It's no secret that EA's Live series has long been regarded as the deepest roundball simulation going. Year after year, EA Sports brings new features to the mix while finely honing those that are already established. NBA Live 2001 is no different. While there isn't much left to add to the Live series at this point, somehow EA has managed to bump up the realism even further. NBA Live 2001 is not only the PlayStation's best basketball game, but it's also the best playing b-ball sim on any system.
NBA Live's usual gameplay staples have returned. You may play through an entire season with full stat tracking while leading your team all the way to the championship. You can also square off in exhibition games against up to seven of your friends using the PlayStation Multitap, play one-on-one with Michael Jordan, or participate in a three-point shootout against any opponent in the NBA. The season mode is overflowing with options and customizable features. You begin by drafting teams, and then the schedule is set up based upon your preferences for game length, season length, and gameplay options. Creating your own players is also a snap, and they may be drafted onto a team for seasonal or exhibition play. For better or worse, the arcade mode - complete with flaming basketballs and high-flying dunks - has also returned. If you're looking for the ceiling on options in a basketball video game, Live 2001 may have reached it. There just isn't much more left that can be included, but EA has still tried. This year, the NBA Live challenge mode has been added, in which you must perform objectives - such as scoring a triple-double - for points. The points can then be used to purchase increased attributes for created players or open new courts to play on. As you might expect, Live 2001 has updated rosters for all 31 teams and the ability to select some of the dynasties from days since passed.
NBA Live 2001 truly comes into its own in one area especially: control. It's really hard to find one single move innate to the NBA game that isn't included. You can get your feet wet with just the shoot, pass, turbo, and jump commands, but after a few hours you'll be looking for more control, and Live 2001 delivers. Spinning, juking, crossing over your dribble, faking, and calling for picks are all at your fingertips, just waiting to be used. You may even post up and choose from four separate moves to go hard to the rack or use icon passing to hit your man at the back door. On defense, you can face up on your man and challenge him to drive to the hoop, call for a double team, or swat the ball away with either the steal or jump commands.
No other basketball video game captures the force and speed of the NBA like Live 2001. When Shaq throws one down, the whole backboard shakes (and the rim doesn't bend upon impact like in most other video game b-ball excursions). After a big play, players celebrate by pumping their fists or "pushing up" the crowd. Each move is intricately captured so that it's never difficult to tell whether your player is performing a crossover or a behind-the-back dribble. There are some nice details in Live 2001 as well. The players' faces are well animated - after a big play they scream with excitement, and after making a foul shot players congratulate the shooter. When the camera zooms in for a close-up, the crowd looks awful and the players appear very blocky, but while playing, these problems are barely noticeable.
One obvious improvement over previous installments of Live is the artificial intelligence. You won't have to worry about walking through a season, as the computer controls the other team more accurately than any b-ball video game before it. If you try to double-team, the CPU will dump it to the low post for the easy dunk. If you play too far off, it will pull up for a quick J. If the computer is leading late in the game, it will methodically bring the ball up court at a slow pace to burn the seconds off the clock. Conversely, if you're giving the computer a beating, it'll call timeouts in the last couple of minutes to inbound the ball at half court or intentionally foul, forcing you to win the game at the charity stripe. All this culminates in a game that is nearly as fun to play against the computer as it is against human opponents.
NBA Live 2001 follows the fine tradition established by previous versions while adding just about every conceivable gameplay option. The graphics may not be overly pretty, but the smooth animations and excellent gameplay help you to quickly forget. NBA Live 2001 is a great basketball game with incredible depth and engrossing gameplay. Live 2001 is the PlayStation's best basketball game, and it's good to see that EA Sports has not forsaken its current generation of PlayStation software to wow consumers with its PlayStation 2 offerings. It's only fitting that the last NBA Live on PlayStation is also the best.