The one sport I’ve constantly tried to enjoy in both playing and watching has to be basketball. For many-a-year I’ve been on the court having a few games, and as much as I have enjoyed it, I haven’t stuck at it. The same goes for watching it too. I used to watch it about a decade ago when they showed highlights on terrestrial TV, and when I’ve been up at all hours, I’ve watched it on five to no avail. Now to try and get me ‘in the game’, it’s time for EA’s ever growing franchise of sports, with NBA Live 08.

Having not touched a basketball game since ESPN NBA 2K5 on the PlayStation 2, it was a pleasant surprise at how quick I got sucked into the game. Sure I’m a sports fanatic, but I really enjoyed just going into a Quick Match to get used to the controls and see how it differed from the last basketball game I played three years ago.

When you’ve made your way through the menus and trivia questions, you get while you‘re waiting for it to load, the first thing noticeable are the great visuals. From the animated crowd movement welcoming you on to the court, to the actual bodily visuals of each of the players—do they have some muscles or what! The facial features do look fantastic and having watched a few minutes of the sport each week, it’s amazing how the game looks like the real thing, a great achievement from last year’s title in which the game was quite poor. Visually, NBA Live 08 scores with an impressive slam-dunk.

The actual game plays very well, but it’s also all too easy to put the ball through the hoop. Running smoothly, NBA Live 08 is fun and frustrating… at least you me. I’m not one to complain about fouls in videogames, but how quick did I get annoyed with the constant fouls I was conceding when going in for a steal? The answer is very quickly; I don’t have patience for stop-starting games and it really did frustrate me. Although it does get annoying for a ’newb’ like me, once I got used to it, I actually started to enjoy the game, running the court, passing and movement, it actually did look like I was watching a basketball match, not playing, very impressive to say the least.

You have the usual modes that you find in EA games, Career Mode, Quick Match etc. and all of them add to the lifespan of the game. You can go online and take on some basketball nut who is hoping to run rings around you, but it’s all too easy to score those points, making the experience too dull, and there’s no feeling of ‘victory’ when you win a match as it is constantly end-to-end action with a 95% success-rate of scoring 2 or 3 points. If you don’t score the majority of your points without it getting intercepted, it’s time to stay in the training court while you learn how to get those baskets, as it’s really easy!

The controls in the game are easy to get used to with ‘A’ being used to pass, ‘B’ to shoot and so on, but the new addition to the game is the use of the right analog stick which is used for ‘Quick Strike’; this allows you to do some fancy trickery like run the ball through your legs or just plain fancy dribbling moves, it is quite fun to dribble fancily through your opponents, even if you can’t do it in life.

Audio in the game is quite attractive for someone like me with the Hip-Hop/Rap/RnB genre being the genre of choice. Tracks from the likes of superstars like Timbaland, Mark Ronson and the Brit-turned-American, Joss Stone. Commentary is spot on with each of the commentators keeping up to date with the game, and no spontaneous outbursts of something that happened 7 or 8 seconds ago. Good, solid commentary and reactions from the crowd and the genre of music to suit my taste – EA should be proud of themselves for making me have an enjoyable experience on a sports game other than FIFA.

As you can probably tell by now, I’m pretty much a virgin to basketball, but NBA Live 08 was a pleasant experience for me, but unfortunately it’s not a game I could constantly play as I don’t enjoy the sport enough. Basketball fans will no doubt enjoy the modes on offer as well as the online play which includes online leagues for you to battle it out with family or friends, or just random people. It’s fair to say that the game is a solid game of basketball that I’d recommend to basketball fans and those who are interested in getting into the game—so long as your expectations are a bit tempered.

Arron Hanley

Based in the chav-infested city of Manchester, but not in the nicest part by any means, Arron (referred to as Hanley on all occasions) joined the ranks of Console Monster as a first-look contributor before making the leap onto reviewing. After a few bribes, he took the role of General Editor. Having being an alcoholic from the age of 16, Hanley can be found in the few local pubs, down at ditch at work, or on his beloved Xbox360. Also an avid football follower, Hanley follows the blue half of Manchester and really does hate Manchester United fans.

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