The saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." We're pretty sure that's the attitude of the folks at 2K Sports this year, at least when it comes to their current-gen hoops title NBA 2K7. While some of the ancillary modes are expanded, and the online options shine brightly, the on-court gameplay remains virtually unchanged from last year. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but gamers may have reason to pause when they mull over their decision to re-up for another year on the virtual hardwood.
To be sure, it once again lives firmly at the intersection of "Rock" and "Solid". You'd be hard pressed to come up with any serious transgressions on (or off) the court. The Shot Stick - introduced last year - makes a triumphant return, allowing a level of bucket-making selection simply not known on any other franchise. Using it along with the Isomotion feature will allow your most dunktastic dreams to come true: based upon how the Stick is flicked, Shaq will throw down violent power jams, Kobe can sky high with some finesse, Bron-Bron will windmill like a whirling dervish, and T-Mac should spin and shimmy up and over the rim.
Right out of the box, the default settings are set just right for a realistic, competitive match. Happily, we played plenty of games without once tweaking any of the myriad sliders available (other than bumping up the difficulty one level when we got a little cocky). It didn't matter if we pitted Lakers versus Clippers, Nets against Knicks, or Raptors against Grizzlies (they used to be in Canada, remember?) - each game played out evenly, with the better team usually winning and the scoring accurately distributed between stars and role players. No matter how hard we tried, it wasn't possible to turn Jason Collins into the next Wilt Chamberlain (or even Yao Ming) - some things even a virtual man can't do.
Visually, there is surprisingly little difference between the PS2 and Xbox games this time around. We did notice that the players are a bit shinier than the coaches, which is only evident when they stand next to each other - and it makes for quite a strange sight. Somehow, Pat Riley comes off as frumpy and disheveled when setting the strategy at a timeout.
Enough can't be said about the continuing fantastic-ness of 2K's internet experience. Not only do the online games run almost as smoothly as offline ones, the leagues, tournaments, and accompanying websites are the model on which each and every sports game should base itself. Within each of these, there are more options than you can shake a stick at, such as trade abilities, numbers of participants (all the way to 30, assuming you can find enough people to actually participate), and custom schedules. If only we had more friends, we'd have the whole damn league running on our consoles.