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NBA Live 08
Score: 68%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Basketball)

Graphics & Sound:
With the PS3 and 360 versions getting all the attention, it is easy to forget that NBA Live 08 is also on the PS2. While this is good news for basketball fans who have yet to jump to a newer console, it ends there. Unlike the "next-gen" version of the game, NBA Live 08 doesn't improve much about last year's game.

After playing the same game on the PS3, it is easy to dog the PS2 version on its poor visuals. However, when compared to other basketball games (and believe me, I've played plenty this season) on the system, it doesn't look all that bad. Players look blocky, but you can at least tell who everyone is. The downside is that the animation system is really clunky, which ends up having a negative impact on the gameplay since moves are really jerky and don't flow well.

Sound is okay, but again, isn't anything you haven't already heard. Marv Albert handles the play-by-play and, while his commentary is pretty accurate, he tends to repeat himself way too much.

When it comes to features and modes, NBA Live 08 looks and feels a lot like last year's game. Dynasty mode is the heart of the game. Here you take the role of GM and make decisions about how to run your franchise from draft day until the close of the season and beyond. Sign this player; trade that one... it is up to you. Nothing has been added to the system, nor have any of last year's problems been ironed out; at least not in any overly noticeable ways. Of course, the system worked well last year so there isn't any major cause for concern, but at the same time it is hard to not feel like you were slighted for not upgrading your console.

Outside of Dynasty games, you can also play through a single season or play through the All-Star Weekend, which in addition to the game includes all of the other festivities including the rookie challenge, three-point shootout and slam dunk contest. The one new addition is the FIBA Championships, which is a tournament featuring teams from around the world. Though it isn't a major addition, it is still a neat little diversion, if only because you get to see players on different teams.

Online support is included, which is to be expected. The online handling is pretty good and I rarely had any issues with lag.

As is usually the case when it comes to sports games, the team you are using will affect the game's difficulty. My experience with the Hornets will be much different than another player's experience with the Pistons. When it comes to pure mechanics, however, newcomers face a steep learning curve when it comes to learning the mechanics. Vets shouldn't have much of a problem since little has changed since last year.

As with last year's game, defense is pretty aggressive. If you don't know what you are doing, you'll have a hard time winning. It isn't impossible, but casual fans may want to adjust the settings a bit. Adding to the aggressive play of the A.I., the officials are also strict when making calls. Of course, this will lead you to believe that the game is cheating - and sometimes it does -- but the A.I. is called for just as many tacky fouls as you are.

Game Mechanics:
Superstar moves, which were a major focus in last year's version, have been completely removed from this year's game. I wasn't a fan of the moves last year, so for me their absence is a big positive. This results in a game of basketball that is more like a simulation and less like an arcade game. Of course, the rest of the system hasn't been refined that much, so you spend an inordinate amount of time dunking and shooting long balls.

Beyond that, controls feel exactly the same as last year, which isn't a good thing. The basic, fundamental controls are really easy to learn; they are just poorly executed. The right stick is used to pull off moves and works well, but the stiff animations really hurt the flow of the moves. Most of the basic mechanics are terrible. Players, even the big named ones, miss dunks and can't make fundamental moves. Shot timing is really off and the ball physics are awkward, resulting in low shot percentages.

One new addition is the ability to see player's hotspots on the court. After pressing a button, a colored overlay will come up that shows where a player has the most success when shooting. Although it does take some of the challenge away from the game, it is incredibly useful when coming up with strategies since you'll always want to try and get the ball to someone in their "hot" area. Another is a set of special moves, usually great jump shots, that big name players possess. Unlike Superstar moves, these don't unbalance the gameplay too much and instead feel like those "I can't believe he did that!" moments.

If NBA Live 08 isn't a clear sign that the series is seeing its last days on the PS2, I don't know what else is. It would have been great if the series could have gone out at the top of its game, but it really just feels like an old timer who tried for one last time and failed. If you are a basketball fan with a PS2, you should probably look elsewhere for your NBA action or consider upgrading your system.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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