Anthony Chau from 2K paid a visit to Washington D.C. today and I got a chance to play an 85% version of the NBA 2K8. Let me start by saying that this version was much better than the demo version we are all currently playing. The player faces are much improved from the demo and I thought Lebron looked way more realistic in the version than in the demo.
Two of the biggest game play features in this year’s game, off ball control and the play diagrams, look fantastic. One of my biggest issues with most basketball games is that you can’t decide who will set a screen on a pick and roll. In most games, it’s either the center or the power forward and it’s whichever one of those players who’s closest to the ball handler. In NBA 2K8, you can decide which one of your four teammates sets a pick or works to get open. When I first heard about this feature I thought it sounded a bit complicated and wasn’t going to be user friendly but after playing the game I think it’s a great feature that adds a new level to the game.
The on-court play diagrams are also a great addition. I think most people are like me in that they want to call plays but they hate having to memorize all the steps it takes to run a play correctly, especially with the large number of plays that are in the game. The on-court play diagrams make it extremely easy to run a play and will allow you to play exactly like your team would in real life. I played with the Wizards and they ran several plays exactly as their real life counterparts whether it ended with Jamison taking a shot from the elbow or Arenas running a pick and roll. What’s great is that the AI adjusts of you run a play too often. I ran the pick and pop a few times too many and the Warriors started double teaming Arenas immediately once it looked like I was setting up that play. Even with the double team, I was able to make adjustments swing the ball around and get open shots with Butler and Stevenson.
Everybody who complained about the commentary can stop now. There is plenty of new commentary, including player and team specific commentary, in this year’s version. In the game I played, I heard Kenny Smith and Kevin Harlan talk specifically about Arenas, Davis, Stephen Jackson and Biedrins. One thing I preferred about the competition’s game was that the announcers would talk not only about the stars but about some of the role players. I’m glad to see that the NBA2K team listened to the fans and improved on this feature. When I heard that NBA 2K7 hired Harlan as its play by play announcer, I was excited. That was until I played the game and realized how subdued he sounded in the game. The good news is that Harlan is his real life self in 2K8. He gets excited at the right moments and it adds to the presentation.
I only got to the chance to see one arena but the changes to this arena shows that the 2K8 development team didn’t slack off in this aspect of the game. In the OS review, I made a small complaint about the Verizon Center. There was a big space between the stands behind the basket and the rest of the arena and that space doesn’t exist in real life. The arena was perfect except for this mistake and the 2K team could have left the arena the same and 99.9% (everybody but me and RubenDouglas) wouldn’t have even noticed. What surprised me is that the 2K team fixed this mistake and not the Verizon Center is really perfect. Anthony confirmed that all 30 arenas are authentic.
One issue that I asked Anthony about was changes to the art in the game. Since the game usually comes out in September and the NBA season starts in November, there are times when teams will make changes to their court, jerseys or arenas after the game has shipped. For example, the Houston Rockets are going to debut a new court in a few weeks but it’s not in the game because it will be shown after the game is released. I asked Anthony if it was possible for the development team to release a patch that adds new courts and changes to the arena after the game is released. He said he thinks it’s possible but the reason an artwork patch rarely done is that it’s more difficult to add artwork via a patch than it is to change code. Also he stated that it’s also depends on resources and the size of a development team whether a art patch is done.
Here are a few quick thoughts I had while playing the game and talking to Andrew-
- No custom soundtracks this year. He confirmed that it’s possible but that he wasn’t sure if this feature was that popular. He stated that very few people complained when they took it out after NBA2K5. If people demand that they put the feature back in, 2K will consider adding it to future versions.
- Slam Dunk Contest looks like it will be fun. One issue I had with the competition’s version was that some of the dunks were cartoonish and too fast. 2K8’s version is more realistic and there are more options like using props.
- Player spacing seemed better than in the demo but I think some people may think it still needs improvement. I’ve always thought that the spacing was fine but I know many disagree.
- I asked Anthony about how the public perceived the game. In previous years, the NBA2K series has always been seen as the underdog but after a year when it outsold the competition and was unanimously hailed as the better game, its seems that this has changed. Many people are giving credit to competition for its improved game and stating that the 2K series feels like “more of the same” or “stale.” He stated that it all comes down to what’s the better game. He stated that he still sees NBA2K as an underdog and acknowledged that many people are brand loyal and automatically purchase Live. He also said that he was concerned that some people would purchase Live because of the improvements and that the sales race would be closer. He continued by saying that he’s played the retail version of Live 08 and its clear that NBA2K8 is still the better game and that most gamers and real NBA players play that game.
- He told me an interesting story of how the US National Team rented out a theater in Las Vegas during the Tournament of Americas and played nothing but NBA2K7 and how many of the players are trying to get an early copy of 2K8.
- NBA 2K9 will focus more on presentation and they hope to add “NFL 2K5” like presentation with pre game, post game and weekly shows. Anthony stated that he feels that 2K almost has the gameplay perfect and will begin to focus on other aspects of the game.
- Finally, we discussed foot planting. Anthony wanted to make it clear that he didn’t think that foot planting technology was as important of a feature that some people make it. He stated that the team had to make a choice when it came to foot planting AI and sliding. Either have a game that has zero sliding but very stiff and robotic animations or on with fluid animations with a little bit of sliding. The 2K team chose the latter. He ended by saying that the team will continue to try to minimize sliding in future versions but not at the expense of limiting animations. From what I saw there is still sliding in the game especially when you are using the defensive assist feature but its not as bad as past versions of the game.
Reading Comprehension Test:
Who's "he"? Who is this person who said that he's played the retail version and is claiming to be better than Live?
He, is a guy from another forum, who writes for Operation Sports, a well-known sports gaming website. He, is the one who played the game. He, is a credible source. He, is the one who posted the videos.
The 2k8 demo is frigging amazing, but I thought the same about the 2k7 demo and was disappointed when I bought the game.
I'm going to wait for College Hoops 2k8, which I expect to be better then the NBA version since they usually fix a lot of the glitches by then and the franchise is so much more fun to play. If they lower the recruiting class attributes and make it harder to recruit, game is going to be kick ass. Not to mention I can start franchises with Hofstra and Rutgers.