Do dynasties exist anymore in the NBA? Since the Chicago Bulls' run throughout nearly the entire '90s decade and the LA Lakers' three-peat in the early 2000s, we've seen a minor power shift in the league, with teams like Detroit and San Antonio standing in as the new measures of success but not being able to establish the consistent year-after-year championships required to call their teams dynasties. Nonetheless, talk of dynasties continues, both in the real world and in games such as EA Sports' upcoming hoops entry, NBA Live 06. We had a chance to check out Live 06's new dynasty mode, as well as a few other game features, and we're here with our full report.
The mode starts out with you choosing the team you wish to captain on the way to victory. As you scroll through the list of available NBA teams, you get a quick reference point on team aspects, such as cap room and last year's record. You can also check out each team's offensive and defensive playing tendencies. Here you can see if the team you're interested in plays an outside or inside game, prefers the fast break or half court, likes to rough it up or use more finesse, and finally, whether the team plays man or zone defense. If you're not sure which team you want to pick, you can use these attributes to determine your team based on the style of game you wish to play. After that, you make some preference choices for things like quarter length, playoff length, and simulation type (you can choose from regular sims or intervention, which lets you interrupt the action and take charge in the middle of a game) and you're off and running.
Well, almost. You see, before you can hit the hardwood with your team, there's some busywork you'll need to get through, namely hiring a support staff and getting your team through training camp. Your team owner sets a staff budget, and with that cash, you'll need to pick up a scout, trainer, and assistant coach. You'll be able to check out prospects in each category, and a few interested candidates will even send you a note on your PDA to express their enthusiasm. The signing period lasts for two weeks, so even though you've got plenty of time to fill your staff, you'll want to act fast, because the most talented coaches go quickly. You'll have some latitude with contract offers--you'll know how much your prospect is asking for--but you don't have much of an idea as to how receptive your candidate will be to offers that are just short of what he's looking for. As such, hiring coaches tends to be a hit-or-miss affair; because the good coaches go quickly, you have all the more reason to keep your offers realistic from the get-go.
After that, it's on to training camp, which is a pretty hands-off affair. Heading into camp, you simply allocate percentage points along three areas of focus: offense, defense, and athleticism. The bigger the percentage of practice, the more time your players will spend in that particular area. In addition, your coach will have a letter grade associated with each of those attributes--a coach rated "A" in offense will get more out of any practice time devoted to the offensive game than one rated "B" or below. Training will give your players boosts in specific areas of their game, and you'll be able to see post-camp analysis for each player that benefited from this focused practice.
Once the season begins and you start making your way through the 82-game regular season, you'll be able to use your staff to your advantage. You can assign your assistant coach to a particular player, for example, and once again set his practice regimen among the three main areas of his game--offense, defense, and athleticism. In addition, you can also set the length you wish this training to last--anywhere from one week to a full month. Keeping check on your players' progress is easy, thanks to a handy player-development feature that gives you a breakdown on how each player on your roster is improving. With your scouts, you can analyze your next opponent and break down key strategies for victory. Finally, if you have some injuries on your team, your trainer will take over and help get your players back off the disabled list as soon as possible.
When it comes to trades, keeping your team stocked with talent is a year-round job. Some key tools in the Live 06 toolbox to help you in your efforts are the ability to easily access any player's contract and a feature that lets you see the next crop of free agents coming during upcoming off-seasons for every team in the league. Losing a point guard at the end of the year? Look ahead to see who will be available once the free-agency talent pool is open for business again.
Once the regular season and playoffs are over, it's time to start the process of gearing up for another season all over again. Before you get into the NBA draft and scout new talent, however, you'll be awarded NBA points based on your tasks performed during the previous season. Tasks like having a player make 650 assists for the season or grab 100 steals in a season will earn you a number of points, which you can use in the NBA store to purchase signature sneakers from Adidas, Jordan, and Reebok.
The proper off-season begins with the NBA Draft Lottery, in which you find what pick you'll have in the upcoming NBA draft. After that, it's off to scout the upcoming class of rookies, which is done by putting them in one-on-one match-ups against current NBA players (complete with an annoying NBA Street-style commentary). This hands-on scouting will give you a feel for each player's capabilities, so you get an idea of who you want to go after on draft day. You're then given a couple of weeks to renew contracts of current players before entering the NBA draft itself, where you make picks that will impact the future of your team. We wish there were a better tool for organizing free agents; as it stands now, you have to scroll for a while to get down into the middle of the free-agent pool, where the forwards reside, and this simply takes too much time. Still, with a bit of patience, you can make your free agent offers and get ready for the next season.
After you finish signing players, making trades, and replacing staff members (if you so choose), it's time for the season to begin anew. From year to year, certain players on your team will evolve and come into their own, thanks to your good guidance. You can check out this player evolution for yourself, to see in exactly which areas those players have improved since the previous season. After that, it's a matter of jumping into your next season with both feet and trying to improve on the progress made before.
Beyond dynasty mode, NBA Live 06 features standard season, playoffs, and online modes, along with the returning NBA All-Star Weekend, where you can take part in a three-point shot contest, play the rookies vs. sophomores or All-Star exhibition games, or compete in the slam dunk contest, which features similar controls to last year's game--ones that give you a great deal of flexibility over the style of your dunk but also demand a good deal of patience in order to learn. Luckily, there's a handy slam-dunk school tutorial that shows you the basics of the gather moves and dunk modifiers to get you on your way.
NBA Live 06 is shaping up to be a nice step forward for the Live series. While it seems that the team's focus has been on on-court improvements, with things like the freestyle superstar controls, and on concentrating more on the transition game, the dynasty mode looks to be a fine mode for basketball fans to really sink their teeth into. You can expect to see a full review of every aspect of NBA Live 06 as soon as the game hits store shelves in just a few weeks.