Ben Sin
Wednesday November 20th, 2013

EA's NBA Live, once the dominant basketball video game franchise in the 90s and early 2000s before the NBA 2K series knocked them off the throne, is back after a three year hiatus with NBA Live 14.  Truth be told, Live was going to have an uphill battle even if the game was superb, given the near revered status of the NBA 2K series among gamers and hoopheads today. But, damn, the early impressions of Live 14 are not good.

First of all, the graphics are getting clowned on the internet right now.

These photos, especially the first of 2K LeBron vs Live LeBron (courtesy of GameSpot), are all over social media. In the first batch of reviews, the graphics were described as "not amazing", "decent", and "PS2-like."

Fortunately, it's not all about looks, and Live's gameplay is getting some slight praise. Live's much-hyped 5-on-5 gameplay, with data from advance-camera tracking system Synergy, actually makes for a strong AI, according to various reviews.

Games Radar, for example, said:

Much has been made about the integration of Synergy Sports data that powers the behavior of players not directly controlled by the user, and it’s evident when playing a standard game just how powerful that can be. You’ll often notice particularly smart patterns of positioning and screening by your teammates, based on their real-life individual strengths. You can feel the weight of the players as you move around the court, and their momentum forces you to be smart about your actions.

Bleacher Report also has similar nice things to say about the gameplay:

The gameplay actually exceeded my expectations. The on-court A.I. is excellent. The quality here is a product of the new CourtQ feature that enhances the way players react away from the ball on offense and defense. AI-controlled players rotate on defense and cut to the basket on offense with great realism. Solid defensive teams really shine as they play as a unit to help limit the solid looks opponents get.

IGN, though, wasn't so kind in their 4.3 out of 10 review:

For an experience built around the basketball itself and the physics that power it, the players handling said rock feel sluggish, as if these ballers only do what you want well afteryou tell them to. The right-thumbstick dribble mechanics feel good and are reminiscent of the old-school Live’s Freestyle Stick, but they’re often abused, with behind-the-back spins frequently leading to dunks or layups. Speaking of which, dunks from anyone and everyone are far too common -- the mid-range jump shot is mostly absent from Live 14’s repertoire, probably because jumpers have a freakish tendency to get blocked no matter who’s doing the shooting.

And then, of course, there are gameplay impressions from the Twittersphere:

Overall, the consensus is that the game has redeeming qualities and potential, but is vastly inferior to NBA 2K14. However, the game’s “Big Moments” mode, in which the game recreates digital versions of specific in-game situations for players, deserves praise because EA will continually add new moments as they happen in the NBA season (example: Jeff Green’s game winner over the Miami Heat from two weeks ago is already in the game). This is a mode that 2K will probably steal for next year’s edition, but in the mean time, is about the only reason gamers have to play Live over 2K.

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