Whilst EA's yearly sports updates aren't always a massive improvement upon their predecessor, you generally know what you're getting and how the title will play. However, with NBA Live 07 it feels like EA are moving backwards. With poor controls and overly complex moves this isn't the NBA game you want this year - in fact NBA Live 07 is so average that it's barely worth more than a glance.
Like with all of EA's 07 titles you'll initially begin in a gym where you can become accustomed to the controls. You can instantly bring up the menu of options and select a mode, the usual Play Now and online modes have returned, but the single player campaign has been scoped out a lot more. The Dynasty mode has made it into 07, as has the NBA All-Star Weekend, which includes the All-Star game, a rookie challenge game, the three point shoot out and a slam dunk content. NBA Live 06 didn't feature the Dynasty mode, so we're pleased it made the cut this year.
The Dynasty mode is the main single player mode in the game. You basically become the head of a team, and your first role is to hire staff including an assistant coach, who is in charge of co-ordinating practices and press days. As the boss you'll need to ensure your team is in top shape for each game. The game includes a team chemistry rating; it is important to keep your chemistry high because if lower the team is less likely to stage a comeback. In Dynasty mode you're also able to track the fatigue of your players. Fatigue is measured by the amount of game time each of your players has and how much time you spend travelling. The more fatigued your players are the more likely they are to injure themselves.
Just like the PSP version, NBA Live 07 includes freestyle superstar controls. The top players on the team have a special superstar skill which ranges from high flyer, scorer, playmaker, post and shooter. The PSP version included the X Factor, defined when a player was performing so well that they temporarily acted like a superstar. This has been replaced in the XBox 360 version with players being "in the zone". If the superstar players are "in the zone" then they have more accuracy and are even better players than before.
So feature-wise NBA Live 07 is genuinely an improvement upon the Xbox 360 launch title 06, unfortunately it is when the game begins that things begin to fall apart. The controls really are the downfall of the game. You dunk and layup with the X and Y buttons - EA claims that a risk/reward system has been implemented into dunking but the players really aren't attuned to layups or dunking. Even if your superstar players get a break and are running down the court preparing to dunk whilst there are no opposition in the key they'll still miss far too frequently. It really feels like you're playing with amateurs rather than superstars. Just a normal shot is difficult to execute too; it seems like there is no real system to shooting, even if you take shots from the same angle and release at the same time there is no guarantee the shots will go in. This basically means your shooting is just a case of luck, which just isn't good enough.
Even if you can get past the ridiculously broken shooting system there are still plenty of glitches which bring the game down even further. The AI doesn't appear to have any intelligence at all, for example if the basketball is going out and you were the last person to touch it the AI will sometimes actually rush for the ball and tap it over, resulting in a free throw to you. Glitches which should have been ironed out of the game haven't been fixed either and sometimes the players even block each other from the ball. We could go on and on about the glitches with the game, but all you need to know is that there are lots and everytime you encounter one you'll become even more frustrated with the game. The game also suffers from sporadic frame rate issues, which is the icing on the poison cake (the icing is poison too, you see).
The Xbox 360 achievements appear to have been tacked on as well, for example you're given 100 points for just playing a ranked game and completing it without dropping out. Another 100 points is rewarded for completing a game with four players on your Xbox 360. There are only 15 achievements and they're relatively easy to complete because all they really require you to do is execute the in the zone and superstar moves. There is also an achievement which requires you to be online when there are 1000 people online, if you do this you'll "achieve" 100 points, which is just ridiculous. The game also includes ESPN integration, which lets you watch highlights or obtain the latest news.
Visually the game is still pretty impressive and the players all look really good. There are still visual issues like clipping and bad animation but overall the game looks pretty decent although the still images make the game look better than when it is in motion. The commentary is provided by Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. I actually remember Steve Kirr from the NBA titles of the 90's and thankfully he is just as good at commentating as playing. The soundtrack is pretty expansive and includes a decent selection of music from Gnarls Barkley and The Black Eyed Peas.
Overall NBA Live 07 is just a really broken game, with glitches and an unsatisfying shot system you need to have patience if any enjoyment is to be expected. It is admirable that EA have added the Dynasty mode to the Xbox 360 version, but the gameplay comes first and with NBA Live 07 it seems the gameplay really took a backseat during development.