AN improvement for the NBA franchise but it still comes up short in key areas of the court
NBA Live 15
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4
WHILE EA is currently enjoying great success with its usual forward line of big name sports titles, its basketball offering has long been regarded as second best, eclipsed by the 2K Sports series. The rehabilitation is ongoing and NBA Live 15 - a marked improvement on last year’s game - offers several encouraging signs for the future. Even so, it remains a frustrating and ultimately flawed simulation that still has some way to go.
Load up the game and the initial signs are welcome. The player models, which seemed strangely lifeless and lacking in detail last year, now benefit from improved visuals. Big name players have been given the most intensive cosmetic surgery and now resemble their real life counterparts both in terms of appearance and movement. Factor in the bustling, atmospheric arenas and NBA Live 15 does a great job of capturing the essence of a big night at the hoops.
Transitions lack urgency and defensive moves feel predetermined
Unfortunately, the new lick of paint does not disguise deeper problems. The best basketball games embody the fast, fluid action of the sport, where a quick transition can turn a defensive siege into a thrusting point scoring offence. On occasions, against weaker opposition, NBA Live 15 finds its mojo, but for the most part, a surge up the court is hampered by a lack of intelligent movement from your AI teammates. After crossing the centre of the court, the players tend to huddle together, making it too difficult to pinpoint a clear route to the basket. As a result, you are forced to pass and probe for weaknesses, before choosing an opportune moment. This is part of basketball, granted, but it is overplayed and counter intuitive.
Equally, it is telling that the introductory tutorial - where players are given a quick initiation into the various combination of button presses and thumbstick shifts to make the most of their time on their court - does not offer any defensive lessons. Granted, these are easy enough to pick up once the action begins, but it feels inessential and predetermined, with tackling and blocking particularly hard to pull off. Often, you resort to hanging around your basket in the hope of latching on to a rebound.
The shooting lacks a clearly defined sweet spot
The biggest problem, however, is with the most important function of them all: shooting. Guiding your player as he lines up to jump and then attempt a basket does not feel sufficiently responsive. The game gives you instant feedback on how good your release is after a shot, but even after four to five hours, the frustration at misjudging what would normally be routine two pointers was no nearer to being solved. There is a sense that EA have tried to place the emphasis on observing player animations, but the game would have benefited from a more defined sweet spot.
There are areas of the game that are fun and different - especially the Big Moments mode which puts you in the sneakers of an NBA player and asks you to re-enact their past glories - and the online modes were involving and free from any kind of lag. After a while, however, the fundamental issues with the defensive and offensive mechanics begin to grate, and it is hard to envisage playing through the duration of an entire season. This is a better effort from EA, but it is no slam dunk.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) Attacking on the break requires speed if you are to have any chance of a clear shot, so use quick, snappy passes with the right thumbstick
2) The introductory tutorial is a fine overview of the controls, but if you prepare for a tilt at glory, try a few exhbition games with relaxed rules.
3) Don’t presume the best time to shoot is at the apex of your player’s jump. Finding the right moment to release the ball takes time and perseverance.