Following on the back of last year's NBA 07, 2008â€™s version looks to rectify the wrongs of its seemingly rushed predecessor. However, it is entering a market full of hostility, with competitors vying for the NBA fan's dollar, and with two other 2008 basketball sims out there already, Sony will have its work cut out to take a share of the market.
It doesnâ€™t make a great first impression, as once you enter the main menu youâ€™ll find that there isnâ€™t a whole lot to do. There's no franchise mode, only a bare-bones single-season mode, where you can't manage a salary cap, draft players, sign contracts, manage team finances, or pretty much anything else basketball games have allowed users to do.
There are some mini-games to choose from, and thankfully they are enjoyable to play. 'Own the court' is a timed head-to-head shooting challenge, the 'three-point contest' is entertaining as you try and rack up your highest scores, and 'skills challenge' is where you dribble, pass, and shoot on an obstacle course. You can also play online and have an exhibition game; however it is short of what competitorsâ€™ online modes are offering, although the game quality was much higher than the others when we tried it out online.
NBA 08's only unique gameplay mode is NBA Replay. In essence itâ€™s a collection of the best performances from last year's NBA season collaborated into the game for you to try to replicate. While you donâ€™t have to match each effort exactly, youâ€™ll have to replicate parts of it that were unique or just plain uncanny. Sony states that they will be updating these challenges with new performances as the real NBA season progresses, so this feature will continue to grow and grow, providing extra longevity.
The game also lets you earn credits throughout, by either accomplishing in-game feats, such as a double-double, or by beating the mini-games and NBA replay challenges. You can redeem these credits against new gear, or use them to level up your created baller.
As for the gameplay, it is a true mixed bag. Donâ€™t expect much fast-paced offence, as the game doesnâ€™t allow for it by not including lead passing and the fact that defensive players will stick to you like glue. That said, the shooting and rebounding works well, as a shot meter will appear to gauge the difficulty and timing of your shot, and special icons appear on the floor when attempting to rebound showing where the ball is potentially heading.
NBA 08's visuals are again a lucky dip. The game runs at a speedy frame rate, even in 1080p, with the courts looking nice, players' reflections on the hardwood and detailed stadia and crowds. Player models are generally good, at least while stationary. Once they start moving youâ€™ll see clipping as well as balls being dribbled through bodies and limbs.
NBA 08 fixes last year's absent commentary with the addition of two announcers. They're your average sports genre commentators, but do frequently miss big plays or say something completely irrelevant. The arenas are generally subdued with some PA and crowd murmuring going on, but add this in with the great sound effects and you get an authentic enough package.
NBA 08 ultimately is too hit and miss to warrant becoming anything greater than an average basketball title. However with this only being its second iteration this reviewer will look to the future, as some nice gameplay features were implemented since its last outing, and this will be a franchise to foot it with the big boys in the immediate future.