Sure beats waiting for the lockout to be over...
Yep, EA Sports is back again, releasing the newest in a long line of solid games. NBA Live '99 comes just in time to help basketball fans get through the tough times that the current NBA lockout has brought on. Updated this year with better graphics, new moves, new statistics, and a new play-by-play commentary, EA Sports has done more for Live this year than they ever have in the past. And the results are damn good.
As soon as you start the game, you can tell Live '99 is slick. The interface is one of the most polished in games today. A 3D scoreboard in the background of 2D buttons alerts you to current NBA scores (if there were any!) as well as information about the current menu. Real slick.
As soon as you pick a team, you'll see how the graphic engine has undergone a serious facelift. You'll see head shots, rendered in real-time, of the starting lineup. Here's the catch - they actually look like the people they are supposed to be. If you pick Utah, for example, Malone and Stockton look pretty much like Malone and Stockton. Add in realistic looking player heights, animations, and facial expressions and you'll see that Live '99 has some of the best graphics in any sports game. Real-time shadows and reflections in the wood finish off the graphical flair. Live '99 is truly a marvel to look at.
Some may suspect with all this time spent in making the graphics great that the gameplay would be shallow, and they would be wrong. There are so many moves you can do - jab steps, fake passes, aggressive rebounds, around the back, through the legs, etc. - that you'll spend hours just figuring out how to do it all. Although annoying for beginners (10 buttons is a little overkill), the depth allowed through this system creates a basketball game that you can play over and over and not get bored.
There's also a variety of game modes to keep you interested, such as 3-point contest, General Manager mode, Simulation mode, and Arcade mode. There is even a Coaching mode where you can pick plays. The gameplay in Live '99 is incredible and is certainly better than last year.
The tag line for the game is "NBA LIVE comes to LIFE" and in this case it isn't just a marketing machine lying to you. Sound in the game is incredibly realistic, while music clips remind you of being at a real game. That's the main draw of Live - it is actually like being at a game.
Networking is in there as well, but unfortunately it's only for 2 players. If only you could have had 10 players at once...5 on 5 would have never been the same.
For all of the mistakes EA Sports has made in the past in terms of barely updating their games, they have made amends with NBA Live '99. A lot has changed for the better and the game is probably one of their best ever. Live '99 will make you forget that basketball isn't on TV - it's just that good.