Animation seen as key to separating from competition.
Time and time again, developers have said this will be the generation where the competent studios will shine, while the lesser ones will be left behind. And much of this reasoning comes from the emphasis a developer places on its animation team, making sure not only are the character models and environments a step up, but the physical character animation makes a similar leap.

Nowhere is that more important than sports games, where much of the focus is on the animations. 2K Sports issued a release this morning describing a few of their techniques being implemented into NBA 2K7, central of which is what they’re calling “Signature Style.” Essentially, they’ve taken pains to ensure signature moves of NBA stars, such as Shaquille O’Neal’s two-handed drop step dunk, have been specifically combed over to in the animation process, to catch the little details.

As it stands, 2K Sports says over 300 individual animations are in the Signature Style category.

Outside of animation, however, are the details you come to expect from a next-generation upgrade, such as updated arena details, additional lighting effects on the arenas to help, as 2K Sports put it, “give each court its own look and character.” The men and women who make up the fans in the arenas are typically ignored, but 2K Sports says they’ve created additional crowd animations and details to counteract this sports game stereotype.

The whole while, wanna-be ballers can watch the action from 30 customizable camera angles. That’s well and all, but the true test of a basketball game is how it plays. Come September (but several months later if you’re waiting for the PlayStation 3 version), we’ll find out when NBA2K7 arrives on PlayStation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360.