NBA Live 07 Review

Ever since I first played NBA Live 95 on the SNES, Live has been my NBA series of choice. When the 2K series debuted a few years after that, I admitted the games were good, but I still purchased Live year in and year out. NBA Live 07 may change that, though.

To begin, yes, EA did fix several issues which plagued NBA Live 06. For one thing, players no longer slide around the court, and physics are taken into account — albeit slightly. There’s also a fairly deep dynasty mode this time around, which was a very perplexing omission from Live 06 for the Xbox 360. If you played Live 06 and were frustrated at the lack of gameplay modes available, worry not, because this new version of Live features all of the staple features and modes from current-gen consoles, including the All-Star weekend, superstar controls and more. However, even with the gameplay modes added back into the fold, somewhere along the line EA Sports managed to make NBA Live 07 fall several rungs below Live 06 on the NBA video game ladder, and far below NBA 2K7.

The biggest problem with Live 07 is the overall gameplay itself. Looking at previous NBA Live games, it’s easy to see areas where they can improve — but they’re still well done, for the most part. In Live 07, that changes. While players do no longer slide, they find themselves hosts to numerous other problems, including many clipping issues and some of the stupidest AI I’ve seen yet in a sports title.

While playing a game, often times the computer-controlled players (on your team or on your opponents’ team) will make mistakes even a fifth grade basketball player would know not to make. They’ll run out of bounds to dribble around an opponent, they’ll pass the ball to a player clearly out of bounds, they’ll shoot shots which would normally be considered a buzzer beater shot quite often, and much, much more. It wouldn’t be nearly as bad if only one of these factors was present, but combined they make the gameplay truly suffer. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions because a player you pass the ball to decides to run out of bounds at the last moment.

On the other side of the ball, the defense is some of the most intense I’ve seen. No matter who your player is or what the situation is, the defenders will double team the player with the ball nearly half of the time. Combined with the poor offensive AI, this leads to far more turnovers than it should.

I wish the AI was the only glaring issue in NBA Live 07 — but it isn’t. Another aspect where the gameplay suffers this year is in the control department. In an attempt to make the game more realistic, this year EA mapped the three different types of shots — dunks, lay-ups and jumpshots — to different buttons on the controller. On paper, this doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea. In game, though, it leads to far more frustration and confusion than it should, because there really aren’t enough buttons on the controller to pull this off smoothly. Buttons share purposes, and as you decide which shot to attempt, you may not perform the action you wish. For example, the lay-up button is mapped to the same button as the jump-stop. If you tap the button, you perform a jump-stop; hold the button and you lay it in. That’s what the instructions claim, at least. Many times you’ll go to either perform a jump-stop or a lay-up, only to have the opposite happen.

The controls aren’t the only problem when it comes to the shooting game — even less than a foot from the rim. No matter what you pick, dunk or lay-up, you’re going to miss nearly half of your shots. I’m not talking about shoot-in-traffic-over-Ratliff shots, I’m talking wide-open-on-a-fast-break shots. Wide open, defended, on a cut, off of a screen…it doesn’t really matter. It also doesn’t matter what player you use, as I found high profile scorers like Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen miss just as frequently as players like Francisco Garcia from close range. It’s a very frustrating issue, and while it’s obvious they tried to correct the dunkfest that was Live 06, they took it just a tad too far. But despite EA toning it down when it comes to dunks made, they once again neglected to make sure dunks are performed in realistic fashions, by players who can dunk. More than once I’ve stood stationary with Steve Nash just inside the free throw line, and been able to jump to the rim and throw it down over several shot-blocking defenders.

Jump shots are also incredibly frustrating in Live 07. In most basketball games (and in past Live titles) it’s fairly easy to get down the rhythm of shooting jump shots. You hold down shoot, wait until the apex of the jump, and then release the button. In Live 07, though, it’s very difficult to tell when to release the button. In most cases, you’ll be off timing wise, and the shot will go clanking off the front or back of the rim. Even players such as Michael Redd and Peja Stojakovic will miss wide open shots from less than ten feet out. Of course, the computer has no problem shooting an abnormally high percentage from the field. Combining this with the stupid AI, poorly designed control scheme and missed dunks/lay-ups, you’ll often find yourself down in the game fairly early.

