The PlayStation 3’s launch was not without its fair share of ports and shared titles with other consoles, including NBA 07 from Sony’s own PlayStation 2. No one outside Sony had a clue this port was even in the works until it appeared at the Tokyo Game Show in the fall of 2006. Given what must have been a cramped development schedule, a direct-port with jazzed up 1080p visuals was an assumed best-case scenario for basketball fans seeking an NBA 2K7 alternative. What hit stores offered up not only the only first-party title presented in 1080p, but a new feature with a creative fresh twist capable of prolonging the game’s replay value right through next year’s NBA Finals.
Seasoned Sony NBA players looking for “The Life” will not find the exclusive cinematic journey from rookie to pro on PlayStation 3. Nor will they find a robust list of distraction mini-games (only a small handful has successfully traversed the port). Instead, beyond the typical online matches and career play lies NBA Replay and Games of the Week, the latter’s inclusion offering reason alone for any PlayStation 3 owner to consider snatching up NBA 07 without hesitation.
NBA Replay is a recognizable mode where players must play out pivotal moments from 25 weeks of last year’s season as opposed to playing out scenarios and meeting goals with fictional characters found in The Life. In contrast is the more dynamic and fresh Games of the Week where as the real NBA season chugs along, the top five individual performances from the previous week are available as quick downloads. Challenge difficulty varies both within a user-defined selection and the statistics required to complete the actual challenge, along with bonus “extra mile” goals to sweeten the final score pot.
Games of the Week forces players to start from week one and work their way through the entire season, or at least up until the real-time week of this season. All it takes is partaking in the first challenge of week one to become instantly hooked on not only tackling the first, but replaying previous challenges to better scores. After all, the online leader board beckons for your best effort and bragging rights, and some of the challenges will take many attempts — especially when selecting a harder difficulty level — to complete all the standard and extra mile goals. These interactive and dynamic hooks make Games of the Week far more satisfying than The Life ever was.
The other major addition to the PlayStation 3 version of NBA 07 is the inclusion of hit-and-miss sixaxis control. When a quick flick of the controller successfully activates a juke or spin move, the result is overwhelming satisfying. More often than not the controls aren’t always responsive to the distance and/or intensity that the controller is jerked to initiate the move. On multiple occasions I was attempting a juke to get around a defender, only to mess up consecutive attempts and cough up a turnover as my player dribbled the ball standing still for easing pickings. This frustration leads to second-guessing moves, and ultimately giving up on sixaxis altogether. Gamers who wave their controllers around naturally while playing will find it even harder to easily transition into a sixaxis fake on the first try.
On the court, Sony has casually implemented a few welcome AI and gameplay changes since the PlayStation 2 version. Most notably, players are now far more active away from the ball as they fight through picks and wrestle for position, especially down on the post. They seem to react faster to both executing offense and getting back on defense, though at times fast breaks and dunk fests are still too prevalent for a simulation game. Quicker response also translates to the controls where a markedly faster shot meter helps smooth the shooting motions up and decrease blocked shots. Some quirky bugs do make an appearance every now then leaving room for improvement heading into next year’s version.
Much fuss has been made over Sony’s insistence that true HD gaming is only achieved at 1080p resolution, yet few of the console’s first wave of games actually support it. Since NBA 07 is effectively a port, it can be assumed many of the models were tweaked for PlayStation 3 from PlayStation 2 and not exclusively developed for 1080p. For example, the player faces are as inaccurate on this version as on PS2, so with the improved resolution, the inaccuracies stand out even more. Also, shiny new coats of sweat have been applied to the old models with no engine behind them, so from the opening tip, all the players tend to look like Krispy Kreme doughnuts. On the positive side, the court and crowd now achieve a three-dimensional effect lower resolutions can only dream of, albeit looking a tad too clean, and beg for a player to throw the ball way up in the stands as the last seconds tick off the clock in game seven of the NBA Finals.
In an already crowded next-gen basketball arena, Sony took a chance on sneaking out NBA 07with Games of the Week and pieced together a new mode I have a hard time imagining any basketball game I’m interested in playing being without. Now I have a hard time watching Sportscenter and not trying to guess which performances will appear in next week’s imminent download. Even though Sony’s competitors are still a leg up in overall presentation and gameplay, this year’s most influential basketball innovation belongs to the underdog.
- Overall: 7.7
- Sony proves with Games of the Week that a last-minute port can offer more than slightly improved graphics. This refreshing new mode is a step in the right direction in the evolution of basketball video games.
— Dan Bradley