NBA LIVE 15 Preview

Occasionally, less is more.

Way back in June of this year I attended E3 2014 and had an opportunity to get early looks at major titles EA had planned for the following months. Of course all of the usual suspects were present: Madden NFL 15, FIFA 15, Battlefield Hardline, and a handful of others. Among them, a title I wanted to see was missing. NBA Live 15 had originally been slated to make an appearance but after much speculation, EA decided to hold off on showing their latest hoops simulation. At the time it didn’t come as much of a surprise for the same situation occurred two years earlier. In fact, the last few years have been a roller-coaster ride for the once illustrious series.

Fast forward, the announcement was made that NBA Live 15 would in fact be launched in the fall, same time as its rival competitor NBA 2K15. Still, very little had been seen or even heard on what would be offered. Luckily for myself, EA invited GameRevolution to meet down at their offices at Redwood Shores in order to get a hands-on demo of what's landing on retail shelves in just a few weeks. You may note that the release isn’t until October 28th, the start of the actual NBA season, instead of the game's original drop date, the 7th of this month. The pushback shouldn’t call for alarm. To the development team’s credit, their strategy was all about releasing a quality title rather than a sales opponent to the aforementioned 2K brand.

So far, early signs point to a solid return to form for NBA Live. With last year’s installment falling a bit short of expectations, it was important that ’15 came out with a bang. Progress is key and so far so good. Gameplay Producer Connor Dougan showed me the ropes, starting with visual presentation. The game wants to capture the likeness of the real-to-life NBA, so it took face and body scans of actual players as well as scans of the actual arenas. The fine details take notice, especially the closer the camera gets. We’ll see facial expressions, tattoo definition, difference in body types, even the pores in jerseys.

It is all about accountability; no detail was too small to be missed. This is probably why most of everything in this year's installment is “all new." Even the basket extension takes on a fresh look. Who notices that side shot clock besides corner 3 takers? EA does and they wanted you to know their eye is on the ball, literally. New dribbling and ball mechanics have been added as well, particularly in how shots are taken. Poor shots will have a wild spinning trajectory, while correct form will keep all motions fluid. New shooting assistance tells you if your release is too early, late, or perfect. It’s about getting that perfect shot especially when using players like Stephen Curry, who are just about automatic when in an ideal rhythm.

Animations have also been touched up, now utilizing a one-motion mechanic when shooting and dunking the ball. Before, when dunking, there was a gather and then a finish—two separate motions. This year, the gather and the dunk are formed together so taking off to the rim looks and feels more fluid and realistic. With a few hundred animations of dunking, layups, and shooting, it’s safe to say the action should never feel stagnant.

One of the best features of the game is its simplicity. NBA Live 15 is more about user-friendly controls. Don’t expect too many move modifiers when looking at the buttons layout. Most controls can be done with one or two button taps or analog flicks. This new simpler direction helps keep the flow of the game going. In just the second game I played against Connor, I was able to get a commanding lead and victory over him. I’m sure had he known I came to play for that grudge match or he wouldn’t have taken my words about Monta Ellis being a beast so lightly.

Each player, in fact, is as authentic as you see on television. Moves like signature dribbles add that flair to each individual’s game. From the action on-court to off-court, the thrills are constant. With a number of different game modes, including Ultimate Team and skills challenges, the fun probably won't end. Plus, there’s no way you could go wrong when 2Chainz is on a game soundtrack, right?!

With the release date coming just around the corner, folks just might want to hold off buying the newest NBA 2K. NBA Live 15 certainly has made leaps and bounds to separate itself from last year’s copy and hopes to regain the same fan base that would line up for hours just to see what would be offered. As of now, we all might want to reserve a copy… NBA Live 15 releases October 28 on PS4 and Xbox One.