Sony is looking to make a rebound amongst the b-ball crowd with its upcoming release of NBA 06. Compared to their initial effort, NBA 06 is a significant step up overall in terms of execution, gameplay modes and entertainment value. Last week, we spent some time with an early build to experience how the game fares so far.
This year's edition comes strong with a variety of game modes to satisfy diehard and casual fans of the sport. Eager to see any distinct improvements, I went straight into a standard match. Once the action was underway, (and I know this is probably a minor thing), but I was instantly impressed that the developers wisely incorporated color commentary. You can't imagine how much that livens up the entire experience, unlike the previous installment which was practically devoid of any authentic b-ball sounds.
The controls seem a lot tighter than I remember, and I appreciate the fact you can take advantage of several new offensive maneuvers including the ability to pump fake or spin around your opponent. Players will appreciate the game also features a Shot Meter where green corresponds to a potentially successful shot, yellow is marginal, and red signifies that an air ball session is in progress. Initially, I was under the impression the colors affected the timing of the shot, but some additional time with the game proved otherwise. In addition, players have the option to either use the "clutch shooting" or the default "press and hold" release system. If you're not certain which one to use, there's also a "training mode available, allowing you to brush up on your shooting skills.
As stated earlier, NBA 06 is loaded with a chockfull of game modes. I always have to applaud developers make that extra effort to offer elements that expand the title's replay value. I spent some time with HORSE (be the first to spell out the word to win) and was convincingly defeated by the CPU. Guess it's safe to say I won't be appearing on a Wheaties box anytime soon. The Dodgeball event was also enjoyable, although it seemed to be a tad buggy. Obviously since this is a work-in-progress, I didn't sweat it much, though it was disheartening when it lead to occasional freezes. Other notable modes of interest include a 3-point contest mode, full season, and the ability to go against the pros in an All-Star competition.
For those who have fond memories of trading cards when they were a kid (or perhaps you still do) will appreciate that NBA 06 will offer something very similar. Players can take capture any highlight play of their choice as a virtual card for their collection or trade them with others. Of course, it's pure novelty, things like this are bound to grab the attention of enthusiasts who thrive on extras. Which reminds me, multiplayer support is back in full effect, either locally or nationally. You know them formally as Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure Mode.
So far, NBA 06 is shaping up to be a much improved effort than its predecessor. Avid b-ball fans who've likely been awaiting EA to release a PSP equivalent of Live are bound to be watching this title closely before deciding if they'll invest. Come this Fall, we'll find out if it ends up being nothing but net.