Passing is once again lousy, especially if you're not using icon passing. Any long pass stands a good chance of being intercepted or rolling out of bounds while the intended recipient just stands and watches it go by. Sometimes the ball doesn't go where you want it to and sometimes it goes really slowly for no good reason. Playing defense is a nightmare because there's no way to stay in front of most players. The computer-controlled teams aren't at the same disadvantage because they're somehow able to keep ballhandlers suctioned to their hips. You can lose them if you call for a pick or jerk the analog stick around doing spins and crossovers, but it doesn't feel very realistic. The games are typically pretty close and the action is fast-paced, but at best, the game plays the same as last year. At worst, it's a step back.
Hopefully, you enjoy the new Life because everything else is the same as last year. There's a bare-bones single-season mode and then a bunch of minigames. Own the court is a timed head-to-head shooting challenge that's pretty fun and the three-point contest is entertaining against friends for a few rounds. Skills challenge, where you dribble, pass, and shoot on an obstacle course, is just as uninteresting as it was last year. You can participate in a two-on-two game on the playground or take part in a number of useful drills to perfect your moves. You'll have already done these in a more enjoyable setting if you've played The Life, but it's always good to have a way to practice. Online play is part of the package, but as of this writing, we were unable to find anyone to play against.
The life of an NBA player isn't easy. See for yourself in the third iteration of The Life.
NBA 08's presentation is stuck in neutral. Once again the motion-capture work done during The Life's cutscenes is of a high quality. A lot of work went into making the cutscenes look believable and it shows. But it's too bad the rest of the game looks so poor. The frame rate is slow and choppy. It's not so bad during drills, but when you start running full-court, it's erratic to the point where it's sometimes difficult to tell what's going on. Arenas haven't seen any noticeable improvement either--they're really dark and all look the same. Last year's game was missing play-by-play, but NBA 08 fixes this with the addition of Kevin Calabro and Mark Jackson as announcers. They're passable, but they don't have a lot to say and frequently ignore big plays. This is mostly an issue on unexpected plays, like when a player misses a free throw but a teammate comes flying in for a dunk--Calabro won't even mention the dunk but will instead talk about the miss. Voice acting isn't up to last year's standards, but it's not bad by any means. There's just a little too much mumbling this time around.
Because the PS2 is on its way out, you wouldn't expect Sony to put a lot of new features into NBA 08, but it certainly wouldn't have been unreasonable to expect a bit more effort cleaning up some of 07's flaws. Still, if you've previously found yourself enjoying The Life or you're tired of the bland franchise options of other games, NBA 08 is worth a cautious look.