"NBA 2K7

Take-Two Interactive

$29.99 (PS2, Xbox); $59.99 (Xbox 360)

There are two camps when it comes to basketball videogames. There are those who want to run the ball downcourt with D-Wade or Shaq and dunk every time and those who want a more realistic basketball experience.

EA Sport’s NBA Live does the former. You can drop 81 points with Kobe more often than not. Vince Carter can fly from midcourt, do six somersaults, buy a hot dog from a vendor and finish up with a 360-degree windmill jam.

Take-Two’s NBA 2K series does the opposite. In this game, strategy and smart play are the most important things. It’s the closest anyone’s come to a basketball simulator yet, and NBA 2K7 outdoes all its predecessors by being the deepest and most realistic game.

While you certainly can pull off high-flying dunks and alley-oops, NBA 2K7 makes you work for them. Unlike NBA Live, your opponents won’t just stand there and watch you drive the lane. You have to work the ball around, read the defenses and choose the highest-percentage shot in order to succeed.

While NBA 2K6 was a great game, the newest edition fixes a few annoying glitches and adds a few refinements to the already-fine control system. A good ballhandler like Iverson will still be able to cross-over and breeze by defenders for an open layup, but only if you’ve done the proper stickwork to make it happen.

You can’t just hurl the ball downcourt on a fast break and not expect it to be intercepted.

But the controls are so intuitive that anyone could pick up the game and fare decently, even with a bad team like the Knicks or the Pacers.

The online play is flawless, with little to no skipping during play. And the game has been fixed so that the cheesy money plays from 2K6 are gone. If someone beats you, no doubt you deserved to lose.

With software developers having their attention fixed on the next generation of game consoles, it’s refreshing to see a current-gen title improve so much. Sure, the presentation sucks; Kenny Smith and Kevin Harlan sound like robots. The pregame cutscenes of fans entering the arena are unchanged from last year’s title.

But for sheer basketball realism, entertainment and excitement, NBA 2K7 is as good as it gets. And priced $10 cheaper than the inferior NBA Live 07, it’s a bargain. Besides, considering the fact that the Pacers will likely suck this year, the only place you’ll see an Indiana win over Miami or San Antonio will probably be on this game.