While football has the Madden franchise as its dominant franchise, the NBA license has been passed around more than the new official ball. NBA 2K, NBA Live, NBA Shootout, NBA Jam; each of these has offered something unique throughout the years and Sony's NBA series is no different. A sports game lives and dies by the modes that it provides. If a gamer can't put hour after hour into a particular team or play until the next year's installment is at hand then it comes up short.
The NBA series from Sony used some interesting stuff in last year's model and even more so previously with 989's edition. In NBA 06 Sony incorporated the dramatic Life Mode into the game with varying degrees of success. It might have been the gameplay that killed the experience but at least that particular mode added some weight to the title. With NBA 07 on the PlayStation 2 the franchise once again included The Life but the gameplay was still flawed. Unfortunately with the PlayStation 3 version things aren't looking a whole lot better.
For starters The Life has been killed. The PlayStation 3 ditches that mode completely and focuses on a couple of other things instead; namely a Season Mode and Replay feature.
The Replay Mode supplies the most creativity and longevity out of any of the gameplay modes available here. With weekly updates running the course of the NBA's current season there is a fair amount of fresh content that may keep enthusiasts coming back. Each Replay gives you a certain amount of objectives that range in difficulty from some highlight reels that fans of the sport no doubt saw while watching the game this year. This definitely helped NBA 07 feel current and tied into the real sport more so than others have in the past.
The Season is another bit of a meaty morsel that you'll no doubt be sinking your teeth into. Spanning the course of a single year though, this one feels somewhat restricting. After I built my team by trading and whatnot I was pretty disappointed by the fact that I could only get one year's worth out of it. You can't build a dynasty and play to your heart's content so if you find yourself wanting to continue the experience you'll have to start from scratch once you finish the season.
A few more mini games are around such as a Skills Challenge where you make your way through an obstacle course and Own the Court Mode where go to markers and make shots. These are entertaining and definitely worth while if you have some friends around but anybody who cut their teeth on the PlayStation 2 version probably won't feel the appeal. Unfortunately with this game engine having all of the modes in the world wouldn't really mean much because the core gameplay is flawed.
The shot system returns with a colored meter that works as a gauge for dropping the rock. Red is bad and green is good; I think you can figure that one out. It's funny though because the game implements a stamina system that is supposed to affect your player as he gets tired. The only problem is that it doesn’t work. You could easily use one player for a full three quarters and still see the same results whether you're trying to take a shot or sprint down court. It makes the whole thing kind of trivial after a while.
I do have to admit that the shot meter system is very user friendly and decent for newcomers. My problem with it was that the challenge of the game melted away once I felt familiar with it. I found myself sinking three pointer after three pointer without breaking a sweat. On the flip side the opposition almost always answered with a dunk so it's not like my scoring went completely unanswered. That leads me to another problem in the game; a lack of defense.
While you can play man to man coverage, block shots, and steal the ball there's really no point. In almost any situation the CPU will break through your defense and score at least two points. On a rare occasion you can get away without allowing them to put more on the board but it becomes pointless after a while. The AI is surprisingly straight forward in just about every regard and can often be read like a book because it makes the same plays one right after the other. This adds to the annoyance especially once the refs start calling fowls on you left and right.
I found myself getting nailed with backcourt violations before I made it beyond half court. A missed shot even turned up an out of bounds call roughly 40% of the time. Other times I was pegged for fouls that didn't even happen such as charging when there was no defense around. These don't severely hurt the experience of NBA 07 but they certainly do cause minor annoyances.
One of the things that the PlayStation 3 has going for it in terms of gameplay is the involvement of the SIXAXIS controller. By moving the controller forward, back, and side to side you can perform jukes and crossovers with ease. It takes quite a while before you can execute these moves comfortably but once you do it's definitely rewarding. These benefits are reaped mostly while playing against other human players though because the AI; like I said, is kind of dumb anyway.
Another benefit to the PlayStation 3 edition over the PlayStation 2 is the HD coat of paint that was lathered all over it. Boasting "Full 1080p" on just about every surface of the game's packaging and menu system the game makes it known quite clearly what resolution it's offering. With improved textures, sharper visuals, and better character models NBA 07 looks much better with the PS3's graphic engine behind it.
I was particularly impressed by the facial expressions on players and animation both during action and replay. Both maintain lifelike quality throughout though I do have to admit that there were plenty of times where some clipping occurred and things looked horrid. These moments weren't all that dominant but they were definitely there and hard to miss.
This is one of the few sports games that I have played where no commentary is provided. Let's just say that it makes for a very dry experience. All that is here is a lukewarm hip hop soundtrack with in game sound effects, cheers from the audience, and some announcing for particular actions and the score. These are presented just fine though I couldn't help but be under-whelmed with it all.
In the end if you're looking for basketball on the PlayStation 3 there aren't many other alternatives. NBA 07 offers somewhat decent yet flawed gameplay with a few interesting ideas such as the shot meter and SIXAXIS control. The lack of features really kills this title despite the fact that the Replay Mode offers a constant supply of updates. There have been worse basketball games over the years but this one doesn't really stand out as being one of the best.