At this point in time, it would be highly advantageous if Sony were to use these early days of PS3 reestablishing themselves in the wide-open world of sports gaming, a genre they once were dominant in on PlayStation but utterly forgettable on PS2, save for the outstanding MLB The Show series. EA Sports is clearly on the decline, and 2K Sports hasn't run in to nab the throne from them, at least not yet and probably won't until Madden loses it's EA exclusivity. To unleash a horde of high-quality sports titles would give Sony a huge advantage in the console arena, given their 1st party nature. That said, NBA 07 is...a start. It's based mostly on the NBA 07: The Life game from PlayStation 2, just beefed up for PlayStation 3 launch, only for $20 more than that game, you get less features and prettier graphics...but at the same time, solid, but not spectacular basketball action that shows great promise but has a long way to go all the same. On the bright side, it's better than NBA Live 07, but that's not saying much. PS3 owners should thank whoever they thank for this sort of thing that EA canned the version for their new console.
Recommend this product?
The PS3 version of NBA 07 sadly drops its most creative feature The Life. It doesn't replace a deep and involving multi-season franchise, but The Life was an interesting idea that showed promise, and with the increased power of PS3 and the bump in disc capacity with Blu-Ray, the possibilities are that much more. Maybe that's why they dropped it this time around, to spend the next year tweaking and tuning it to perfection. Let's hope. Without it, the game is extremely weak on features there's a requisite season mode with limited stat tracking, the ability to play an entire NBA Playoffs, the fun mini-games from the PSP versions, including the 3-point shootout, and a couple online options. Naturally it's possible to play against others, but so far the ranks have been thin (the day I got the game I logged in online and got game invites about 20 times while playing an offline season game...either I'm popular or the only other effing person online playing). The other online feature is more promising NBA Replay. Upon logging in online (in the game, not via the XMB), the game downloads real-life scenarios and then you can go into the menu and play them out quite fun. But otherwise, very shallow the game doesn't even have announcers, instead there's just a PA announcer. Why have the TNT license when you don't use it other for score overlays?
On the court, you get solid action with a pretty picture, but some stuff will leave basketball fans scratching their heads. The action runs at a solid 60 FPS (even at 1080p), and though clearly it's an upconversion from PS2, it looks pretty sharp. You'll know the difference between Steve Nash and, say, Pat Burke even without looking at jersey numbers. Anyway, Sony's got a pair of unconventional mechanics that mostly work. Way back at the PSP launch, Sony's NBA introduced a shooting halo that showed how good the shot was red for bad, yellow for okay, and green for money. Now it's evolved into an MVP Baseball styled wind-up release the shot poorly or with someone in your face and it'll be red, get a decent shot off and it'll be yellow (and may or may not go in), and release at the top of the jump for green, though it's no guarantee that it's headed in the basket. I really like this mechanic, as it goes a long way to helping someone improve their skills, though admittedly it can be abused by skilled players over time. The game also uses the Sixaxis for dribbling tricks, like spins, crossovers, and the like. It works...but it's easier done with the right analog stick since chances are your thumb is already there.
At the same time, NBA 07 offers some annoying 'features' that betray its attempt to be a basketball simulation. First and foremost is the 'Showtime' meter that gives bonuses like better speed and shot accuracy. It somewhat works like a momentum swinger, but it barely works and when it does, it generally makes the game unfun because either you're hitting everything, or the AI is killing you. Thankfully it can be turned off, making for a more realistic game. Sadly, unless I'm blind, you can't turn off the other annoying trick, that being the ability to know whether or not a shot is going on. It's not noticeable when you make a shot, naturally, but when a shot is not going in, a flashing halo will appear, which while useful in knowing where to get in place for a rebound, takes all the drama out of a shot, as you know when it's good and when it's not the instant it leaves the player's hand.
If you can put that set of annoyances aside, NBA 07 manages to be a decent game of basketball, even if it leans towards an arcade-style experience. There's not really a whole lot of defense, mostly because of a flaw in how your AI teammates handle situations if you try covering someone else, they'll run off to cover another guy instead of sticking for a double-team, and if by chance you get burned on d, the low-post players don't recognize the player driving to the lane until it's too late (even if you take control yourself there's a delay), leading to far too many easy baskets the bread and butter of the AI schemes. You can call some assignments here and there, such as tightening coverage, but nothing really in-depth and thus these same problems keep popping up. On the other hand, if you're a good enough player it's possible to completely screw up the game plan and force lots of mistakes and violations, but it does require some work to pull off. There's not a lot of defensive tricks like on offense; it's possible to reach in for a steal and block shots, but nothing else.
On offense, there's a bit of strategy involved, but it's hampered my some truly bizarre design choices. The icon passing makes it easy to find the guy you want, and on more challenging difficulty levels, you actually have to work the ball around to get an open shot, as the shot meter will punish you for taking a shot with someone in your face. So either you have to use the special moves to sneak around, or pump fake and get the opposing player to jump, or just play Nash and pass the ball between legs or around opponents to get the easy inside hoop. The problem is, there's no variety to how the AI teammates run the floor almost every single play they line up at the exact same spot, making it easy to exploit the AI by just doing the same things over and over. It probably has to do with the ridiculous decision to 'pause' the game between baskets, allowing every player to head to the other side of the court automatically, making fast breaks completely impossible unless off a rebound. It just doesn't make sense to do something like that.
NBA 07 is not a great game...but yet it's a good attempt at next-gen hoops, and hey, it's not the train-wreck that's NBA Live 07. What's here is promising, but bogged down by bad design choices and a woefully weak feature set that goes against 10 years of progress in the sports genre. Yet again, as much as the game is flawed and funky, it manages to be fun in spurts, and an alternative if NBA 2K7 doesn't float your boat. Clearly Sony is onto something here with NBA 07, as it's not the disaster that past hoops games have been from them, especially in the early PS2 days, so hopefully by the time we get around to NBA 08, they've ironed out the kinks and given us a real franchise setup, along with a return of The Life. Keep what's good and take out what's a miserable failure and the possibilities are endless, and it might be the catalyst to a revitalized 1st party sports division.