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NBA 2K7 Review

Developer: Visual Concepts Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: September 26, 2006 Also On: PS2, PS3 and Xbox

Visual Concepts came out strong with the Xbox 360 launch last fall, launching a solid basketball title in NBA 2K6. Last year, I said, “[NBA 2K6 is] an enhanced version with features that you’ve got to see on the new console.” The shiny next-generation paint that covered NBA 2K6 didn’t wear off quickly, since the game was supported with loads of gameplay modes and fantastic on-court action. This season, Visual Concepts came up short. NBA 2K7 has its improvements, but they’re all in the wrong area.

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NBA 2K7 is still loaded with modes. That’s probably its strongest point; there are a lot of different things to do. The two fully-loaded modes are the same as last year; 24/7 and Association. Association is slightly improved from last year, offering all of the same franchise and owner options that you’d expect. 24/7 allows you to create a player–or, more appropriately, a “baller”–and your goal is to put this baller into a pro-am tournament at Rucker Park in New York. The story’s stale, the dialogue and voice acting are terrible, and the slow-paced gameplay of the 2K series makes 24/7 too slow for its street ball theme. Despite its problems, Association is solid enough to draw the most attention, and it’s this mode that I put most of my energy into.

Last year, one of my few complaints was that NBA 2K6 simply isn’t accessible to a lot of players. It offered a slower, more sim-like pace to basketball that was quite unlike the quick EA Sports NBA Live franchise. This slow pace meant that there were less crossover moves and very limited flexibility. Quite ironically when put up after the last statement, NBA 2K6 allowed players to drive the lane very easily and score on loads of fast break opportunities. NBA 2K7 “fixes” all of this by making the game more “realistic.” The easy lay-ups and dunks of NBA 2K6 have been benched for the invisible walls and impervious defenses that start in NBA 2K7. Say goodbye to points in the paint. There still aren’t a lot of quick moves that allow you to spin around defenders, and the button I called the “dip and drive button” from last season is missing, making lane drives even harder. Field goal percentages are extremely low, and it was far too often that I’d miss a wide-open outside shot with a talented shooter for completely unknown reasons. It’s not the release, it’s not how open the shooter is–sometimes I felt that it’s just the luck of the rim that the ball would actually fall through the net.

The A.I. is just terrible. The awareness of my players seemed to be equal to that of someone in a coma. I’d swat and swat at the basketball, hoping for a steal, and eventually be successful in knocking the ball away. Sadly, after knocking the ball away, the opponent would almost always zip right to the ball and pick it back up, and I’d watch in frustration as my nearby teammate would watch it all happen. Everything’s worse under the hoop when you talk about rebounds–don’t even bother staying around the perimeter, trusting your big guys to catch the ball when it clangs off the rim. Rebounding is something you simply have to do manually if you hope to get the ball back. What’s the deal?

Unfortunately, when gameplay needed improvements in the off-season, Visual Concepts simply didn’t respond. Instead, they opted to create the most realistic basketball experience ever seen on-screen, and they did a great job at that. NBA 2K6 looked great as an Xbox 360 launch title, with its new cloth physics and super-real player models. NBA 2K7 takes everything a step further and adds a fantastic presentation and hundreds of smooth new animations to the mix. I was quite impressed with the different action replay cameras and diagrams that would pop up during the game, and most of those diagrams were especially informative. For example, there’s one that I really liked that pops up and quickly shows you the high scorers for your team. The animations are the bread and butter of NBA 2K7, and you’ll see players move more realistically and with more momentum and weight than ever before. In the rare occasion that you successfully score in the post, you’ll see players try to play physical and cut around defenders, hang on the rim for a little flair, and jump around reaching for rebounds. It’s quite a sight to see.

The new animations do create another gameplay-related problem. Every single player that I encountered had a unique style for their jump shots and free throws, meaning that the timing that must be learned to make a shot was different for every one of the players in the NBA. Some of the shots allow some flexibility in terms of release, but most of them make everything more difficult. Free throws are so difficult this year that I hardly ever tried to make one. If you’re forced to go to the line with Shaquille “Hold On, I’m Learning Trigonometry And Giving Birth While Shooting This Free Throw” O’Neal, you’ll understand what I mean.

All in all, NBA 2K7 has to be tinkered with to enjoy. The difficulty absolutely has to be toned down, the A.I. has to be stupified, and the foul frequency has to be limited. After adjusting sliders, I found a lot more enjoyment in the action. The random misses happened less. Wide open shots went in as they should. Driving the lane was a possibility. Even on the Rookie difficulty setting, I didn’t ever blow the CPU away. Is this challenge a problem? For veterans of 2K’s franchise, it shouldn’t be too bad–but I found the game to be a lot better once the sliders were adjusted. I had a legitimately fun time playing the game then, but manually dumbing a game down shouldn’t be so necessary.

In terms of sound, NBA 2K7 has decent on-the-court ambience but the commentators really need to get in a booth and record some new lines. I’ve heard all of this before, and there’s so much repeated content that I started counting how many times they announcers would say, “They really need to take a time out,” or, “I think they’ll go two-for-one here.” I think I heard the latter before the end of every single quarter.

NBA 2K7 drops the ball. That’s all there is to it. It’s not an awful game, but it is riddled with gameplay flaws that weren’t apparent in last year’s next-gen debut. The visuals are great, the presentation is great, all the modes are there–but when the game isn’t as fun to play as it is to simulate, it isn’t worth your $30, your $60, or really any amount of your money.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide