Let me begin by saying that NBA 2K8 had a strike against it when I sat down to play — I usually don't care for NBA games, preferring college sports. With that working against it, one might think that NBA 2K8 would not stand much of a chance of receiving a positive review. However, I was disabused of that idea in extremely short order.
I found myself pleasantly surprised with how smooth the graphics were in my first "Quick Play" game.. It wasn't earth-shaking, and the character models did not do a great job of representing their real-life namesakes. However, the gameplay was incredibly smooth with the players moving quickly, flowing on the court just as if they were actually playing a real game.
While I earlier mentioned that players may not have looked quite like their real-life counterparts, what 2K Sports got right was players' mannerisms on the court. It was great to watch Kobe Bryant shoot a fade away and Steve Nash and Jason Kidd make incredible passes.
The action on the court takes things to the next level and really makes you feel as if you are watching an NBA game on TV. LeBron James gives high-fives to his teammates as he draws a foul and heads to the charity stripe; bench players react to the action on the court, etc the environments are really done justice when you see it happen.
Over the course of playing multiple games, I considered there to be far too many missed lay-ups and post-up shots. I suspect that is a way to keep the field-goal percentages more in line with reality. And while sometimes frustrating, this was not unbalancing, especially since opponents suffered the same issues.
On the court, the computer-controlled artificial intelligence could use some refinement, as your teammates don't work particularly hard to get open and have a tendency to stand around and perhaps move out to the three-point line. Fortunately, the ability to call plays is made fairly easily with the control system.
In all, the gameplay feels pretty fabulous, and I had a tendency to just sit back, watch and enjoy the action, even when my opponent scored a bucket. The final piece to the puzzle was the announcers, who actually do a fairly good job. They offer some decent analysis — which other than Craig Sager isn't all that repetitive — and some tidbits about individual players. It does a great job of tying all the action together.
At the end of the game, a great video replay system shows all your highlights — and I do mean all. Go player by player, and see each made shot, rebound, steal or blocked shot. Simply put, this is perhaps the best replay system that I've enjoyed in any sports game.
I know many sports games try to add gimmicky mini-games to the title in an effort to add something just a little different. In this case, 2K Sports added what they call the Blacktop. In this mode, you can participate in three-point contests, slam-dunk contests and some pick-up games. The pick-up and three-point games are fairly self-explanatory and have been done before. The slam-dunk contest, though, is something I thought would be forgettable, but it has turned into one of my favorite parts of the game. The setting is the streets of Las Vegas, which makes a nice backdrop.
The emcee seems to have tidbits on all the possible competitors, and there is a pretty neat introduction for all of them. The heart of this segment is the three-part dunk. There is the gather, the style and the finish. You choose the way you approach the hoop, what you'll do with the ball — be it an over hand, cradle and so on — and how you'll put it through the hoop. You also can add in obstacles for additional flair, try jumping over a bench, a saw-horse or even a car. The judging is a little inconsistent, so don't be surprised if you pull off what you feel is an incredible dunk and still get beat by someone who does something that isn't quite as impressive.
The heart and soul of the game will be The Association, which is the dynasty-style league. In this mode, you'll be running a team and everything that entails, from signing free agents, scouting the upcoming draft class and assigning roles to your entire roster. I suspect that most people will spend the vast amount of their time in this mode. The only unfortunate part is that the menus are so horribly unintuitive that you will waste time looking for something as opposed to actually doing something.
Despite the menus, and the atrociously poor instruction manual, you'll start to figure things out after you spend more time in game, but 2k Sports really came up short by leaving far too much valuable information out and making it that much harder for the inexperienced player.
I'm definitely sold; the offline as well as online options have done a great job of proving to me that this is an extremely fun game. While I've seen other games that may look better, there isn't any game on the market that combines smooth graphics, a realistic association mode and gameplay, along with enough extras (i.e. Blacktop) to keep me interested for quite a long time.