DE-FENSE! :thump thump: DE-FENSE! :thump thump:
achildbyfire wrote this review on .
[I review games based on my own personal beliefs on what I think is important in video games, for more info - check my blog.]
I like to think I know a little something about basketball, I watch it quite frequently and have been more involved in it over the last 5 years or so...and if EA thinks they have figured out the formula to a realistic basketball sim, they're mistaken.
I'm not sure where to start, I guess I'd like to point out that I usually play this game in dynasty mode and use position lock (I play as the shooting guard). I have played it using all team members like every other basketball game in the past, (when you pass to a guy on your team, you become that player, etc.) but I like the idea of position lock. That's one addition that is definitely welcome in this years game, and in my opinion is welcome in every sports game from here on out. It does make you feel like you're playing a TEAM sport and are just one piece to the puzzle rather than controlling every aspect of the team.
The Pros of the game:
Position lock (like stated above)
The graphics are great for the most part
The animations are realistic looking (including different shooting, dunking, free throw, etc animations, as well as the dribbling stick/ankle breaker ball handling.)
The Cons of the game:
The AI is abysmal
The animations are "realistic" looking (How is this both a pro and con? I'll explain below.)
"NBA 356" updates are basically useless
I'm quite the pessimist, so I'll skip the pros list explanation and start with the cons (The pros are pretty self explanatory.)
I've been playing in Dynasty Mode as the Orlando Magic, and if anyone is watching basketball this season you'll know who leads the league in both total blocks and average blocks per game -- Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. Even with this fact I still cannot count how many times Howard has been blown past in the lane and dunked on in my dynasty. The AI RARELY slides over to help on penetration, and whether you play the game on player lock or not -- you can't be the entire team...so you as the player are just as bad as the AI of your teammates. Furthermore the game has set plays you can run on offense, which sounds great and actually works great about 10% of the time. Your teammates will run the plays either 100% true to form or will disregard the play all together and make a horrible decision...leaving you with a dumbfounded look on your face and asking yourself why they didn't kick you out the pass for a wide open 3-pointer. The other side of this is that your teammates will make the passes as planned in the play regardless of the defensive set...which means if there's a defender in the passing lane - your team just gave up a turn over. Your teammates never cut to the basket when its clearly an open lane, and when you try to throw them the alley-oop to force the issue they usually miss the pass completely and no one on your team has the awareness to fetch the arrant pass. Instead you just watch as the ball bounces out of bounds and you commit yet another turnover.
The game has a pick and roll function which works decent for the most part, but there again sometimes you'll set the pick and the player will have a wide open layup at the rim but will instead decide to pass you the ball when you've got 2 defenders on you from setting the pick...It's incredibly irritating. If you're going to have a "player lock" option in your game, you had better make sure your other 4 teammates have half a brain.
About the animations looking realistic, the game often feels like instead of pressing triangle to attempt a blocked shot, you press triangle to trigger a block shot attempt animation. What I mean by this is that I go up for a shot block, it looks very real, but afterward my player turns around to watch the shot and does other random actions that were attached to the tail-end of the animation. When in reality I'm pressing my left stick towards the basket so I can try and box out for a rebound on a missed shot. Furthermore, when playing defense you are forced to strafe sometimes. The reason this is annoying is this: If I'm guarding a guy on the perimeter and the other teams PG starts to dribble drive to the hoop, I want to sneak in and have a swat at the ball -- knowing full well I've just left my assignment, but keeping it in mind that he is still out there. So what happens? The penetration leads to a kick out pass that I knew full well was a possibility, but instead of darting back to my spot to defend my guy, I'm stuck in a strafe mode "crab walk" towards a wide open shooter at the 3-point line. It's annoying, you might say "well you shouldn't have left your guy." But what if I wanted to create the kick out pass? I was successful in that aspect, but now I'm stuck in a realistic looking animation instead of being able to TAKE CONTROL of my player to get back in time...So you're forced to play a hum-drum defense...but of course if you do this, Dwight Howard's AI is so retarded that he gets blown by as if glued to the ground and the team is awarded an easy lay-up. So it's a lose/lose situation.
On a side note, I was playing a Dynasty as the Dallas Mavericks and was offered a trade from the Suns that would give them Jason Kidd, and I'd get Shaquille O'neal. This trade seems very stupid to me for both teams involved, but I'm able to look past it....But in this same dynasty, I was able to trade Jason Kidd to the New Jersey Nets for VINCE CARTER...and if you're even remotely a basketball fan you'll realize that this trade is ridiculous on a few different levels...
This years NBA Live has something called "365 Updates" which is cool in theory. [NOTE: these updates are FREE if you bought a NEW copy of the game, if you bought it used you might get lucky and have the code included with the game work. Otherwise I think its 10 bucks to get the updates, which in my opinion are not worth it.] Basically - every time you boot up the game, it downloads a very quick update that changes the way the AI plays for every player including their tendencies and hot/cold streaks. If you're a stats enthusiast (like me) you'll love to sort through the update and check out how they're affecting your favorite teams or players...unfortunately, I don't see where it affects the gameplay whatsoever.
Now to break things down into my important categories:
The game has pretty deep customization options. You can make a player and adjust many of his facial features and characteristics (including his shot styles, sweatbands, and even his kicks...which is important for any baller.) You cannot create your own team, which is slightly disappointing, but its not the end of the world.
A cool feature in the customization department is that you can edit and save replays from gameplay and save them to your harddrive as highlights that will show later in your practice gym on the big screens located in the corners of the building.
The game has standard options found in most any basketball game. AI sliders, rules, sound options, etc...
The controls are good and precise for the most part and the offensive dribble moves are fun and sometimes create an "Oh snap!" moment...but the animations that play out on the game sometimes give you the impression that it doesn't matter what buttons you're pressing at certain moments.
The game supports at least 4 players on one machine and runs how you'd expect.
The game has the usual modes - Dynasty/Season, Exhibition and All-star weekend with the addition of a practice facility to work on all aspects of the game. Plus there's a FIBA mode in case you want to play using the teams from around the world...which include the super-stacked USA squad. (Kobe and LeBron on the same team?! Go ahead and win that gold medal boyeee!)
The sounds in the game are decent, the commentary is pretty good with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr calling the action. They sometimes say repetitive things about the players, but its ignorable. The soundtrack for the game is just as annoying as you'd expect from an EA title. I've muted all the tracks. Here's an idea EA, instead of having a department devoted to signing those big time record label bands and making sure you have an ex-TREME soundtrack for your games, make that department focus on something more important...say for instance, that the game works properly?
Awful. Truly the game's downfall.
The game has a fun online mode that is similar to playing a pick-up game down at your local park. It's pretty lag-free for the most part but there seems to be a slight delay in the buttons pressed which makes it hard to shoot because of the timing issues. If you play it enough though you can get the hang of it. Unfortunately this mode usually turns into a game full of fast breaks and dunks...but its still fun occasionally.
When you're fooling around in the gym a window will sometimes pop open in the corner with a video from the recent sports center recording. It'll show you the top-ten plays of the week. I'm not a huge espn fan but it's a cool addition.
Final Verdict --
In closing, the game has a lot of cool little features that work well for the most part...but at the end of the day - I want to sit down and play a basketball sim that is true to life...and unfortunately, this is not it. I give the game a 4.5 based on the fact that it's a basketball game...and being a basketball game it is successful in one thing -- allowing you to play a game of basketball....no matter how unsatisfying it may be.