Contempt of court.
Sports franchises are great money savers, due to their heavy yet understandable reliance on yesteryear’s code. They’re also great money makers, since critics turn blind eyes to the makers’ acts of necromancy, and you, the unwashed masses, don’t seem to notice. As a result, sports games are one of the best rackets this side of dot communism (aka YouTube and MySpace). Well if EA wants to save money by re-releasing last year’s basketball game with nothing but a new haircut, so should you. Now buy some soap.
NBA Live 07 is highlighted by modes and options that were melted off last year’s anorexic offering, however, this year’s “new additions” are really just features floated over from two years ago, making NBA Live 07 essentially NBA Live 2005 Part 2. This double-dribble wouldn’t have been so noticeable if EA’s competitor, 2K Sports, had also sent in their bench players.
Instead, NBA 2K7 built a firm next-gen foundation by adding slight but meaningful physics tweaks to a boatload of player animations for a palpable sense of reality. To compete, NBA Live 07 gives us a new breed of basketball player with superhuman powers, and subhuman looks. These mutations include the ability to pass the ball through solid matter and change direction in mid-flight, like Mega Man! Heads and limbs effortlessly penetrate torsos, balls teleport through the air, and the physics model can only be described as quantum. After about half an hour of playtime, what’s most amazing is the amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to consider this basketball, and not a carnival freak show.
The biggest challenge, regardless of where you are on the court, is getting your player to face the basket. Like the last-picked fatty in a playground game, your players will protect the ball by turning their backs to the rim. They’ll hold that position as you strafe from side to side looking for a passing lane, like sand crabs evading predators.
Freestyle control, superstar tiers, abilities, and meters do little to spice up the game when it responds so nonchalantly to your button presses. In spite of the fact that the players move faster than ever, the controls don’t feel responsive. The framerate is also a little choppy, making it really tough to time your jumpers. As mentioned, collision detection issues swarm this game like the Piston’s defense, making everything a little tough to predict. For example, you might physically reach through Mike Bibby’s face and not get called, then get whistled for phasing into Brad Miller’s torso. We call a foul on the whole thing.
Speaking of fouls, the foul shooting system is the same one used in NBA 2K7, and uses a timed, right analog stick stroke to put the ball in the bucket. But with the high graphical frame skips per minute, draining baskets from the charity stripe feels like anything but a gimme.
A rounded out Dynasty mode lets you hire every staff member short of mascots. Coaches, trainers, and scouts all have their own salaries to weigh against what they offer, from improving player skills and conditioning to talent searches. Assistant coaches serve as rumor mongers, collecting various tidbits of info and giving you some sense of menu-driven direction. You can delve even deeper into micromanagement by checking on your team’s chemistry, which at high levels, can boost your team’s late-game clutch factor, helping you mount up late game offensive drives in tight spots.
Player strain levels are also worth paying attention to, since you have to ensure your squad members are physically prepped before game time. The problem is, even if your players have been wrapped in pillows in private biospheres, a couple of your starters will unavoidably get too banged up to even get off the bench after a few road games in a row.
After a few eye-straining games, you’ll look for relief in All Star Weekend mode. The Dunk competition is showcased once again, but has a badly executed learn-as-you-go “tutorial” mode with only four, non-informative text messages blazing by as you button mash underneath the rim. Since your button taps’ success depends on the timing of the animation of your player, you’ll get a nice, up close view of how bad the framerate is. It’s pretty hard to time a jam based on such syncopated animations. In the three-point shootout mini-game, getting the timing down of your release is, again, almost impossible.
Once your patience is spent, you’ll dive into the co-op enabled online modes only to find more reasons to put a backboard on your wastebasket. Where in NBA 2K7
you could set up low-lag leagues, NBA Live 07
features nothing but laggy ranked and unranked matches. If you’re lucky, you might have a couple games with decent server response time. At best, you’ll only have to deal with the game’s built-in lag; at worst, the game will freeze up for a few seconds then chug back into motion for a few frames, kind of like Shaq in a regular season game.
You’ll be able to recognize him by his face, as well as his lack of mobility, and he and other marquee players have signature-style emotes. But in this department, as with every other, NBA Live 07 still isn’t even fit to hold NBA 2K7’s jock. The courts, pretty flashing lights, and stadiums look great, though the crowd looks like a bunch of shiny mannequins. Most of the graphical panache comes through in the game’s convincing presentation, or “Unprecedented ESPN Integration”. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr provide some entertaining in-game commentary, adding a layer of authenticity that becomes transparent when you’re looking over the rest of the game.
NBA Live has always been seen as an “Arcade” alternative to NBA 2K’s “Sim” approach. Back in the old days, this label gave NBA Live connotations of speed and accessibility, leaving “Sim” to mean slow, hard and stiff. With NBA 2K7 and NBA Live 07, those definitions have completely flipped. NBA 2K7 is fast and beautiful, while NBA Live 07 is outdated, sloppy, and only worth playing for a quarter.