Impressions: NBA 2K6

The Xbox 360 will be taking gamers into the next generation in less than a month. While the anticipation builds, some hardcore gamers are still concerned that several launch window titles don't have a true next generation feel to them. Most of these opinions are coming from people who have yet to lay their hands on an Xbox 360 controller, but unqualified opinion of not, there's one batch of games where next generation graphics can't be argued, and that's the basketball titles. We tested out NBA 2K6 running at roughly 80% and the game simply screams next generation.

Basketball is an upbeat sport full of fast-paced action and energy and NBA 2K6 does a magnificent job of capturing this on the Xbox 360. As soon as we hit the menu screen the rap music was bumping and we were ready to get our game on. Once we had selected our teams and moved on to the actual game, we were treated to a TV-like broadcast of the fans heading into the arena and the introduction of the TNT commentators Kenny Smith, Kevin Harland and Craig Sager. The game felt so much like a television broadcast it was uncanny. 2K Sports has even teamed with several sponsors, including Toyota and Nike to really give you a true to life TV feel.

Before we were even at tip-off, we were already impressed with the presentation of the game. But once we were through the player introductions and got into the game, we were simply floored by how intuitive the game played. Using the aggression button (which replaces the turbo button) we were able to shake down defenders with lightning fast cross-overs, back down defenders in the paint, and go for high-flying dunks on fast breaks.

The players were constantly on the move, calling for the ball and even setting screens without the need to call any plays. However, if you do want to call plays that feature is included as well. You can even select a specific player to run the play. For example, if you want to run a pick and roll play with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, you can select Stoudemire and have him set the pick, while still retaining full control over Nash. This adds an additional level to the player control and allows advanced ballers to use more strategy during the game.

A 2K Sports rep we talked to was quick to point out that NBA 2K6 uses all three Xbox 360 cores and every lighting technique the system can manage. However, at the 80% mark, the characters have a certain glow to them that detracts from the near life-like graphics. We were assured this will be toned down and properly adjusted before the slated launch release, so we'll withhold final judgment. Even with the glow issue, the jerseys and player animation were top notch and extremely fluid. Normally basketball games give you that robotic feel, but from what we played of NBA 2K6, that dilemma has been almost completely rectified.

Aside from a few minor graphical issues (including Steve Nash's hair), NBA 2K6 is the best basketball game on Xbox 360. We just came off a session with NBA Live 06 when we picked up the controller for some NBA 2K6 action, and the difference in gameplay was clear. NBA Live 06 currently has a slight advantage in the visual department, but we all know that gameplay is the most important factor. However, both games were right around 80%, so we're reserve final judgment until we've got review builds in-hand. NBA 2K6 is on track for a launch release on November 22, and we'll have more coverage on the hot b-ball title over the next few weeks.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.