We've officially hit the midsummer sports doldrums. The World Cup has passed and we're stuck with midseason baseball until the pennant races start to get interesting in the fall. Luckily for gamers, the summer is prime time for sports franchises. EA's biggest gun, Madden NFL 2007, is due in August, and 2K Games is set to roll out its top franchises in mid-September, right before the real sports world starts to heat up again. We recently got to check the latest Xbox 360 builds of 2K Sports' NHL 2K7 and NBA 2K7; both titles will come out on the Xbox, PS2, and Xbox 360 in September and should be PlayStation 3 launch titles.
NHL 2K6 wasn't received all that well when it arrived as an Xbox 360 launch title. A budget title on most platforms, it didn't seem to add enough to justify the three-times-higher price. With both titles being developed for next-gen consoles first, the improvements should be much more pronounced this time around. Although the gameplay in NHL 2K7 should see some improvement--online standings will incorporate NHL rules regarding ties and shoot-out wins and the franchise mode will incorporate rivalries--2K looks to improve the aesthetic elements of the game the most. The animation count has seen a significant jump, and a new "parametric" view will allow a closer look at the action while remaining familiar to those weaned on the standard overhead hockey view. 2K calls it "Cinemotion," and the reps we met likened the up-close action and orchestral score to the classic NFL Films Superbowl documentaries.
NBA 2K7 is getting its fair share of graphical upgrades; each starter in the game has a signature move whether it be the unique way he shoots, passes, or dribbles. There's also better loose ball physics and more realistic contact, but the biggest new addition is the 24/7: NEXT mode. Like the Life Mode in Sony's NBA '06, NBA 2K7's new mode is a single-player story mode based heavily on streetball. It seems as though the mode will eschew the standard "get into the NBA" narrative, instead focusing more on the street basketball experience. Hopefully, the mode will be fleshed out enough to stand next to the always-stellar standard b-ball modes.