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NBA 2K7

Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: 2K Sports

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X360 Review - 'NBA 2K7'

by Nicolus Baslock on Dec. 6, 2006 @ 1:29 a.m. PST

NBA 2K7 elevates the standard for all sports games, offering fans the most comprehensive and exciting basketball experience to date. NBA 2K7 presents cutting-edge visual realism, while offering the most intense and exhilarating gameplay controls in any basketball game, thanks in part to new post play mechanics inspired by Shaquille O'Neal.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: September 26, 2006

While playing NBA 2K7, you just can't shake the feeling that the previous generation is trying to permeate your next-gen gaming experience. 2K Sports' ballers took a completely different route than EA did by adding new features instead of rehashing the same old material. Unfortunately, the graphics aren't any better, as the players looked better on the Xbox version than they do on this X360 iteration. This year was not a complete revamping but a simple reconstitution; NBA 2K7 adds old favorites and tries out a few new things. The biggest additions are the new player models and animations, which were the last step to making 2K7 a much better and more playable game. Was the lack of innovations necessarily a bad thing? The answer is far more difficult to answer this year, yet the end result is the best basketball title on the X360.

2K7's gameplay has always been the exact opposite of Live's, with this year being no exception. You will never just run down the court to shoot a wide-open jumper or move into the key without any sort of defense swatting at your arms. The 2K series prides itself on realism, and that much is evident from the outset. Players move far slower, with each action far more calculated and realistic. Yes, some guys like to drive into the key hard every play, throwing caution to the wind, but unless you're Lebron or Kobe, the odds of getting stripped are pretty high, as are the chances that you'll toss up a brick. Contested shots hardly ever fall, and everything must be set up and timed. Setting up plays means a slower style of gameplay, but one that is generally closer to actual NBA action. Some teams are meant to run that up-tempo game (even if the real-life Suns seem to have forgotten how to do that), and it does translate, more or less, but setting up shots and making plays through strategy and timing are where 2K7 shines, and where its competition falters most.

To help you play as realistically as possible, teams have a plethora of available plays to run on both sides of the ball, tailor-made to their types of players and style of athlete. I know this sounds like something we should be expecting at this point, but after the moon physics debacle of Live '07 and the sheer lack of offensive options, it is important that this aspect be mentioned. Realism starts with the little things, and this is just one more step toward reaching that goal.

The other addition meant to help is that animations are far closer to the star players' styles of play. For instance, Kobe strokes just like in real life, and Shaq, even as the cover athlete, still throws ugly free throws. As expected, the superstars all have the closest likenesses, but even up-and-comers like Adam Morrison (and a few never-beens, like Paul Shirley) feature really accurate representations, working the ball like never before. For the first time, Dirk Nowitski can make threes or drive into the paint the same way he does in real life, making him as much a challenge to defend in NBA 2K7 as in real life.

The A.I. is also just as solid as it has been in past years. When players light up a team for a few quarters, suddenly they find themselves double-covered or the defense blocking the key in the spot you've driven 10 times before. This is what next-gen sports games are all about, and 2K7 really shines in this area.

2K7 is simply brimming with all of the features that were left out of the Live franchise entirely. As previously mentioned, the last-generation underpinnings are evident, with everything that was old being new again, but the contrast to the stark emptiness that exists (or doesn't) under Live's hood is welcome. Everything you expect in a basketball title is here, including the return of the 24/7 mode, the 2K exclusive that tries to emulate the life of an up-and-coming star. This mode is average at best, but it's something to play past the standard franchise modes, so in that regard, it's a refreshing addition. The jewel of these features, however, is the absurdly deep franchise mode, which plays unlike anything previously offered by the Live franchise or any other basketball game. From three-way trades and player interaction to the scouting of European players, everything here works well, and for the first time in a few years, it does not feature any flaws for which past 2K titles have been known.

One of the most important aspects of any X360 sports title is Xbox Live play, where 2K7 exceeds everyone's expectations. Sure, you can play one-on-one ranked matches or try to climb the leaderboards, but the most exciting feature is the ability to have an online league. Setting up and managing a league is nothing new to the 2K7 series, but it is something severely lacking in Live's online play. Although Live's vanilla multiplayer is all right, the online league allows for a level of immersion far deeper than anything Live has to offer. I was smack-talking other league owners, then struggling to back it up. Just as in real life, some games are easy wins, and some games are tough, but the fact that there is such a difference between the two speaks volumes of the gameplay depth in Xbox Live. User-run leagues are a no-brainer in the age of mass online play, and it is here that 2K7 blows away its competition.

Graphics also dramatically outshine those in the Live franchise. The arenas are 100% accurate, with the little additions drawing you into the game the most. For instance, on the sidelines, players cheer and jump, sit and talk, argue, and generally follow the game. The crowd cheers for you and draws you in their noise, dictating the kind of night you are really having. Unfortunately, an issue that continues to plague next-gen sports titles also makes an appearance here – people's faces are still a far cry from resembling their real-life counterparts. Of course, superstars have the best likenesses, but even some of them look a little strange. For instance, I don't really understand why Iverson looks so much like Carmello Anthony, and vice versa. This is just one minor issue that can be overlooked, especially since the players move and act so much like their counterparts.

When it comes to playing a deep, exciting, and realistic simulation of basketball, NBA 2K7 is your game. If playing basketball is what you want to do on your X360, then just play 2K7 anyway and forget about NBA Live's shoddy physics and gameplay. With a plethora of deep features, an incredible online mode and some of the most immersive animations and graphics ever, 2K7 far outshines the competition. It isn't perfect, as the A.I. sometimes seems to be a bit too tough, and the player face issues really do nag at you. All in all, when it comes to a great basketball title, NBA 2K7 isn't just your best bet – it's really your only bet.

Score: 8.5/10


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