First true NBA 2K8 hands-on preview

Posted August 31st, 2007 at 2:57 am
NBA 2K8 Tracy McGrady and Chris Paul

IGN has posted a detailed look at along with impressions of NBA 2K8's new features and improvements. There are also a handful of new screenshots. I've pulled the main points and added my thoughts on each. 

It begins with the rebuilt AI. The new AI is deadly against those who have zero hoops knowledge. If your idea of a basketball game is constantly driving to the hole, no matter who's handling the rock and who's standing in their way, then you're in for a rude awakening. NBA 2K8 will punish those who make foolish plays. Play smart hoops and you will be rewarded.

Pretty much every sports game touts improved AI on a year to year basis. Sometimes that turns out to be true, other times it doesn't pan out quite as good as advertised. However 2K7 already felt much like a real simulation so claiming that they've improved in that regard wouldn't be surprising. It'll remain to be seen how effective and realistic the AI will be.  

The 2K team realized that there are some players who can drive into traffic and will the ball into the hoops. Kobe, KG, Agent Zero. Whether it's pushing through and slamming a dunk over a defender or finding a way to teardrop the ball through the hoop, some players just have a knack for draining clutch shots in traffic. Those players now have a specific rating in NBA 2K8, so that once impossible shots can sometimes be possible.

Things are a little more sophisticated away from the paint as well. Each player now has a rating judging how good they are shooting off the dribble.

These are good additions and should improve the feel and realism of the game. However Live has similar ratings taken to an even more extreme level as 07 had 75 different player ratings categories. NBA 2K7 had only 20. So 2K has a long way to go in this area. 

In hopes to add even more realism to its sim franchise, Visual Concepts implemented new footplanting technology. The new animation and physics system requires that every crossover and post move have the necessary footwork to make it real.

The drawback to the new system is that the once fluid animation chains are gone. The build I played had some jerky transitions at times. While individual animations looked great, they don't connect well together.

Again this is working towards more realism in the game in that momentum has to be taken into consideration. Hopefully it isn't too strong though. One of the main problems when Live first implemented their foot planting technology was it was too heavy and took away the feel of having control over the players. 

Next on the hit list is the post game. Let's face it, post play has never been as perimeter play. NBA 2K8 hopes to change that with a more refined post option. The biggest change in the post are your options. Players have a far greater range of shot options and moves. And the post doesn't feel as artificial, as if it's some mini-game within a game.

Sounds somewhat similar to NBA Live 08's "Own the Paint" just without a fancy name. More options and control over what you can do down low will be a welcome improvement. 

On defense, there has been one significant addition. Players now have the option to engage Lock-on D. Get in front of the ball handler and, if your player is a good enough defender, a target icon appears below the player. When you see it, hold the Left Trigger to initiate Lock-on D. A quick player can try and just turbo past the defender. Or you can pass out of the Lock-on D. Or fake one way and move the other. The Lock-on D is meant to be a guide for the player, but also to help make the game a little more believable.

My only issue with the Lock-on D is that it actually became a distraction. Too often I got caught waiting for the target icon to appear and not relying on my own skills at defense. It's a system that might require a few games to get the hang of, but hopefully it doesn't end up being too artificial.

As I mentioned when the news of this feature first came out, my concern was that it would take the user out of the action and it seems that has been somewhat realized. 

The post game show starts with the Jordan Player of the Game. You'll see the player's stats and their highlight reel. It even shows their hot zones and how well they shot around the court. Then comes the top 3 plays of the game. If that's not enough, you get signature highlights for every player. Let's say you play Celtics vs. Suns. You can click on Kevin Garnett and see his highlight reel. Then check out all of Nash's dope dishes. And Barbosa's sweet jumpers. If that isn't enough, you can go through a catalogue of every single play in the entire game and choose any replay you want to watch.

That sounds great, especially if you were able to use those replays to create highlight reels and upload them online. Hopefully 2K expands on the ReelMaker feature which could be so much more than it is right now. 

As with so many aspects of NBA 2K8, Isomotion has also seen some tweaks. Things have been simplified. Just use the Left Thumbstick for basic moves and the Right Trigger as a modifier. Nothing more than that.

This is probably the best thing I heard. I've never been a fan of isomotion. Simplifying the system and having more control over what you do was necessary. 

One offense, you'll notice a set of five bars beneath the ball handler that look like a cell phone reception meter. This shows a player's hot zones. Every player has been given zones compiled from their past five years in the NBA. The bars also come in three colors. Blue is for a cold streak, yellow for no streak, and red for a hot streak. Streaks are determined by how well you are shooting.

Again I really like the idea behind the hot zones or hot spots in the NBA games this year, and implementation of them will probably be slightly different. I'm familiar with everything to do with Live's "Hot Spots" but there are still a lot of questions regarding 2K's version. From a visual standpoint I think the cell phone angle they've taken sounds better than the colored sections of the floor.

The new set of screenshots can be found here. They certainly show significant improvement over the past screens that have been released. They still have the waxy and greased up look to them but at least it has been toned down somewhat.

Its good to finally have some real thoughts on how 2K8 is shaping up. Now it will be a matter of hearing more impressions of how well these features work and seeing videos of the game in action. However we're probably still a week or two away from that happening.