It's time for another instalment of the long-running NBA Live franchise: NBA Live 08. It has undergone an extreme visual makeover and, simply put, looks fantastic. Player animations and movements have been stepped up to look more realistic, without removing the arcade gameplay completely. There is also the addition of three new game modes; the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championship, Quick Pick Play, and Scenario Play. Dynasty mode is still intact along with the enjoyable modes inside the All-Star weekend.
NBA Live 08 isn't only visually impressive, but the gameplay feels a lot smoother than previous entries into the series. Players contact and movement looks a lot more realistic and fluid, but sometimes the transition from passing the ball to dunking looks like a hard cut to the next animation. The trick-stick works a lot more seamlessly, so spinning around a defender then taking a side step followed by a fade away jump shot is much easier to perform this instalment. Knowing where you're going to take your next shot from can now be decided with a new feature that allows you bring up each individual players' "Hot and cold" spots on the court. By holding the LB button areas of the court are shown as red, yellow, or blue (hot, warm, or cold). The red areas will be your best bet to take a shot from and blue being your cold spot, so chances are lower. This is a great feature allowing you to make better use of each player.
One of the big features implemented back in NBA Live 06 was the Freestyle Superstar control, where an NBA Superstar would either be a Shooter, High Flyer, Scorer, or Playmaker. Superstars would have the use of signature moves and extra abilities on court -- this has now been scrapped in NBA Live 08 and doesn't feel like a loss whatsoever.
The Dynasty season mode, All-Star weekend's 3-point Shootout, Slam-Dunk Competition, All-Star and Rookie games still remain intact with only slight changes. There is now the addition of three new game modes, one which is in the spirit of the upcoming 2008 Olympics -- The FIBA World Championship game mode. This involves eight countries in a knockout competition; France, Germany, USA, Greece, Argentina, Spain, China, and Italy. Yes, unfortunately our Australian boys were left out of the line-up.
There is then Quick Pick Play, which will definitely be a favourite among NBA fans, giving you the ability to pick each player for each team on-the-fly. So instead of messing around in the team trade menu to construct your own dream team, it is now a much easier process. The final new game mode -- Scenario Play -- really isn't anything exciting. Essentially, you are given the options of time, score, fouls, teams playing and numerous others to put together a desired scenario. For example, it's the Miami Heat versus Milwaukee Bucks, the score is 110-111 with 35 seconds to spare, and you can play it out to decide the winner.
On the Xbox Live! side of things you can sign-up to compete in 32-player online tournaments. However, from our time online we couldn't see any running as of yet. You can also go up against others in the usual ranked and unranked games in simple versus or Quick Pick Play. There are online leader boards so you can see how you stack up against the rest of the world, but unfortunately there was no Australian filter available. We still experienced smooth gameplay in our matches online and it proved to be a lot more fun that battling the computer.
In-game visuals have been upgraded quite extensively and look nothing short of spectacular. While player animation sequences look a lot smoother and closer to realism, they don't always blend together seamlessly. Bear in mind that these are only small glitches and could be addressed in future game updates via Xbox Live. Player detail in itself is the selling point. Each player looks spectacular, with NBA Live 08 taking advantage of the next-generation capabilities. Each player resembles their real-life counterparts almost perfectly and the amount of detail in skin texture and tattoos looks almost lifelike. Single beads of sweat roll down their faces and the light reflecting off their skin is very impressive.
The court has nice lighting and reflection effects which looks much better than previous efforts. However, all this lovely eye candy has left you with a huge 90 second loading time for each game. Mind you, they have implemented NBA Trivia to keep you entertained while you wait. The user menu has undergone a revamp as well to make it match the FIFA 08 menu system, which works well. As always there is an awesome hip-hop soundtrack to back every NBA Live game and this is no different -- featuring such artists as; CL Smooth, KRS-One, Timbaland, Eve and many more.
The addition of new gameplay modes is a good bonus but not something that will provide a ton of extra playtime. NBA Live 08 receives its praise for its upgraded gameplay system and awesome graphics. Having the Online Tournament feature is a great addition to the Xbox Live! arena and should hopefully prove popular in the future.