It's a miracle that 2K Games continues to prosper and thrive in an area of the games market so completely dominated by the EA Sports empire. The secret of their success is akin to the rise and rise of Konami's FIFA-defying Pro Evolution series - sheer gaming quality. Matt Martin's review tells you everything you need to know about why this game eclipses EA's NBA Live offering, so let's get on with the PlayStation 3 version of the game and its key advantage over the Xbox 360 game: the 1080p graphics mode.
For a start, it's a sport in itself to actually locate it. One of my major bugbears with 1080p support on any console game is the fact that it's impossible to switch between resolutions in-game as you would on PC. Instead you're forced to quit back to the console front-end, switch to 1080p, and reload. In NBA 2K7, even this isn't enough. Astonishingly you need to disable 720p altogether (!), enable 1080p and then reload.
The developers at 2K games are giving us a message here and perhaps that message is that they do not really want you to find this mode; that running in 720p provides the optimal experience. Or perhaps, similar to Virtua Fighter 5, it's merely a bilinear software upscaler at work designed to plug the hole in the PS3's hardware that stops 720p-specific games working on older 1080i HDTVs. But no. NBA 2K7 certainly looks like a bona fide native resolution 1080p game, and while it does lag just a tad on the odd occasion compared to its performance at 720p, it's clearly the mode to engage if you have the requisite display hardware. However, for curiosity's sake I loaded up the game in 1080p on Xbox 360 and while it's clearly scaled up from 720p, the difference to the PS3 version is not that significant, something readily apparent in the screenshot comparison.
The other headline addition to the PS3 version of the game involves Sixaxis support for the process of taking a free throw. The right stick control method witnessed in the Xbox 360 version is still there if you want it (buried within the options) but with the Sixaxis, you're using the motion sensor to guide and power your throw. This actually works fairly well - while it lacks the comfort, familiarity and precision of using the right-stick, it feels more real somehow, more intuitive.
This is the kind of PS3 conversion that I like - thought has gone into the unique properties the controller offers, while acknowledging their limitations. And while the enhanced graphical support is no doubt possible on 360 (even with scaling it's not a million miles away as is) it's a good example of how the developers have taken on-board Sony's 'TrueHD' marketing and actually delivered it with little in the way of compromise.
2K Games' ice hockey epic was released to much critical acclaim, snaffling a much-coveted 9/10 Eurogamer review mark in the process - and the PlayStation 3 version of the title is pretty much exactly the same as the superb 360 title. It's a sports game that 'does' the realism and the requisite licensed stuff, but also delivers quality gameplay and good fun for those not 100% enthused by the sport. Ice Hockey as a sport is fast, brutal and skilful - perfect ingredients for a great videogame.
There's little to add to the original Eurogamer review because the PS3 and Xbox 360 games are extremely close both in terms of features and technical performance, but one element where the PS3 version does offer something new and different is in a couple of interesting implementations of the Sixaxis's motion sensor.
During normal gameplay, a swift twist in the direction of an opposing player is enough to perform a full-on body check, sending him flying. It's not in any way more effective than just pressing a joypad button, but in the heat of the moment it's simply quite good fun - a small embellishment from a developer's perspective, but one that just feels right. The same goes for the goalie control, which is also hived off to the Sixaxis - tilting left and right controls the goalkeeper's field of view, with forward and backward placing his blocks against oncoming players. Again, simple but effective.
In short, NHL 2K7 is a really solid PS3 offering and easily better than the equivalent EA Sports game and more than that it's still worthwhile even if you're not into the sport itself. Give it a go on rental and you'll see what I mean.
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