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NBA Live 08 Review (Xbox 360)

The NBA season is upon us, and the only thing that can mean for gamers is a new version of the game they played to death the previous season. This time, it’s NBA Live 08. Year after year, developers pump out essentially the same game with some slight tweaks and enhancements to try and entice you to drop an additional $60. And we do exactly that; we buy the game.

The game is the same; it’s NBA Live all over again. The same old methods of playing are all included, from quick play of an exhibition game to an All-Star Weekend mode complete with dunk competitions and three-point shootouts. New this year is the FIBA World Championship mode, putting the pride of a nation on one team’s shoulders, but sadly you can also bring an NBA team into this mode, ruining some of the international feel.

Naturally, online play is a good-sized portion of this game, and this mode is fully featured and lag-free. Online play is complete with online leagues and a Quick Pick mode that lets you choose your top 10 NBA players and go head-to-head with other custom superstar teams. This Quick Pick mode is also available in offline gaming options, but not in a Dynasty. In Dynasty mode, players are once again able to do much more than just play a series of games against the computer, as the mode gives you control over the minutia of running a team, from off season back-room dealings to the weekly training regimen. Now, for those who simulate seasons worth of gaming, a new feature will interrupt your sims if a notable event occurs during game time, such as a player getting close to scoring 40 points or a note from your owner praising your stacked team’s winning record. This makes simulating a little more interactive, but people who simulate seasons really won’t be too interested in the interruptions.

NBA Live 08 Xbox 360 screenshot

Players can, as always, create their own player and place him on a team of choice. Not only are the created players’ stats completely editable from the get-go, but in a move that baffles my mind, EA has allowed the player to edit any character’s stats in the game, even in Dynasty Mode. So what’s stopping you from cranking all players up to their max potential and running over all your competition? Absolutely nothing. In fact, this is the easiest way to get a few hundred Gamerscore points; simply make your team all amazing players, then simulate a season or 10. It takes a lot of the challenge out of the game, but Achievement Point whores will shout for joy.

NBA Live 08 Xbox 360 screenshot

Presuming you use default rosters, the game still has issues, both with the feel of the title and the way things are controlled within the game. For that matter, even when I used the team of superstars there were issues with some controls, which can only be attributed to a substandard engine, namely reacting to stealing the ball. I could have poked the ball from an attacker and sent it 30 feet behind him, and I could have been able to reach the ball first, but more than half the time my character fumbled with the ball and returned control to the opposing team. What gives?

NBA Live 08 Xbox 360 screenshot

Having just extensively played through NBA 08 on the PlayStation 3, I will also go on the record to say the shooting mechanism in NBA Live is a notch below that of NBA 08. You are forced to rely on what you think is an appropriate height for a jump shot before shooting; I personally much prefer the colored meter in NBA 08, but that could just be me. Another feature added to NBA Live 08 that some purists may scoff at is the hotspot display, which is activated by pressing the left bumper button. A color-coded grid divides the court into zones where your current ball carrier is more or less likely to nail a shot. This helps drive the scores of the games up, but it’s definitely a bit artificial.

One thing NBA Live 08 definitely has going for it is that it looks quite sharp, and thankfully players are starting to look less like plastic figurines and more like real people. The animations help out with this too, adding some nice fluid movements to the characters. The biggest improvement includes adding in your favorite players Go-To moves, so if you can see Kobe do it in the game, he does it here. Also, some great animations are here for the new post moves. Sadly, some graphical glitches are here too, with very noticeable clipping when bodies come close together or are near the backboard. As is the case with a lot of sports titles, the sound is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is the commentary, which becomes dull and repetitive after only a couple titles. But the good is the soundtrack, which provides an interesting mix that ranges from from DJ Jazzy Jeff and Eve to The Hives and Joss Stone.

NBA Live 08 Xbox 360 screenshot

Year after year we’re expected to pay full price for an upgraded game. For some gamers that’s just fine; they want to have the latest teams and new features. And really, regardless of what a review says, if you’re the type of gamer who wants the game, you’ll get it. NBA Live 08 isn’t a great game in my opinion, but that could be my bias toward hockey games, so take it for what’s it worth. The fully featured game is sure to please a lot of gamers because it generally looks good and — some slight AI issues aside — plays quite well. But really, is a roster update worth $60?

Score: 7
Not a bad game, but not a great one either. Online modes and the loaded dynasty mode are sure to keep players busy for another year. A solid soundtrack fills out the smooth animations to make for a pleasing presentation.

— Jeff Paramchuk

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