Last week, EA stopped by to give us an updated look at the upcoming addition to their long-running basketball franchise, NBA Live 2005. In our previous coverage of the game, we gave you an in-depth look at the new all-star weekend games, such as the slam-dunk and three-point contests, as well as some of the new gameplay upgrades, like the new freestyle air system. This time, we'll be giving you a long, hard look at the newly revamped dynasty mode featured in Live 2005. This mode looks to be a whole new ball game for fans of NBA team management.
When you first enter into your team's dynasty, you'll find a few different options at your disposal. The first place you'll want to look is your PDA. This is basically your one-stop shop for communication with your team's owner, coaches, medical staff, players, and such. Throughout the season, e-mail will come from all fronts, and by pressing a button, you'll be able to stop whatever you're doing and log on to see what's up. The e-mail runs the gamut from coaches telling you where you stand in the power rankings, to your owner expressing concerns about the team, to the medical staff explaining the severity of player injuries. A lot of important information comes through the PDA, so you'll find yourself checking it quite a bit as you go through a season.
The duties of a general manager have been expanded quite a bit in this new dynasty mode. For starters, this year's game features a much deeper free-agent signing system. When you offer a player on your team a new contract, or try to sign a player out of the free-agent pool, you won't instantly hear back on whether that player plans to sign with you. Once your offer has been submitted, the player will mull the offer over for a few days, and then, through his agent, tell you where he stands. This delay opens the door to other teams trying to sign the player, meaning you'll have to be more competitive with your contract offers. This is made a tad more complex by the new salary system in the game, which mimics its real-life counterpart. For example, you can set up your contracts to pay players the same salary every year, or to provide incremental increases as the years pass.
Another area you'll be spending a lot more time on is the draft. Rookies are generated at the beginning of a season now, instead of at the end. This means that all year long, you'll be able to send scouts out to get a look at prospective rookies. The number of times you send your scouts out to evaluate a particular prospect will translate directly into the amount of info you'll have at your disposal during the actual draft. You'll also be able to schedule specific types of scouting workouts, such as offensive, defensive, and athletic workouts. So if you really want to find a good offensive guard, or a defensive-minded big man, you'll be able to tailor your scouting accordingly. Of course, you won't be able to send out scouts to check out every player every available day of the year. The scouting sessions are tied into the dynasty points system, which requires you to use points earned throughout the season to buy new scouting sessions, as well as a whole host of training bonuses for your team.
When you actually do find yourself in a season, you'll now have the ability to simulate games by quarter. Why would you want to do something like that? Because doing so allows you to intervene during the course of a game, so if you're down by 15 at the half, you'll be able to jump into the game and try to steer your team to victory. You'll also be able to access realistic box scores for games this year, albeit only for a few days. However, the stats generated seem to be very realistic, and they should give you a good idea of how your players are performing from game to game.
One other aspect of NBA Live 2005 we got a good look at was the NBA Store mode. This is basically your typical unlockables mode, allowing you to use points earned throughout the game to buy all kinds of fun stuff, such as practice jerseys, classic jerseys, socks, headbands, and all kinds of Nike shoes, including more Air Jordans than you can shake a stick at. There's definitely a wealth of stuff to unlock here, and it should take you a good while to unlock it all.
Each time we sit down with NBA Live 2005, we find ourselves more and more impressed with what the game is trying to bring to the table. The new dynasty mode seems to be extremely feature-rich, while avoiding any annoying convolutions and keeping the interface manageable. With only three weeks until Live 2005's release, you can expect a full review of the game in the near future.