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“We sat with him, and [...] he thought it was really cool,” said Karch of Greg Thomas, president of NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts. There’s a place in the market for a game like this.’ And this certainly is not a threat to what they’re doing on 2K.” Indeed, is different from NBA 2K in just about every way except using real teams and players, and it’s even launching during the NBA playoffs — about four and a half months before 2K’s simulation game traditionally debuts.
But this game is something you can enjoy regardless of how much you care about basketball, and that’s the real key to its appeal.
“I have access to pretty much everybody,” said Karch of roster possibilities, noting a few exceptions such as Charles Barkley and Kobe Bryant.
As you can see in the video above, the art style goes for a caricature look that, while exaggerated, makes the players recognizable without requiring photorealistic graphics (which, of course, would be much more difficult for an independent studio like Saber to pull off).
At launch, will offer tournament modes for offline and online play, in addition to one-off exhibition games.
Planned additions include a dunk contest and a three-point contest.
It will debut with two-player head-to-head play online, with four-player support coming soon in an “early update.” The studio has big plans for post-release content additions, including roster updates.
Saber will launch with a roster of more than 150 NBA athletes, including current players such as Le Bron James and Kawhi Leonard as well as retired legends like Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing.
The game’s progression mechanic is focused on unlocking the entire roster gradually — you start with three card packs, which give you five players each, and you earn a new pack each time you level up.
On the Xbox One, where my demo was, the A button passes and the X button shoots, while the right trigger controls sprinting; on defense, X attempts a steal, B does a shove and Y jumps.
One option that didn’t exist back in the day in NBA Jam is a crossover dribble move, which is controlled by the right analog stick.