Monday, October 15, 2007

NBA 2K8 wins battle of basketball videogames

NFL-licensed football video games were better when two or three companies were battling to one-up each other, as was the case until EA Sports gained a monopoly with its "Madden NFL" series a few years back.

At least in the realm of video-game basketball, there's still some healthy competition going on.

Three separate NBA video games hit store shelves earlier this month: EA Sports NBA Live '08; Sony's NBA '08; and 2K Sports NBA 2K8.

They are all effective NBA simulations that allow gamers to choose their favorite team and take them through a game or season of pretty realistic-looking NBA play.

After two weeks of intense play, I am going to give the championship trophy to NBA 2K8. It's got the best combination of realistic game-play, TV-style presentation and features. But the competition is catching up.

I'd rate 2K8 as 3.5 stars out of 4, Live a 3 and NBA '08 a 2.5.

Let's examine.


• NBA Live on Wii is crazy. You rotate the controller down for a dunk and pull up for a jumper by quickly moving the controller up and down, but I found it was easy to dominate this version with a "go-to move," something I didn't find in the PS3 or 360 versions.New for '08 is quick-strike ball handling. Using the right analog stick, you can quickly perform a variety of moves that can help shake the defense. Post play is also much improved. I also liked how EA Sports has made the virtual players shoot best from parts of the floor where their real-life counterparts excel.

• NBA '08 is so detailed, you can easily make out the different kinds of sneakers players are wearing.

Sony has put emphasis on the season mode, which requires players to manage players and balance the team chemistry as much as win and lose. The artificial intelligence is also improved, and I liked the new "Power Boarding" system, which rewards you for getting good position on misses.

• More than anything else, 2K8 outpaces the competition here. It plays faster and smoother and is easiest to control. Running real NBA plays is seamless. There's even a button to press to help get your shooter open. Cool. You can also make your players guard a little harder with the press of another button.


• NBA Live was the best-looking of the four games. It was clean, and I also noticed Live and 2K8 looked better on PS3 than 360 (NBA '08 is only available for PS3). Live runs at 60 frames per second on PS3, twice as fast as EA Sports' "Madden NFL '08." It shows.

Live also improved player spacing and made AI-controlled players react more like the real thing. The announcers make you feel like you're watching on television.

• Ian Eagle and Mark Jackson provide commentary for NBA '08, though it's not as in-depth as the other two. The game also seems to play a little slower than the other two.

• The PS3 version of 2K8 looked better than the Xbox 360 version, but the 360 version played a touch smoother. But generally speaking, this is how basketball sims should look and play, down to making sure all your players are happy in dynasty mode. And 2K8 has the best announcer banter.


• Live has an eight-team international tournament with real FIBA rosters. In my tourney, the U.S. won the gold medal.• NBA Live '08 has some good mini games, like Fast Break and Block-A-Shot.

• 2K8 has a dunk competition where you can choose from hundreds of jams in the four-player event. Plus, you can customize your players' free-throw-shooting style, dribbling and post moves.


• Live allows you to create leagues with up to 32 teams.

• NBA '08 will release roster updates (as will the other two) as well as other game features for download.

• 2K8 has an online ticker that updates you with real sports headlines and a co-op mode that allows two users to team up against the computer.

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