The NBA 2K series continues to reign as the number one basketball title of our generation with the release of NBA 2K7. This latest offering from 2K Sports delivers high definition media, complete with amazing ESPN-style replays and incredible half-time show that highlights Kenny Smith’s stamp of approval. The first thing players will notice is the game’s pumped up graphics! Thanks to the processing power of the Xbox 360, the mapping and rendition on 2K7’s character models impel a sharper flow of realism. As a result, you’ll see a more defined muscle tone and facial expression for athletes in NBA 2K7. Some of the game’s superstars like Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson have uncanny resemblance to their real-life counterpart, not just they way they look but the way they move.

When up close, you’ll see players drizzle with sweat dripping down off their heads as they take a move closer to the basket. During a fastbreak, their faces show serious determination as they try to battle through the tight defense, looking for a crack in the lane for a back door lay-up. The fouls here are cheap and come by frequently. The good news is that if you’re on offense, you have a sizable potential for a three-point play. On defense, however, you get fouled out a lot. Fortunately, you can alleviate some of these pressures and annoyances by adjusting the game slider from the main menu to fit your playing style. In the graphics department, the lighting effects used in the game are amazing. You’ll see reflection of players on the court shimmer off the shiny hardwood floor. You’ll also see soft shadows casting off amongst a crowd of spectators, photographers, and cheerleaders. Even the hazy flashes from the stadium’s jumbotron are prominent throughout the bleachers! .

In the animation department, things are looking very smooth here too! You will notice that the jersey of an athlete shifts according to body motion, a nice feature that is often left out by developers in the final production. Another visual feat is the emotional setting at the bench. Coach frantically paces on the side line when the score at the final quarter is too close for comfort. Fellow teammates jump up in ecstasy and root in their support after a crucial basket is made. Crowd also join the festivity as their home team leads the final seconds but boos the visiting team when making a steal or draining that long trey. But that’s not all the game’s animated amenities. You have a custodian who goes in to wipe the floor, referees who check in the ball to start play, and a mascot who tumbles his way into the center ring upon timeouts. You also have side-line ads that rotate every minute or so. All these little court side details definitely sum up to deliver an immersive basketball experience.

In the gameplay department, NBA 2K7 is definitely a step up above its predecessor. The physics have improved quite a bit and you really feel the weight of a dunk! Moving a player is relatively smooth but on rare occasions, you’ll see a few common glitches like player sliding in stasis after a hard foul or their clothes suddenly crumbled up like they have been ripped apart. Executing a spin move or any other ankle breakers may take some time getting used to. Once you feel right with the controls though, it’s actually easy to do all these fancy foot-works. The menus can be a bit frustrating to navigate through. You use the right stick to bring out the major options and then it’s a matter of tilting that joystick to confirm your choices. Needless to say, the interface used for the menus such as your season calendar, statistic logs, and player customization feature to name a few has a very nice modern style to them.

The excellent audio effects give 2K7 court-side bling. The things you hear in a real-life basketball game have been captured here accurately. Most of the monster dunks sound very ferocious to give you that feeling that you really stuffed it in. The game also gives you convincing fall when you are hit hard from a foul. Not to mention, when you are dribbling the ball, it echoes as though it is really on a hardwood floor. As far as color commentaries goes, Kevin Harlan and Kenny Smith did a nice job following the action on the court. They are pretty much on cue but their scripts are repeated too often. The best part of their commentary is when they actually mention the name of your created player as he carries out a number of impressive shots. Among other things you’ll hear on the court is the different hoop slang between players, the crowd counting down the last seconds of a quarter, and traditional stadium tunes to cheer up the home team. The music aspect of the game is fine for the most part, composing of half hip hop and hard rock soundtracks.

There are many things to like about this game such as the cool cinematic fast break that zooms in on the last shot you made. It’s also nice to see some cool replays from Kenny as he delivers his half-time stamp of approval. The commentators even has the ability to call you custom player by his real name, which is not possible in all the basketball games we have played so far. Sure these enhancements are nice but you still can’t ignore certain shortcomings. In the next installment, we would like to see the crowd receive a better facelift, smoother controls for beginners, more selection of dunks, and better color tones for player models. The online experience is not too bad. You sometimes have to put up with some lag issues. The rest of the game modes such as the Street, 24/7: Next and Situation have progressed quite a bit but there is still room for improvement. The AI in the game is good but the collision aspect needs some tweaking. Overall, NBA 2K7 is an excellent basketball game that continually matures by offering gamers fresh set of animation and unique gameplay concepts. NBA 2K7 is hands down the best Xbox 360 basketball game out there.