Take one look at the 2005 NBA Finals and it's easy to see that more often than not, superior teams feature difference makers on both sides of the ball. These are guys that can make things happen through either their deft passing ability, offensive power, or doggedly determined defensive skills. Call them powerhouses, snipers, studs, or whatever you like. They're the guys that take the team on their shoulders and single-handedly make or break a game. In Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, the San Antonio Spurs have two just such players, and two games into the NBA Finals, the pair is showing the Pistons what being a superstar is all about.
The upcoming entry in EA Sports' NBA Live franchise--NBA Live 06--is taking the concept of superstars to the next level through the introduction of what it's calling "freestyle superstar" controls. These controls, all tied to a combination of the PlayStation 2/Xbox controller trigger and face buttons, will essentially give you control over a large variety of offensive and defensive moves to mix things up as you move the ball up and down the court. These playmaker moves will control passes, dunks, and defense against opponents, including blocks and steal moves. Options for pass moves include those of the no-look and behind-the-back varieties, and one defensive superstar move includes the ability to go up for a rebound and immediately block out an opponent once you've got possession, among others. Furthermore, the variety of sick dunks available will please anyone looking to take it to the rack with authority. As a result, you'll find that one- and two-hand tomahawks, windmill dunks, and power dunks are all available.
What's nice about these specialized moves is how easy they are to pull off in-game. Tapping the corresponding face button can result in a different move than holding the button down, for instance, which doubles the amount of moves you have available in your arsenal. So the question now becomes: What's to stop a player from using these moves the entire game and forgoing traditional basketball tactics, such as, you know, getting an open look and shooting? NBA Live 06 producers are well aware of the temptation and claim that the freestyle superstar moves will be tempered through a risk-versus-reward system. Consistently driving to the basket in the hopes of nailing that two-handed power slam will up your foul totals, and if you get a little too pass-happy, there's always the risk of getting picked off. Of course, to our ears, this sounds like the standard penalty you'd pay for getting too aggressive on the court, so it will be interesting to see how the "risk" side of the freestyle superstar controls balance out against the more obvious rewards.
Of course, the type of player you control on the court will designate which set of superstar moves are available to you. Shaq can't dish it like Steve Nash, and Nash can't deal out the dunks like O'Neal. So when controlling either of these characters, you'll be dealing with a different set of available controls. Furthermore, not everyone on a team will be considered a superstar; indeed, some teams may only have one player deemed worthy of superstar status. So if you're hoping to dominate the paint with Darko, well, keep dreaming. Each team has a maximum of one offensive and one defensive superstar, and the game producers said they're still fine-tuning the game's definition of superstar, though it seems it will likely be tied to the player's overall rating. They also mentioned you'll have the option of adjusting player ratings to "create" the superstar on the team of your choice.
While the new control variations bring something new to the NBA Live 06 table, some features that defined the last game in the franchise will return: namely the NBA All-Star Weekend, both as a stand-alone event and as part of the dynasty mode. As expected, gamers taking part in the all-star activities will be able to once again create new crowd-pleasing dunks in the dunk contest, as well as drain threes in the three-point shoot-out, take part in the rookie challenge, or simply play in the NBA All-Star Game itself. In the booth, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson will handle commentating duties for the all-star minigames, while the legendary Marv Albert returns once again for play-by-play for regular games. He'll be joined by three-point sniper and five-time NBA champion Steve Kerr, who will hold down the color commentator's chair this go-around.
NBA Live 06 producers are touting better transition animations this time around, which will hopefully give NBA Live 06 a better feeling of smooth up-and-down-the-court action than was present in NBA Live 2005. As we get closer to the game's October release date, we'll have more information on the transition game, as well as all of 06's other features. So stay tuned.