Kobe Bryant Pro Basketball 2008 puts you in the shoes of the Lakers’ franchise player as you tackle a grueling 80 game schedule to get into the playoffs. The game isn’t NBA licensed which means the only player in the game you’d recognize is Kobe. Teams and player names are all fictional. The Toronto Raptors are the Toronto Lizards – ha ha. The game definitely obeys NBA rules rather than the international style of play with 5 on 5 action and a full court.
Although Pro Basketball 2008 comes with management features, the meat of the game is definitely on the court rather than off it. This is a traditional game where you’re always in charge of the player closest to the ball and if you don’t do any of the scoring, no one else on your team will. I found the action to be fairly accurate as it recreates the ebb and flow of a full court game. To shoot the ball, you have to hold on to the 0 key and wait until the ball is green. The optimal shooting window is shorter and takes longer to charge up as you move away from the net making a three pointer all the more difficult. The 5 key handles steals, blocks and passes. I personally like to control when I want to steal or block but unfortunately it’s simplified to one button here. Anytime you get close to the net and shoot, a dunk will result in a cartoon or anime style slow motion action which gives you another floating meter to finish the move. If you’re on defense, it’ll give you a chance to get into position to block the dunk. The attacks on the net are pretty dramatic and while it is hardly realistic, it adds visual style and flair to the game.
Now there are negatives to the game besides a roster of fictional players and teams. The first is with the replay system. It’s great to see myself slam one in the net but when someone else scores on me, the last thing I want to see is a replay. I just want to move on to the next play. But if you get schooled in the game, for whatever reason, the game loves to show you a replay of that. I ended up turning off all replays to avoid that.
In terms of management, besides toying with the fictional roster (which I didn’t find much interest in), you can switch from 3-2, 2-1-2 and 2-2-1 formations. At times, when I carried the ball across half court and stood outside the arc with no one open, none of my teammates would have any inkling of intention to set up a pick or try to adjust to open up a passing lane for me. This is when the # key comes into play as it shifts them around but I thought that was more a gimmick to give the AI a kick than really having anything to do with tactics. Because of these instances of lead footed players, the game almost screams for you to double team the ball carrier.
Visually, Pro Basketball 2008 is colorful and well animated. They may not be the most detailed characters but they pull of fade aways and alley oops fluidly and naturally. Basketball is a fast paced back and forth type of game so the animation had to be top notch. Gameloft does a good job here. Whoever is doing the audio for Gameloft’s sports games has to be a sports buff. For this game, the sound effects may be sparse but the rally songs and defense cries are absolutely spot on.
All things considered, the gameplay in Pro Basketball 2008 is solid but it definitely could use for more complexity. Maybe an option for beginner or expert controls would be a good start. The 80 game schedule is not as intimidating as it sounds. There are three point and dunk contests along with instant action. Quarters can be reduced to 90 second stints. Indeed, most 90 second quarter games are finished with scores that make my high school final scores on the court look pro. Pro Basketball 2008 is definitely not without its faults. It seems even in the mobile world, Kobe either inspires lovers or haters.