NBA Live 10
Live 10 is without question the best looking game of the series to date
EA's NBA Live is back again this year trying to dig itself out of a hole it has been mired in since the birth of the Dreamcast ten years ago. For those keeping score at home, Live has been trying to gain our attention with stiff player animations, lousy AI and poor play mechanics (seriously? I need two shoot buttons?) for a decade.
- Dynamic DNA for up to the minute rosters, great arena/seasonal effects and chants, control scheme is much improved and free-style passing is a godsend on fast breaks
- AI still has some serious mental lapses, lack of game play options, Marv Albert joins John Madden's repetitive hall of fame
Ouch. It looks like the EA machine stumbled a bit with NBA 10. While 2K's effort is getting raves, NBA 10 clocks in with a middling score. Hopefully, this motivates the dev team to go back to the drawing board and get their gameplan in order.
I dog the Live series a lot, and that's because the 2K series has always been a far better representation of real NBA action in my opinion. Fortunately, the guys at EA Canada have obviously started to take exception to being the second stringers in the realm of virtual basketball, because this year's Live is actually a really encouraging step forward for the series.
Live 10 is without question the best looking game of the series to date, the players run well, off the ball action is fairly consistent and arenas are recreated with near perfect detail down to individual player warm up routines -- like Wade's pull ups and LeBron's powder shower thing that gets the kids in Cleveland all geeked. Players will try to get open and when you're moving down the court for a set play, there will be players improvising around defenders and jockeying for position on the boxes.
I really can't say enough about how impressive the overall aesthetic of NBA Live 10 is, even down to the crowds, which really are regarded as nothing more than background noise, they seem to move almost as well and as independently as the players! The focus on atmosphere really shines through with this attention to detail, as rivalry games and playoff games become a circus and brings the vibe of professional basketball to life. As a Sixers fan, this is excellent news for me, as I haven't seen professional basketball since roughly 2002.
There's a certain reverence for the culture around basketball, there is an incredible abundance of shoes, jerseys and other specific details that just scream out the passion that EA Canada has put into this project. However, I can't help but think that had more time been spent on the gameplay, I'd be singing the praises of a good basketball video game and not a good basketball video montage.
For all the good work done to improve the court team management and to simplify the controls by -- FINALLY just one shoot button -- there are still some glaring AI issues present. The new emphasis on hustle plays is greatly over exaggerated as I have yet to see a player fly head first out of bounds for a ball, rather it needs to be more of an opportune ball going out to be saved. As mentioned earlier, off the ball movement has been greatly improved, but is still far from perfect. Players will slash and move around defenders, but every so often a pass will go to a player standing on the corner and his first instinct is to step out of bounds. This is hardly gamebreaking, it's just one of those things that can take you out of a game quickly and is, quite frankly, insanely frustrating while playing a close game against a white hot scoring team.
Another gripe I have is with the lack of game modes. NBA Live 10 has an extremely powerful dynasty mode that is really all I'll ever need to get my money's worth out of this game, and the FIBA World Championship mode is a welcome change of pace, but the DYNAMIC Season mode doesn't thrill me as much. I like the idea of the in-game roster updating daily with the outcomes and streaks of their real life counterparts, and being able to replay a team's tough loss, thus turning it into a win, might help ease the sting of losing a bit, but I can't help but think basketball is the perfect game for a superstar mode and the Live series is still sorely lacking on that front. Being able to create a baller from the ground up and guide him through an NBA career is the perfect setting for a game mode that's horribly utilized in the Madden series.
...and that will do it.
The Live series makes a strong come back this year with NBA LIVE 10, so what if it took a decade on the pine watching 2K take home all the hardware? There's no shame in being the Sixth Man so long as you keep improving to a full fledged starter. With that said, I don't remember the last time I saw somebody go out and buy an Aaron McKie jersey.
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