After being relegated to the bench the last few years, the NBA Live series started to show some signs of life with its 2009 incarnation. Now with the 2010 edition in stores, it's plain to see that NBA Live 10 is a triumphant return to glory with the title boasting a number of improvements over its predecessors. But in the never-ending battle between video gamingâ€™s elite basketball franchises, does NBA Live 10 have what it takes to steal the crown away from NBA 2K10? Not quite, but it's a significant leap forward compared to the most recent entries in the series, and it will definitely have the NBA Live faithful flocking back to the franchise.
After sitting down with the title for a few hours, you'll noticed that the Electronic Arts team has gone back to basics on this one and really sunk their collective minds into improving on the gameplay experience of the title. Most notable is the the look and feel of the game. Gone is the clunkiness of previous titles, with the game now possessing sharp, fluid and realistic player animations. On top of that, EA has also gone out of its way to quash the cheap scoring tactics of previous titles once you juice up the difficulty. Set the game onto all-star difficulty and you'll find that the simple spin move to the basket ploy no longer works - nor does the old drive and dish technique. If you try to attack the basket and kick the ball out to an open player on the three-point line, you'll find a nasty surprise as the defenders deflect and intercept the ball away with ease. While this style of play may frustrate many gamers out of their proven winning routine, it serves the game well as it brings back some credibility back to the series by teetering the gameplay away from the arcade angle and thrusting it back into realistic simulation territory.
The title's shooting mechanics have been simplified this time around, with a single button press performing a number of different shooting moves - depending on which way you direct the left analog stick. Floaters, jumpers, fadeaways and bank shots are all amongst the jump shot repertoire and that coupled with the right trigger to access attacking dunks and lay-ups mean that players will have a number of devastating attacking options amongst their offensive arsenal. Thankfully shot timing also makes a welcome return to the game with players again required to hold their shot and release at the perfect time in order to improve their chances of scoring which adds another welcome level of skill to the title.
One of the biggest changes of the game relates to the post play of your big men in the paint. While post play was a major emphasis of last year's title, it has been stripped back to an almost non-existence in NBA Live 10. Rather than having access to an abundance of moves, the developer has instead chosen to give big men a small, but strong arsenal of moves to use to exert their dominance in the paint. While this serves as a drastic change from last year's title, most players won't find that it's that big of a deal and today's NBA is quite devoid of centres and power forwards who play this 'bash and crash' brand of basketball.
While post play has been stripped back in Live 10, one aspect of the game that has been extensively worked over is the passing mechanic. Now its easier than ever to get the ball to your main scoring threat thanks to DNA quick plays (an option which targets your best scoring threat at the moment and has that player generate some space in order to score an almost certain basket) and direct-player control - a feature which lets gamers control an off-ball player in order to create a scoring opportunity rather than relying on the AI. These new control mechanics do a great job of highlighting the best talent on your team and help players create better offensive opportunities for themselves; and with the enhanced defensive AI, you're going to need all the help you can get to keep possession of the ball.
While many gameplay and control mechanic updates were made to the title, this was all unfortunately done at the expense of any significant game mode additions. While NBA 2K10 had a significant addition with the My Player mode, Live 10 merely has the addition of Adidas Live Run - an online mode which allows ten players to partake in some five-on-five action. This mode has a built in squad function which allows players form a team with other players and compete against other human squads. This game mode plays out like a light league mode and it is quite enjoyable to play. With a few more features in the mix, future incarnations of this game mode could turn into being a major selling point for the title. Online play is quite a breeze in Adidas Live Run and most of the time you'll find that there is minimal lag at play.
Like most basketball titles, you'll find that you'll spend most of your time tuned into Dynasty mode, and for that NBA Live 10 is no exception. As in previous incarnations, Dynasty will have you taking on the role of the coach, with a great emphasis being placed on you to hire staff, train and develop your rookie players, wheel and deal for players via trade options, etc. with the ultimate goal of bringing home the championship silverware at the end of the season. Elsewhere you'll find that the FIBA World Championships mode has been expanded to incorporate 32 teams from countries all over the world. If that's not your thing there is also a dedicated playoff mode and a fantasy teams mode to play with - which lets you create your ultimate dream team.
The game's presentation has too received an overhaul this year with the colours on screen appearing brighter than ever, which player animations and more smooth and fluid than ever. While the detail of the players is quite intricate, they almost have a plastic sheen to their features giving them a Barbie doll quality. While the visuals have definitely been souped up, the audio mix is quite so-so with the announcers again suffering from repetitive commentary. While this won't be prevalent to you if you consistently play with different squads, it's really grate on your brain during dynasty mode as you're continuously playing with the same roster of players. Crowd sounds are quite amazing (especially during the playoffs) and with a decent set of speakers, you'll feel as if every chant and cheer is really happening right before your eyes.
Though for all of the great strides that the title has made over the last twelve months, there are still a number of significant AI gripes which take away from the title. One of the largest gripes is the frequency with which players will consistantly step out of bounds or cause a back court violation. While it sounds quite insignificant, it can be quite frustrating to find that your team has thrown away numerous possessions simpoly because you'll passed the ball to a player that has stepped out of court at the last instant. Another gripe with the title is the movement of your players isn't as consise as it should be. This is mainly apparnet when you're sprinting down the court and then attempt to perform a jump shot, only to find that the momentum of your player's speed has forced him to put up a shot two or three steps away from where you wanted to shoot the ball. While only a minor gripe, this faux pas can make or break your team when the game is on the line because these additional steps can be the difference between scoring the game winning three-pointer or tieing the game.
Overall, NBA Live 10 is the most solid basketball title from the developer in a long time. While it certainly has a number of issues, the improved gameplay and control mechanics should send many of the NBA Live faithful returning back to the flock once more.