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NBA 07: The Life Vol. 2

A new version of every major sports game is released annually, but NBA 07may be the first game released truly a sequel to last year’s entry. It is a different kind of basketball game where the focus is more on RPG elements than what takes place on the court. The Life Vol. 2 marks the second year for the user-created player Juco Kid. The Life Vol. 1 covered Juco’s rookie year as a point guard from pre-draft workouts through the entire season. Vol. 2 picks up in the following off-season.
To those unfamiliar, The Life games are not true RPGs. The storyline is linear and plays out the same every time. What happens is the season is broken down into many mini-missions. The missions include practice sessions, street ball match-ups, and game situations. In most cases, you are not required to play an entire game. Usually it’s just a portion, ranging from 5 seconds to an entire half. In these missions, there are a number of goals that must be completed to advance to the next mission. One change this year is if there is difficulty completing a specific mission, some of the goals can change from required to optional to bypass any potential sticking point.
There are a couple of strange twists in Vol. 2 to help differentiate the experience from Vol. 1. First, not only do you play with your created player, but you also have to play as “Big W,” the main rival of the kid. It’s odd to go back and forth between the characters. Secondly, there is no information on the team. Meaning, you don’t know what the team’s record is or where they are in the standings. Last year’s version kept you informed on the team record, which helped the story flow between winning and losing streaks. Maybe Sony took an all-to0-real step forward focusing only on individual players. Obviously, there is a lot of emphasis on The Life portion of the game. Luckily, it is worth going through, especially if you played last year’s game and have had the itch to learn what happens next.
The dynasty mode, on the other hand, looks like a throwback to the 90’s. Simplistic is the word. Essentially you play the games, activate/deactivate players, and make trades. Not a whole lot of depth. No salary caps to manage. There’ nothing much else to do. With the types of dynasties other sports offer, NBA 07 stands as an extremely weak pick in the litter.
On the court, NBA 07 leans more towards the arcade side. Shooting involves a combination of button timing, player skill, and position on court. But, with some quick passing and some fancy footwork, it’s not hard to get a shooting percentage in the 80s. Posting up is pretty much a money play. The defenders will be on the ball, but they don’t seem to be able to stop a shot from going up and in. A new screen animation (a white flash) provides a quick message during the game. A flash under a player means his skills are up and he’s got a great opportunity to make his next shot. After a player shoots, a flash on the floor means the shot is off and that’s where the rebound is going. Even with this hint, it’s not always easy to get a player into position to grab the ball.
There also isn’t anything in the way of strategy. Players can call for a pick, alley-oop or double team. But, there are no strategies or plays (like 2-3 zone, press, hi post, isolation, etc.) to set, which adds to the arcade feel of the game. So yes, the game is fun to play. But, you are not going to get simulation style stats and results. Decent playing skills should allow a player to make any team competitive or destroy opponents with the top teams. Some of the same issues from last year’s game are still around; lots of steals bounce out of bounds, players step out of bounds too often, and posting up is almost un-defendable.
Considering how the game plays, the online mode is probably the biggest draw. A human opponent provides the best challenge for any player. Leagues and tournaments are available for conquest. Easy to connect, opponents are there, stats are tracked.
Every player seems to be modeled well from the big Yao Ming to the long haired Steve Nash. The animations are smooth and transition well from one to the next. There is a nice variety of shooting and dunk animations. The court floor looks freshly painted and polished. The arenas appear lively with flashing billboards and a full house of fans. It seems that everyone has there new uniforms as well. For example, the Bucks are in their new red and greens having ditched the purple this summer. The cutscenes during The Life are about on the same level of detail and quality as seen in games like Grand Theft Auto and The Godfather. Not that these games have anything to do with each other; they just have a lot of cut-scenes to watch.
NBA 07 doesn’t, however, give you a lot in the audio department. Where’s the announcer crew to go along with all the TNT logos? The only voice in the game is the arena announcer. It just seems odd with today’s sports games adding every feature they can that Sony has left out announcers. While all sports announcing is prone to repetitiveness, not having it does create a bit of a void in the game. No interesting stories, player histories, record announcement, or anything to add to the game. On the other hand, I guess you could say the game recreates the sounds of being in the arena.
If you’re looking for a fun arcade style basketball game, NBA 07 isn’t bad. The Life mode is fun to run through once, especially if you played last years and want to see what happens next to the Juco Kid. However, this game has to be looked at for what it is: an arcade-style basketball game that is fun to play with friends, and that’s about it. The Life is good to take a trip through, but the deep single-player dynasty just isn’t there.

Overall: 7
Entertainment is entertainment, but since this isn’t really an RPG, it would’ve been nice to see a deeper dynasty mode.

— Greg Necastro

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