From the starting five on down to the bench and the coaches, everyone has a job to do. It takes a team to win a championship; without cohesiveness, nothing works and things become stagnant. It takes patience, communication, execution, and practice to construct the winning formula. Though in the words of Allen Iverson, “How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?!” But this year NBA Live looks to go into practice and find that winning formula—something they’ve set out to achieve a few years back but still haven’t quite grasped.
Flashing back two years, 2014 had seen a return from Live after a four-year hiatus. But with even a few new additions, input of a colorful background, and next-gen readiness, it was one of the worst installments to the series to date. With NBA 2K pushing the envelope with creativity and knowhow, EA literally dropped the ball with its rebuttal. To EA’s credit, they had been working hard on a comeback, and even canceled a prior release to get things correct.
Skip ahead to 2015, now they’re cooking with fire. Player modeling, motion physics, game modes—a fantastic game had begun to form. From there it looked as though the sky could be the limit. With NBA Live 16, it feels as if the roof was the limit, albeit a high roof, but a roof nonetheless. The visual presentation is there; menu layouts are more than stellar and help draw in attention; and the interface is neat and uniform, which makes accessing game modes easy—all of which are per usual as of late.
NBA Rewind offers fans to replay actual NBA games from the occurring season. Each day unlocks the available game to be played for a chance to earn reward points (RP). Almost played the same, Big Moments is all about reliving the mega action we will witness throughout the season. Control either a single player or the entire team as you attempt to recreate, or in some cases rewrite some of the history of these moments. Having brought back Ultimate Team, the game allows players to create a fantasy squad to take on online opponents and further strengthen their unique lineup using players past and present. Most of the same features from last year are included so jumping back into the swing of UT shouldn’t be too difficult.
Rising Star also brings much of the same flair with a handful of tweaks. The leveling system seems to weigh more on developing your player to a certain playstyle rather than randomly adding points to available stat traits. It also allows for a quicker progression as you select an entire package of points and rewards to go to developing your player. No more spending 1200 on just one tick of an upgrade—you can now use about the same amount to boost anywhere from 2-5 points higher and even open unlockables.
Rising Star is one of the stronger highlights in Live as it puts you in the position of a young hoopstar looking to make a name for himself amongst the greats. Maybe you’ll start off as a role player on a weaker team and automatically given a ton of minutes. Or possibly you want to play for a contender but must take a lesser role, in which case you have to work your way into a starting position. Whichever the case, it gives you that want to breed that superstar of the future.
When starting Live, you are asked to make a created player. This player is used not only in Rising Star but in the new Live Pro-Am as well. To takes things a step further, EA created a “Game Face HD” app in which you can scan your face and create an authentic representation of yourself to inject into the game. Once everything is complete, take “yourself” to the courts and get to work. Inside of this addition to the series, Live Pro-Am is a mode made for fans who dream of lacing up their sneakers, joining a squad, and taking their talents to popular rec parks around the country. In this case, all of the action is at your fingertips.
You have the option of playing in either live run or summer circuit, both played online. Live run consists of 5-on-5 user action and gives each player an opportunity to see what it’s like to depend on others in a highly competitive atmosphere. Summer circuit still pits five players together but instead against pro-am teams in changing venues. This option is much more catered to earning rewards; the harder the venue, the better the prize. When servers are up and running full of eager challengers, Live Pro-Am should be one of the brighter spots to NBA LIVE 16.
Unfortunately, it is one of the only few bright areas in the game, especially when considering the core gameplay which is spotty at best. The mechanics feel too computerized. It’s as though after adding a few new skills moves, players are slowed down. The process from when applying a move, to when it’s actually performed, has a lag, which interferes with the flow of the game. Even little subtleties like inbounding the ball or calling plays doesn’t quite flow how it should. This is a step back from last year which felt more natural. Even worse, the commentary is horrible. EA didn’t even try to change Jeff Van Gundy’s poor take on basketball. He and Mike Breen continue with the same dialogue from last year, adding minimal facts of the current Golden State champs.
NBA Live 16 is made to feel accessible and simple. At least that’s what the structure caters to. From in-game learning help to player development, it’s all mostly basic. With this pause in progress, it will be interesting to see if Live will be able to rebound from a supposed “beating” it’s looking to take once NBA 2K is released the same day.