picks, do alley-oops, or perform speed boosts or spin moves, but we're sure all this will factor in with time. As for what's there, it's extremely rewarding even in its most basic state. Yes, all the motions in the game act exactly like a button press (you won't be missing shots because you're not "shooting" properly with the Wii-mote, something we can only dream about for Wii's later years…), but it's still a great feeling to do the motion, sink a three-point shot, and leave your hands up in the air to rub it in a little while playing a human rival. We did it… we loved it… guilty as charged.

And while there may not be a ton to talk about yet as far as full game modes or "treats" that EA may include this year, we've got a few nuggets of goodness for both Wii and NBA lovers. For starters, local multiplayer will support up to four players, each using either advanced or family play controls. In addition, two games have been confirmed for party mode, including a three-point competition, as well as a dunk-off, where players will leap into the air and perform specific Wii motions to pull off a wide array of dunks. Those are the only two currently announced, but if NBA Live turns out to be anything like Madden you can expect a plethora of mini-game support, now or in the future.

Where NBA Live 08 really sold us, however, was in the online portion of the package. Details are still pretty sparse due to the game's level of completion, but EA did share an interesting note with us. NBA Live 08 supports console vs. console play, which means up to eight players can go online and face off against each other. Since there are only two Wii systems connecting, EA treats it as a "team vs. team" situation, so you can play online with either one, two, three, or four controllers supported on each console. There were also rumblings that once connected, consoles could actually change players on each team; so you could go online with a group and then trade players pre-game and do a little mixed online competition. We'll wait to see that one in practice, but according to EA it's entirely plausible. Regardless, four-on-four online is confirmed, so get your teams ready, organize tournaments on the message boards, and kick a little ass via eight player online.

From what we've seen thus far NBA Live 08 is a pretty solid effort. Mii integration is everywhere, so you'll see your user-created faces showing up during the game for huge blocks, steals, dunks, or three-pointers, and during halftime for stat reports. The game's visual presentation is about in line with what we saw in NBA Live 07 on PS2, with maybe a bit more attention to detail in the character models (too early to give a final word graphically). The game is still a bit buggy right now, as AI players struggle to find positions on the court or little graphical issues pop up during play, but it's all par for the course when looking at unfinished games, so we're not sweating it.

In general the gameplay moves at a more arcade-like pace, similar to Madden's transition to Wii, and the motion controls – while somewhat limited – are still very rewarding. We're still very curious to see how EA incorporates motion into the free-throw system though, and we of course expect to see more depth (roster management, season/franchise mode, create-a-player, and the like) included as the game progresses.