Monday, November 19, 2007


OK, I admit it, I’m a sports junkie. I watch the games, join fantasy leagues and, of course, play the video games. That’s why I was excited by the arrival of NBA 2K8. Perhaps I could make up for the Cavs’ poor showing in last season’s Finals by leading LeBron and company to a ring.

As soon as I started the game, I decided to skip single games or a single season and jumped into the Association mode. That’s really just 2K’s fancy name for its franchise option. As with most sports titles these days, you have the choice of starting with the standard rosters or participating in a fantasy draft. You can also adjust the usual options such as computer trading, trade deadline, etc. My first order of business was to add David West to my team via trade. However, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Thanks to salary cap restrictions, I had to tinker with the trade offer in order to make things work. In the end, I was able to find a suitable offer (Drew Gooden and a 1st Round Draft pick were part of it) and the pride of Xavier University was my new starter at the Power Forward spot (and Morris Peterson my new Point Guard). If I wanted, I could have tried to make things happen by performing a three-team trade, a very nice feature of 2K8. Now it was gametime.

I won the opening tip, and then it was brick city. It’s not that the gameplay is that difficult, but the instruction manual doesn’t give a great idea how to use the features. You have the choice of using the “X” button to shoot or you can utilize the shot stick. But, how does the shot stick work? The manual doesn’t really tell you and, like many games these days, you have to use tutorials loaded into the game. Of course I probably could have practiced before jumping into a franchise, but who wants to do that? Eventually I got the hang of things and started winning some games (including my first “W” in a buzzer-beating three by Peterson). I do have to say, though, that I may have done a little better early on if I didn’t miss so many inside shots. But, after talking with some others, the inside inconsistency is a common complaint. Luckily it’s not so bad that it ruins the experience.

During the season you can change the roles of your players. Starter? Role player? Sixth man? Bench warmer? You decide who gets the minutes and how many. But be careful. Players who aren’t happy with their role can affect the team chemistry. Scheduling practices is another in-season feature.

You also have the option to scout players from the college game. This is done by either using players created by the game or by importing a draft class from College Hoops 2K8. Being that the college version hasn’t hit shelves yet, I went with the created version. Either way, it’s something that adds to the experience and is well done. You also jump into free agency after the season and have a chance to improve your team by throwing big money at players who can help your team. You even have “No Trade” clauses at your disposal.

If you are getting a little bored with using the same team all the time, you can mix things up by entering a three-point shootout or a slam dunk competition. When I first saw the dunk option, I was skeptical. But 2K did a nice job with it and it’s a plus for the game. Just be sure to practice before you jump into action.

The usual on-line options are there, as well as leagues utilizing a fantasy draft. Log on and try to take your favorite players to a title.

Truth be told, I didn’t take my Cavs to a title. But with some off-season tinkering and an improved post game, all courtesy of the franchise mode, I’ll have another chance…and another…and another…and another. Hey, in Cleveland we’re use to the “wait ‘til next year” line.

GAMEPLAY: The game is smooth and provides a quality sim. The controls function well, although it would have been nice to have a more descriptive instruction manual. The inside game could use a little tweaking, as could the shot stick, but both are minor issues.

GRAPHICS: Well done. Players' faces are, for the most part, recognizable during the games and the sizes for the players is pretty representative of what you’ll see in a real game. The courts/arenas are good, although the crowds are nothing special.

SOUND: Announcers are about what you would expect. Nothing great, but they do add to the game – until the get repetitive.

EXTRAS: Slam Dunk Contest, Three Point Shootout, Amateur Draft, Fantasy Draft, Free Agency…it’s all here. Unless you want to scout grade school kids, NBA 2K8 has about all the features you could ask for.

GRADE: 89%

This title should be good for anyone old enough to play it. I didn’t come across anything obscene or mature in nature while playing. It’s just good, old basketball.

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