This ain’t the Life.
Don’t let this screenshots page fake you out. Skim the overview quickly and take note of the buzz phrases: "new gameplay features", "advanced AI", and "most realistic and engaging NBA experience available". With this review donning the mantle of an applied crash course in "P.R. Transparency Made E-Z", know that whenever you see both vague terminology and wide superlatives, nine times out of ten, you’ll be excited while cracking open the game box – then it’s downhill.
And such it is with NBA 07. First, let’s cover " new gameplay features", which is one of my personal favorite phrases since it can mean anything from a full-on mode to an extra "sweatiness" slider; thus it usually means nothing. The phrase also gracefully glosses over what’s been left out by throwing a shiny "new" in there, in this case The Life, a.k.a. career mode. Which is strange since this PS3 pseudo-port lacks the depth the PS2 releases have had two years running. Then again, thinking back to last Thanksgiving and the Xbox 360’s lame port-o-thon, we probably shouldn’t be so surprised.
[image1]It would be wrong to put NBA 07 on the disabled list if the game compensated elsewhere in the depth department. But after sifting through each of the modes looking for something meaty to game on, the lean package NBA 07 only gets more anorexic. This game has a robust lack of content.
For starters, The Season replaces any sort of franchise mode, and only covers one year, from 2006 to 2007. So if you’d like to keep playing one season after the next, you’ll run out of game, and luck. You can trade players and add up their salaries to fit below your salary cap, but after that, there’s nothing else to balance, consider, or do but play through the schedule.
Next up is NBA Replay mode, which is actually the game’s highlight, but mostly by elimination. Each of the fifty replays are highlights from the 06-07 season, recreating great performances by key players in key moments. There are two tiers of objectives to complete, one general tier that must be completed to pass the mission, like scoring thirteen points with Chauncey Billups in three minutes, and an optional one for bonus points, like hitting a three, a pair of two-point jumpers, and a dunk in the midst of scoring those thirteen points.
Each replay has multiple objectives to check off the list before the mission clock ticks to zero, and adds a fun new spin on roundball. In addition to the fifty missions out of the box, you’ll be able to download five new replays every week throughout this current season – all based on what actually went on in the real NBA. You can then upload your score to an online leaderboard for some bragging rights, if you care about that at all. I’d rather have my shiny PS3’s advanced brain understand I want a cookie, instead. A warm one.
It’s a nice new bit of constant content and great for avid sports buffs to relive some of the NBA’s more glorious moments as they happened. However, they lose some of the luster when you’re retrying a picky replay over and over. Five new replays a week just about covers your patience-span with NBA 07; once you’re done knocking out all the replays and you’re bored dominating the Season mode, all you have left is a quick tour through the mini-games.
[image2]These include a three-point-shootout and Skills Challenge which brings you through an obstacle course with a couple of funky passing segments not found anywhere else in the game. Own the Court, where you try to make points by draining shots from on-court tiles, makes a return and is still a cool mini-game for multiple players. It’s more befitting a party game than a basketball sim, but considering NBA 07’s simple, meter-based gameplay and how well it works in Own the Court, you’ll wonder if that should be the main direction for the franchise next year. Altogether, the mini-games are a nice little distraction for about half an hour; then you’ll hardly ever want to play them again unless there are three other humans nearby, and probably not even then.
Like the games before it, getting the shot timing down in NBA 07 is the be-all, end-all of this little casual game is big sim’s clothing. No matter how fatigued your starting players are, or how many players are jumping in your face, the shot meter will almost always retain the same huge sweet-spot. So your timing rarely ever changes; thus, you rarely miss, especially with three pointers. It’ll be raining all day on both sides of the court, and no matter how rewarding it is seeing that little meter over your head lock into green upon your shot’s release, the whole thing gets ridiculous when you’ve sunk a dozen three-balls in a row and the opposition has answered with a dozen dunks.
That’s mostly because playing defense is a farce. Without a strafe button to help you stay in front of your man, accurate collision detection, or play-calling, defending the bucket is best left to the professionals – the AI. If you try to repeatedly swipe the ball, you’ll get hit with a foul almost every time. If you try to swat the ball during the inevitable dunk attempt, you’ll be horribly ineffective as your player jumps away from the man in flight as if he had a force field around him. But if you keep your body somewhere in the mix, the game will take care of itself. If left to its own devices, the offense A.I. will probably put up a jumper and miss, letting you snag the board, and gun it down court to your man for a jam. Or better yet, pull up and drill another twenty six foot jumper – you can’t miss, and you can’t lose!
[image3]That is until you jack up the difficulty level. It’s not that the A.I. plays any better, it’s just that their sweet spots are much larger and yours are much thinner. Or if you take the game online, where all you have is the five-on-five game with basic leader boards showcasing players in stunning 295 to 292 point upsets.
Graphically, there’s nothing to call your friends about. Yeah, there’s sheen and shine, and thankfully no framerate skip to speak of, but for a system with such purported horsepower, there’s absolutely nothing impressive here. Courts have been reflective for years, and the crowds have steadily becoming less 2D and less repetitive. Facial expressions make an appearance, but most of the players actually don’t look like themselves at all. There are no announcers; so the game hardly feels realistic, especially after each basket when the games fades out and back in again, disrupting any sense of continuity.
By screenshots alone, NBA 07 looks like a sim, yet it’s only suitable for the most casual players. "Casual" here meaning gamers who don’t know anything or read reviews. Because even if you rarely play, 2K Sports’ NBA 2K7 is still a much more complete and entertaining game of basketball. NBA 07, on the other hand, is thin, poorly balanced and not that good looking, kind of like Shawn Bradley. Take our advice, and let this pass go out of bounds.