NBA 07 Review
Let's face it, outside of the MLB franchise, Sony's sports endeavors really have little going for them. At one point NFL GameDay was the reigning champ of football games, but Madden would take the crown in 1999 and Sony never got it back. The now defunct 989 Sports has been blamed for ultimately destroying all of Sony's credibility as a sports game publisher. But things seem to be picking up. As mentioned earlier, the MLB series is not one to be forgotten about; it's the premier baseball sim on the market. But as of late, Sony's been giving a lot of focus to their NBA games and understandably so. The NBA series has been seeing some improvements as of late. The PSP's version of NBA 06 garnered some pretty decent reviews, and was received almost on par with EA's NBA Live 06. But as EA gets lazier with their franchises (NBA Live 07 and Madden NFL 07), Sony is getting a little wiser. As one of two NBA titles present on the PS3 (NBA 2K7 being the second), how well does NBA 07's first foray into next-gen stack up? Surprisingly...not as bad as I thought it would.
What surprises me the most about NBA 07 is that it feels pretty fluid. It controls well and the shooting system feels nice. In NBA 07 you make your shots by holding the circle button until the shot meter highlights green. Obviously if you don't hold it long enough you'll shoot a brick. Likewise, if you hold it too long, the same will occur. On the harder difficulties the technique will require some finesse and solid timing. Where as in Rookie, completing a shot takes absolutely no effort; as the meter will have a much larger chunk of green in it than in the other difficulties. Free throws also don't feature any quirky or frustrating techniques, and are done using the same shot meter just mentioned. Controls are pretty easy to master, and use of the SIXAXIS is made decently by allowing the player to juke, spin and do crossovers (likewise you can do all of that with the right analog stick too).
But NBA 07 is pretty barebones as far as sim games go. There aren't a whole lot of management options to tinker with unlike Visual Concepts' NBA 2K7. Essentially what you have is a quick game, online play, a season, and playoffs. Honestly, it's hard to recommend a $60 purchase this barebones when you have another game as complete as NBA 2K7 out there. The A.I isn't very smart, either. There seems to be issues with missed calls, but primarily the athletes doing the wrong things. For instance, Manu Ginobili covering Ben Wallace? Shaq stepping behind the three point line asking for a pass? Must I go on? It doesn't happen all the time, and these issues seem to even themselves out on harder difficulties, but the fact that something as elementary as that is present really demonstrates some poor A.I. work.
Much like Madden 07, there are mini-games in NBA 07, as well. But much like Madden once more, the mini-games aren't very good. Own the court is sort of fun for the first three or four times, but it loses its novelty quick. The 3-point shootout is always good fun, but only if you've got someone else to play with. The lack of a HORSE, street ball, or Around the World mini-game is sort of a sore spot, as it's certainly something that would've helped the value of the game. The online mode is feature-less, as well. But it can be decent fun if you just want to play a quick pick-up game. So if you manage to pick up a copy of the game for a decent price, give it a shot; the gameplay mechanics make playing this game online fairly enjoyable.
It's unfortunate that there is no career-like mode present for the gamer to dive into and spend countless hours on. NBA 07 does offer a mode called NBA Replay, where you have to successfully re-enact various highlights taken through the 2005/06 NBA season. The game will detail a certain criteria you have to meet in order to complete the challenge during the allotted time. There's a plethora of these Replay scenarios to complete, but some of them can be fairly confusing at times. Still, the feature doesn't quite stack up or numb the pain of a missing core mode.
The foundation of NBA 07 is a solid one. Sony's got a good playing b-ball game on their hands and all they need to do is just put some weight on it. A full blown career mode complete with management options, as well a mode where you can turn a custom player from rags-to-riches would be ideal. Otherwise, right now the game is more of a feature-less tech-demo showcasing some of the PS3's brute.
Yes, brute. NBA 07 may not be filled with a magnitude of features, but there's no denying that it can be one pretty looking game. Sony goes all out to point out that this game is capable of running 1080p. Not only does the game have it imprinted on the front of the box and the back of the box, but also when the game starts up and you're greeted with a large '1080p compatible' splash-screen. But 1080p isn't something we'd recommend, as the frame rate takes a hit. So you can play the game either in standard resolution, or in 720p. That said, for the most part NBA 07 is a good looking game, but not without a number of little visual glitches.
The good first...the players look pretty solid, with the exception of a few, and they look especially good when viewed up-close in a replay. The textures on every player are incredibly detailed, but that doesn't prevent some of the players from not looking quite right compared to their real life counterpart. The jerseys will animate and bounce when a player leaps for a dunk and then lands, and that's a pretty nice touch. The crowds react quite well to the action on the floor, as they'll throw their hands up in the air, stand up to cheer, and so forth; they're simple touches, but they add a bit to the game, overall.
Although, things do get ugly in some places. NBA 07 has some collision detection issues where players will run through each other and even have the basketball get shot through the backboard. This glitch is also commonly called "clipping". Because the collision detection suffers, the gameplay actually does a little too. For instance, players will often step out of bounds or commit a backcourt violation, but the game doesn't detect it many times, so the error goes upon blind eyes. Moving on, while some animations look nice, the athletes in NBA 07 don't animate anywhere near as fluidly and realistically as they do in NBA 2K7. Even though a number of the players in NBA 07 do demonstrate their signature shots, it's no where near as in-depth as it is in Visual Concepts' title.
What especially bugs me is some of the poor transitional animations, where the player doesn't motion smoothly as he changes direction, ball in hand or not. And as I mentioned before, the game isn't much good in 1080p with the frame rate takin a hit. Little things like this hinder the overall aesthetic appeal. Specifically if Sony can work out the motion-capturing and get those animations down, they'll have a much more convincing title to look at.
Now lastly, and perhaps worst of all, is the game's sound. Much like the rest of NBA 07, the audio is severely lacking. What is it lacking in? Presentation. Just like EA's Madden, Sony's NBA 07 has absolutely no commentary to speak of (pun intended). There is a boring soundtrack that plays during the menus, then when the game is paused there are some knock off songs that play in the stadium (Nirvana, Lil' Jon, etc.), and that's about it as far as music. You'll hear the court announcer make calls as the players make a shot, foul, error, or aid with an assist. On the court there's a little bit of chatter between players as they run around asking for a pass, shouting to D-up, calling for a pick, and so forth. For the most part, all you're going to hear is a bouncing ball and sneakers squealing against the floor-board. By now it should be clear to see that the audio is practically non-existent.
I've certainly played sports games worse than NBA 07, so I have to say that the game is playable, there just isn't much to play. The game has a number of critical problems, all of which I expect to see fixed next year. Visually, we've got a pretty decent looking game on our hands. It needs some tightening up to get rid of the clipping and the animations needs to be made smoother. The player models look good for the most part, but if Sony can just fix some of the faces, they'll be golden. It's the fact that NBA 07 is so downright hollow that makes this impossible to recommend as a $60 purchase. There is no "The Life" or any career-mode variant present in the game, the NBA Replay mode is a novelty that wears thin, and the mini-games leave a lot to be desired. NBA 07 makes for a decent pick-up game with its standard offerings of a quick-game, season mode and playoffs, but that's about it. Likewise, online suffers the same 'pick-up game' status, as it doesn't begin to measure up to NBA 2K7. Sony seems to be moving in the right direction, as they've got a good foundation to build on -- but NBA 07 isn't ready to hang with the NBA 2K series just yet.
12/10/2006 Arnold Katayev