It’s a story we’ve seen on the real-life hardwood. A young superstar is billed as the next “Jordan.” His game seems bullet-proof and his ceiling looks unlimited. Then, suddenly, he just kind of flattens out. Vince Carter, are you listening? Sure, he continues to put up big numbers, and is fun to watch, but he never hit the next level. In the vid world, NBA 2K8 has hit that same plateau on current-gen platforms. Whether due its hardware limitations or the understandable increase in attention to the 360/PS3 versions, there’s a lack of real progress in the PS2′s 2K8 game. It’s no surprise that a series is hitting the wall on a seven-year-old console, but gamers who bought last year’s version will definitely want to read on before plunking down $30 on 2K8.
Right from the opening tip, it’s clear that the PS2 version is more role-player than frontline starter. The Blacktop Mode and off-the-ball controls present in the next-gen versions aren’t to be found here. Most of what you see, apart from a few fancier graphical layouts on the menu screens, has been in the series for a while.
PS2 gamers have come to expect tight control from their Dual Shocks, and NBA 2K8 delivers in this department. Passing, shooting and wicked dribble moves take some modicum of stick skill, but aren’t overly hard to learn. And if you’re trying to cross people over with Mark Madsen, forget it. NBA 2K8 has in-depth player ratings that stay true-to-life on the court.
Graphically, the game is clean and subtly improved. Super-sheen skin textures have been toned down, lending to a more natural, human, appearance. You won’t see photo-realistic faces and the uniform-crinkling effects found on next-gen versions, but anyone playing on the deuce was probably prepared for that. Players are still easily distinguishable and the arenas are on the mark. More signature shooting styles have been added for the game’s bigger stars, enhancing the immersive nature of the game. New dunk animations also spring from the floor, bringing a smile to any true hoophead’s face.
The control scheme leans heavily on 2K8′s Isomotion system. You control your player’s motions, dribble/drive animations and shots with the analog sticks (face button options are still available). Isomotion is a mixed bag on the PS2. You don’t need it to be successful, but mastering it allows you to enjoy the game’s fine animation work. The problem is the controls are nowhere near as refined as the next-gen editions. Isomotion requires precise timing and movement of the analog sticks to perform ankle-breaking crossovers, spins and triple-threat moves. Miss the timing or move the stick a quarter-circle instead of a full half-circle and you’ll get the wrong move. This leads to, at the very least, a breakdown of the offensive flow. Sometimes it’ll lead to a turnover or charge. It’ll be up to you to determine the true value of Isomotion in your gameplan.