The intro to NBA 07 sets the stage nicely for the series' newest feature appropriately named The Life, which puts players in the $200 kicks of an up and coming NBA star named the kid as he progresses through his life on and off the court. I was initially quite impressed with the general level of polish present in NBA 07. The interface is as slick as they come. Being someone who doesn't follow the NBA and doesn't really care to live "The Life", it's nice that the designers of the game kept the option to access a single game right from the main menu, without having to go through all of the steps of creating a character in The Life mode.
The core gameplay in NBA 07 is actually quite intuitive and enjoyable once you get the hang of it. I've played past NBA titles and always found them to be really playable. It seems as if there is another level of refinement to the controls. Veterans of the series will find that all of the fluidity and tightness of controls carries over from past titles fully intact and that there are even a couple of new features. An open shot indicator helps players to gage the optimum time to shoot the ball and a power boarding system allows you to aggressively go after rebounds. Basic gameplay is easy to pick up and get into. It helps when you learn to think a step ahead with regard to setting up plays. Pretty soon you're faking out guards, setting picks and tossing alley-oops with the best of them. That's not to say the game isn't challenging. The game does a good job of keeping you on your toes without being cheep about it, although there were a few occasions where I wondered why the opposing team seemed to net everything from three-point territory where I had to really focus on netting two footers. Small details aside, the gameplay in NBA 07 really stands out as reason to buy this title.
Audio for the sounds of the court and announcers is very good overall. Everything including the squeaking of sneakers does a good job of immersing players in the NBA experience. I especially liked how the announcers' banter would change to reflect the direction of the game, how the intonation in their voice and the cheers from the crowd would change to reflect the action as big plays developed. A little more variety in the comments announcers use would be welcome, but overall, the sound lends to the perception of overall quality regarding the presentation of the game. I would have been happy to go back to the single matches repeatedly, but apparently you just aren't a virtual b-ball star until you try your hand at living The Life.
I hate to say it given that the game is so fun to play, but The Life can be summed up in one word; Superfluous. It doesn't make the game any more enjoyable and for me, only acts as an annoying interruption that serves to break up the gameplay in a bad way. I can understand why NBA fans would want franchise mode or league play. I can even dig that the NBA license needs the create-a-character freedom of a Tiger Woods title. I can't, however, understand why every designer and their sister sees fit to add some sort of half baked storyline to games that don't really need it. This boring little tale of your character "The Kid" (whoa, that's creative) taking on "Big W" as they battle each other for MVP honors is just plain wrong. I guess the designers felt that players would feel as if they had more at stake if they included some character development. From the little I played in this mode, I felt nothing short of contempt for "The Kid" and his stereotypical world of material goods and bravado. It masquerades as some epic tale, when really it's just an excuse to bling out the last bastion of games requiring no narrative. At the end of the day it feels horribly tacked on, and only detracts from my overall enjoyment of the game. Think of it as NBA: DUB Edition.
There are plenty of reasons to pick up NBA 07' for fans of the series and newbies alike. The presentation is excellent, and the gameplay is as addictive as ever. Those looking at picking this game up for its new features may want to give that some thought seeing as The Life mode, seemingly the games key selling feature, adds no value to the title whatsoever. Aside from a few annoyances, it's worth checking out.