The one thing that EA was hoping would truly separate Live from the 2K series is the All-Star weekend event. Sadly, that is full of flaws as well. With most of the events from the authentic NBA All-Star weekend — complete with EJ and Greg Anthony providing some audio coverage — things looked bright for the 360’s first All-Star treatment. But they could have been far better.

Being the biggest draw of All-Star weekend, you would expect the dunk contest to have been tested over and over again, in order to make sure things run completely smooth, right? Wrong. It seems after playing the dunk contest that the computer’s scoring is often random, and rarely fair. For example, in one dunk contest competition, I took control of Vince Carter against three opponents rated in the 70’s for dunks (I wanted to win, for once). For my first dunk, I came in with a 360 degree dunk where I put the ball under each leg once, then threw it in behind my head. I thought it was fairly good, and the judges agreed, giving me a score of solid 8s. The next dunker was not so lucky.

He started off with the ball on the ground. From there, he kicked it off of the camera above and to the right of the shot clock. The ball bounced off of the camera, he caught it, put it under a leg, and dunked it home. Right away, Anthony began talking about the dunk, saying it was "a dunk I see my kid do every day." I don’t know about your kid, Greg, but I’d like to see anyone in real life do that dunk once, let alone every day. Even with that insight from Anthony, I still expected my opponent to beat my score and advance (I was barely in second place at that point). Not only did he not beat my score of 8s, but he didn’t even get a card higher than a 5. This type of scoring anomaly happens frequently, and it makes dunk contests almost complete pointless. Why bother learning how to do the incredibly difficult dunks, if ones requiring far less skill will often net higher point totals?

With the horrid gameplay in Live 07, you would hope that they at least got the technical aspects right. To a degree, they did. Overall, the graphics in the game look beautiful and are well done. The only complaints I really have in that department are that at times the animations look like the players are running in fast-motion, and several of the players look nothing like their real life counterpart. For example, Steve Nash looks more like Jason Kidd circa 1997 than Steve Nash; he doesn’t even have long hair! If you can ignore the fact several prominent players look like a generic bench player, you’ll be pleased once again with the graphics of Live 07.

The sound is by far the best portion of the game. The soundtrack is the normal fare you can expect from a basketball title, featuring a variety of artists from Lupe Fiasco to Gnarls Barkley. If you aren’t a fan of rap, you may want to use a custom soundtrack. But if you enjoy rap music overall, you’ll love the soundtrack the guys at EA came up with for Live 07, and like in past titles you’ll be introduced to some artists you may have never heard of.

The commentary for the actual games is also well done. Providing play-by-play and color is the team of Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, and just like on real broadcasts, they play well off of each other. Steve Kerr often talks about his time playing with a few of the players in the game, telling fun little anecdotes to really make you think you’re listening to an ESPN broadcast. Sadly, this is completely ruined when out of no where, one of the two will break the fourth wall and start referring to the fact that you’re playing a video game. Several times Kerr or Marv will chime in with something such as, "I think this player is hitting the block button too often!" and it can completely take you out of the game’s environment. I can understand why someone would think it would be funny to put these little quips in there, but go one way or the other; either refer to it all as a game, or don’t.

In the end, NBA Live 07 falls far short of expectations. After Live 06, we all hoped that the next title would not only include the features left out of the first-generation Xbox 360 title, but also up the ante and truly compete with the 2K series. As it is, it seems EA truly didn’t care to refine gameplay this time around. While the inclusion of features the PS2 and Xbox gamers have had for a year or two now are nice, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for a gameplay plagued with bugs, glitches and bad programming. This year, the title of Best NBA Video Game goes to NBA 2K7, without a doubt. It will take a lot for NBA Live to right itself and be a quality title again next year. If it can’t, it may be too late for the long-running series to get a foothold in the next-gen marketplace.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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