Nothing gets the crowd roaring like a man in an animal costume.
2K7's online play is a great example of how to do sports right on Xbox Live. Whether it's a quick game of one-on-one, a tournament, exhibition, or a fully-featured league you're looking for, NBA 2K7 has got you covered. The league option lets you set up and customize an online season for up to 30 players. You can allow trades, upload preferred slider settings, and even set how long people have to play their games--it's incredibly deep. You're able to check out other player's VIP profiles and even scout their playing tendencies. Should you run into a jerk, a brief series of postmatch questions will let you leave appropriate feedback. All of the options in the world don't mean a thing if the game doesn't play well online, but there's no need to worry--the game runs smooth and is very playable. NBA 2K7 has downloadable premium content in the form of a video-editing tool called the 2K ReelMaker that lets you save replays, add effects, captions, and music to them, and then lets you upload them to share online. It's not available yet, but the teaser trailer clearly says it must be purchased.
Because all 1,000 points could easily be earned in one game, NBA 2K6 has a special place in the hearts of achievement fiends everywhere. It's not nearly as easy this time. The 50 achievements are spread over a variety of gameplay accomplishments and will require a great deal of perseverance to acquire. Some achievements focus on getting a specific stat line from star players like Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Ben Wallace, or Tim Duncan, while others reward online prowess and even winning specific team rivalries on the Hall of Fame difficulty.
Perhaps the most noticeable, and certainly the most talked about, visual changes this year are the new signature style animations. The developer went through the arduous task of adding hundreds of new player-specific moves, so you'll see Shawn Marion's awkward-looking jump shot, Yao Ming's unique free throw, and Kobe Bryant's unmistakable fadeaway. Basketball aficionados will no doubt love seeing their favorite player's shot accurately re-created for the first time, but casual fans probably aren't going to notice a whole lot of difference between players' individual shots, outside of the big stars, unless they're watching a replay or shooting free throws.
The rest of the graphics are on par with last year, meaning they're generally excellent, but also starting to show their age a bit. As usual, the player animation is outstanding. There are lots of little touches that go a long way toward making it feel as though you're watching a real NBA game. Players move and react realistically to the action and will move their heads to track the ball as it's in the air, and they'll try to tip a just-out-of-reach rebound to keep it alive. You'll also notice players exhibiting more emotion--raising their hands in shock at being whistled for a foul, and hanging on the rim for emphasis after throwing down one of the game's fantastic looking dunks. The arenas are another highlight, accurately modeled and full of life. Cool things to look for are mascots and cheerleaders performing during timeouts, fans milling about the arena, and the referees signaling that a ball has been tipped on a shot.
Most of the popular players are instantly recognizable and look realistic. Lesser-known players aren't so lucky, and often look downright hideous. Player sweat and jersey movement appears to have been toned down a bit, and looks great. Those with a keen eye will notice that while both Kobe (24) and Amare (1) are sporting their new numbers, Steve Nash is still rocking his long hair from last season. As longtime fans of the series have come to expect, the frame rate is fast and silky-smooth. Of course, the same people who have grown to expect a smooth frame rate won't be surprised to learn the game suffers from frequent clipping problems, particularly during replays. The $30 difference in price between the Xbox 360 and Xbox versions make it worth noting that when viewed on a standard-definition television, the game looks considerably less impressive. This is something that budget-conscious gamers without access to an HDTV might want to consider if they still own an Xbox.
Yeah, he cuts his own hair.
One area that went virtually untouched from last year is the audio. Kevin Harlan and Kenny Smith do a fair job calling the action, but they fail to offer a whole lot of analysis, and they're quite repetitive. Plan on hearing about how a team can get a "two for one" with 30 seconds to go nearly every quarter. Sideline reporter Craig Sager gives his canned spiel at the beginning of each half. Kenny Smith shows first-half highlights and gives his "stamp of approval" to the top performers during the halftime show. It's not particularly interesting, and you'll probably end up skipping it after just a few games, but at least it's there. The players are quite talkative on the court, yelling when they're open, calling out picks, and pointing out double-teams. 2K7's soundtrack features a hefty number of hip-hop tracks, though you'd never know it, since for some reason most of them are set by default to not play, forcing you to go into the options and turn them on.
When everything manages to come together, NBA 2K7 looks and feels amazing. Watching a player in the low post receive a bounce pass, pivot one way, take a drop step the other, and finally slam the ball home is truly something to behold. Unfortunately, these instances of perfection aren't as frequent as they could be, given the preponderance of nagging gameplay issues. Those who were expecting a big leap from last year will likely be disappointed, but fans expecting only a slight improvement, or anyone looking for a great, well-rounded basketball game, will be pleased with NBA 2K7.
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