When speaking about entertaining sport simulations you don’t need to look further than EA sports, the giants of the game developing world who have been working with sports since the late 80’s. With release upon release of American football games (Madden), NHL and European football which have charged the frenzied and further filled sports-licensing coffers, EA is one of the leaders when it comes to sports titles in the gaming world. The main advantage of EA is, in fact, that their games offer all the brand names, players and related competitions as you see in the real-life events. Hence the ‘It’s in the game’ motto; most of what you see in the NBA, including sponsors, will be a feature of the NBA live series.
NBA live 06 brings superstar ability and added player’s individuality. Although the latter is debatable you will at least see some difference in style between James and Wade, if not in their dunking moves at least in their physical build on the court. A nice addition to the ’06 version is the new modes of play; you will have the possibility of playing a ‘Dynasty mode’, an entire season, ‘Playoffs’ or run wild in ‘Free play mode’.
Graphics (4 out of 5)
As mentioned, most of the EA games always shine in the eye-candy department due to the addition of sponsors, official logos and players. There aren’t many qualms regarding the appearance of the courts or players and with patches and custom content you can always change them.
Player’s animations are quite a sight, the drop of the shoulder as you run or the grimaced expression when two players collide. After a big play on offense or defense you may well see your player pump his fists or hop about the court. Superstars in the game have their own animations and moves as well; for instance fly high as Vince Carter or power your way through with James. It isn’t often that you will get to do these however, especially at some of the higher difficulties. The addition of tattoos, headbands and related props all add to the enjoyable experience.
The game will look better in higher displays so it would be a good choice to set your maximum resolution quite high in the settings.
Audio (3 out of 5)
Steve Kerr and Marv Albert provide the voices for the main game commentary. In truth, although they are both established commentators, the only great feature here is the noises on the court. It isn’t that Kerr and Albert do a bad job but the timing is sometimes odd i.e. calling for better d-play when you are 20 points up or saying ‘Are they playing for stats?’ when you try two 3’s in a row. Sometimes Kerr’s commentary is just plain stupid, like the sudden realization that basketball is ‘All about putting the ball in the basket’.
Kenny Smith provides most of the fun in the dunk contest though. If you want to have a laugh and hear how good commentary in a game is done play the dunk contest. From the ‘Din-din-din-din!’ to ‘I got nothin’ left to say’ you’re guaranteed at least a smile.
The menu music is what you would expect with top name artists such as Busta Rhymes or the Black Eyed peas, which does help the game overall a bit.
The Dunk contest
Gameplay (3 out of 5)
It is recommended you play the game with a pad as it will be a much more enjoyable experience. The buttons are easy to memorise after you’ve played a couple of games, and the addition of free-style controls definitely call for a pad with two-sticks (like a dual-shock).
It is easy to call a play with the D-pad and most of the playbooks are included; you can always stop the game and change them in the menus. Speaking of menus, it would have been perhaps less annoying if they were accessible via your controller; the fact that you continuously have to switch between mouse and game-pad breaks some kind of fluency especially when calling timeouts in-game.
The game modes and particularly the dunking and 3-point contests are a very welcome addition to the game. If you play a dynasty mode you will be overjoyed to see that your cared-for youngster in the roster has been called up to dunk amongst the greats, or your 60% 3-point man has been invited to take part in the 3-point contest. Shooting isn’t easy however, unless you decide to let the CPU aid your shots (chosen in the game settings). You must time your shots and release them properly, especially when shooting from outside the arc; also if they are contested there is less of a chance of them going in.
Lastly, if you find that the ref is whistling too much or the AI is stealing or rebounding unrealistically you can adjust the game sliders. This is a good addition to an overall buffed-up game-play, as you can make the games somewhat closer to the real NBA. Somewhat being the key word here.
Overall (3 out of 5)
An entertaining basketball game overall, although far from being an accurate simulation. If you are looking for fun then you might want to buy it but there has always been an argument on whether EA’s gameplay is as realistic as that encountered in the NBA2k games; the fact that the game allows for a lot of customization however, via patches or ‘mods’, ranks the NBA series solidly amongst other similar titles.
The kid makes the team all right, but he’s never going to be a Michael Jordan…