They must be wearing the wrong shoes.
When Michael Jordan officially retired two years ago, it marked the end of an era. The Chicago Bulls put together a string of championships second only to the great Celtics teams of the 1960’s. The Bulls were so good, you just expected them to win.
Likewise, the NBA Live series of games has stood alone as the premier NBA basketball simulation. Pretenders were many, from the beautiful yet shallow NBA Shootout ’98 to the affordable yet limited NBA Inside Drive 2000. But nothing came close to toppling the EA Sports giant, and it became fairly obvious that EA pretty much owned video game roundball.
However, all great eras come to an end. Despite the much-awaited addition of a One on One mode and the return of his Airness to video hoops, NBA Live 2000 doesn’t offer anything new to the scene. In fact, it takes away some of the ‘oomph’ of its predecessors with a lower framerate and choppier graphics.
If you’ve played either of the last two NBA Live games (’98 or ’99), then you’ll be familiar with the options and layout of this year’s offering. You can Practice your moves, play an Exhibition game or full Season (including a player Draft), hop straight to the Playoffs, or bust out the bombs in the 3-point Shootout contest. These are all the same modes that were in the last two games.
Every team and player in the league is here, complete with the same facial mapping technique used in earlier games. New to the series are Legendary All Decade teams. You can play an Exhibition game with the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or, 90’s All-Stars. Magic, Cousy, Earl the Pearl, and, at long last, Michael Jordan – 60 of the greatest ever (though oddly, no Kareem. How do you not include the game’s greatest scorer?). Now you can finally match up Wilt against Shaq or see if Magic could even guard Michael.
The only way to unlock any of these players for use on a roster is by fulfilling certain milestones (in other words, codes). It gives you a good reason to get better at the game.
The most notable addition is the One on One mode. Reminiscent of the Apple II classic Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, this mode allows you to play as any player in the game, past or present, in a one on one playground matchup. But while great for a few kicks, the NBA Live engine is much better suited for team ball than one on one. The players don’t look much different from one another and they’re just too darn small. I would have preferred a NBA Jam-esque arcade engine here.
Speaking of engines, NBA Live 2000 tosses up an airball by needlessly tweaking what was initially a very solid gameplay engine. The framerate dropped a bit in the transition from ’98 to ’99, and again it takes a hit this year. It’s just not very smooth. Player animations seem choppier and the motion-captured moves are shoddier. It’s really weird that the graphics actually got worse over time, but them’s the facts.
Everything else is pretty much the same, though the defensive AI has improved a bit. You just get the feeling that EA is waiting for a new system to work with. There’s only so much you can do on the Playstation, and the Dreamcast beauty NBA 2K gave us a glimpse into the future. EA seems to be running out of ideas, and the limited power of the PSX is hampering the programming.
If you’re a die-hard NBA Live fan, then you’ll probably want to pick this up if only for the updated rosters and the new One on One mode. New fans, however, should rent before buying. You might even want to look back to NBA Live ’99, which is frankly a better game. NBA Live 2000, on the other hand, should be considering retirement.