First details on NBA 2K8

Posted August 24th, 2007 at 1:37 am

Gamespot has posted an article regarding some of the new additions for NBA 2K8. Up until now the only thing that had been revealed was the addition of "Blacktop mode" which includes a dunk contest and 3-point shootout.

When playing NBA 2K8, you might notice a small icon underneath a player's feet, one that looks suspiciously like cell phone reception bars. No, NBA 2K8 won't have LeBron asking if you can hear him now; instead, the cell icon represents your player's shot tendencies in the game and throughout different areas of the court. Deriving data from actual NBA games, the team at 2K has devised a system that will illustrate when a player is close to his hot spots on the floor, as well as whether that player is on a hot streak or not. When a player gets close to a hot spot on the floor, the cell phone bars increase; if he moves away from it, the bars will deplete. Hot or cold streaks are noted by the color of the bars in the icon. If you're lighting up J's from all over the floor, you can be sure your cell icon will be bright red before too long.

This sounds very similar in nature to NBA Live 08's Hot Spots. I was able to experience Hot Spots first hand and did a full writeup of my impressions of the feature which you can read here

So now we have 2K8 with their own version of it. However this preview didn't really go into what we would need to know about it to compare the two. Live has 14 sections with player specific ratings based on the NBA data. So is it a ratings system for 2K or just a boost in hot zones? How many sections are they using? What constitutes a hot streak? Do they change throughout a game or during the course of a season?

In Live it was obvious that it was simply a ratings system and that forcing shots in red zones was not a good strategy, just as passing on shots simply because you were in a blue zone would be foolish. 2K will have to be balanced in that same manner and not have them too effective or ineffective.

Basically my problem with Live's Hot Spots was the visual presentation of it. The idea behind them is very sound and the additional ratings add realism to the game. However I felt that pulling up the colored sections of the floor during gameplay was a flawed idea. That part of it is distracting and takes away from the overall experience of seeing the game as you would an actual NBA game. It would've made more sense to have that only seen on lower difficulty levels, in practice mode, or during timeouts. In that sense the sound of 2K's "cell phone bars" seems more appealing.

When someone has that dominant visual look at the breakdown on the floor, inevitably people are going to slant towards trying to shoot from the red areas. So I pointed out how if you were playing someone and saw them pull up the Hot Spots, then you would know that they were thinking of heading to a red area, possibly with the intention of shooting with the player they are currently controlling. With 2K it sounds as if it won't be as obvious to another person what their opponent's intentions are which is good. However I could still envision people seeking out hot areas. With Live they would be headed towards their red sections, but with 2K they may be running around the court trying to find them. 

Simply put, the focus this year has been on improving defensive controls and giving players more options for running plays while on offense. When defending, a new lock-on defensive system will help you shadow the ball carrier. To initiate it, you simply press and hold the left trigger. A small target icon underneath the player's feet begins to animate and, once it's complete, your controlled defender is locked on to the ball carrier.

Here is another feature that sounds familiar. EA's March Madness has the Lockdown Stick which allows you to get up and pressure the ball carrier. Here 2K has the ability for you to lock-on to them. We'll have to see it in action to know exactly how effective it is and what it means to playing manual defense. It does seem though just from the way it is described that it may be putting too much in the hands of the CPU to control, somewhat similar to how you can get stuck in the lengthy animations in past 2K games. It'll also need to be seen whether there is risk/reward to it, because if you can just lock-on and it takes over without having to worry about getting beat off the dribble then it will be abused.

The other big addition to gameplay is the new off-ball controls–as they're known. Here, the idea is to give the player more flexibility with how plays unfold on the court, and the team at 2K is taking the system to a surprising level of depth. Essentially, the system lets you choose a two-man play to run and gives you the ability to choose which players are involved in that play.

Remember that RB button icon that appears over the player's head after you've brought up the menu with the LB button? By pressing the RB button, you can take control of that player. For example, let's say you're playing the Pistons and controlling Chauncey Billups. You can send Rip Hamilton toward the net by pressing the Y button then take control of Rip by pressing the RB button, move Rip toward the net, and press the button to pass the ball from Billups to Hamilton.

The two-man plays sound simple enough to execute and seem as if they'll be useful. Switching control of players though I'm not sure how much I would utilize that. Taking myself away from controlling the ball would make me nervous. What happens if I can't get open, what will the CPU player do? I'd imagine though if you get comfortable with switching that it could make for a nice option to have.

While what has been released on NBA 2K8 hasn't exactly been exciting, 2K wasn't really in a position where they had to dazzle consumers with flashy new features. They attempted to do that with the dunk contest and that pretty much fell flat. The gameplay was widely accepted to be quite good last year so there wasn't call for drastic change in that area. These new additions could be positive but without having true impressions or seeing them in videos it isn't really possible to know if they'll be balanced or useful yet.