Hands-onNBA Live 2002 PS2

We play EA's next installment in the Live series for the PlayStation 2.

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At a press event held at Electronic Arts today, we were able to play NBA Live 2002 for the Sony PlayStation 2. EA admitted that last year's game was lacking in several key areas and it's dedicating its resources to correcting the problems. The entire game has been rebuilt from the ground up, including the graphics engine and gameplay system. EA stated that the graphics for last year's NBA Live were the result of the product being rushed to market.

To remedy this, the producer of the NHL series has joined the Live team to upgrade the graphics engine and bring some cinematic flair to the series. The biggest change from a visual perspective is the player models. There are dozens of different player bodies in the game, so that every big man no longer looks the same. It's now easy to quickly scan the court and pick out Dikembe Mutumbo from Shaquille O'Neal, by body shape alone. Small details such as the tattoos on Allen Iverson's neck and his finger wrap are included in the game, and reading the small letters in Shaq's tattoos is a snap. In addition to the player models, the courts have been completely redesigned as well. The real-time lighting and reflections are particularly impressive. Shadows are cast in all directions by multiple real-time lights and you can read a player's number in his reflection on the floor. EA has also added 50 new dunk animations and brought the rim physics over from NBA Street. When big men dunk the whole rim apparatus will shake, but when the smaller guys throw one down it will barely wiggle.

EA has also dedicated itself to improving NBA Live's gameplay. The AI has been drastically improved so that players no longer bunch up in the lane, and will stand casually if the player they're defending does not have the ball. Computer-controlled players will also bring the ball up the court in a casual manner if there are no defenders pressing. Zone defense will be allowed in the NBA next year and NBA Live 2002 will reflect this. Defenders will sit back and wait for you to dribble into the lane and then collapse on the ball. Many complained about a lack of a franchise mode in last year's NBA Live and EA claims that it has heard the complaints. The franchise mode in NBA Live 2002 will run for 10 seasons with a full draft, trades, and free agents.

Small details like letterboxed cinema sequences before, during, and after games will be included, as well as an extensive replay mode that allows you to view the action from any angle. From the short time we spent with NBA Live 2002, the base controls are predominantly the same. However, driving into the lane no longer results in being stopped and forced into pulling up for a jump shot. If you drive the lane with a big man, smaller players will get out of the way or your momentum will simply brush them back.

The graphics in NBA Live 2002 are so vastly improved over the 2001 iteration that it often looks like an entirely different game. EA is working just as hard to improve the gameplay, so this year's edition of Live could end up being a winner. We'll have more on NBA Live 2002 for the PlayStation 2 when we receive our own playable build.

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