NBA Live 2004
EA Sports is doing their yearly tour again, making updates for every thinkable sportsgame and NBA Live makes no exception. With the freestyle control being the biggest feature last year, they felt like they reinvented the wheel and in a way they did. They didn’t rethink any wheel this time around but rather made it more round and smooth.
The biggest difference in this year’s gameplay is probably the shooting and dunking method. Both actions have been assigned to different buttons. The circle button offers you a normal shot while the rectangle really delivers with high flying dunks and lay-ups. This results in a better overall control of the game.
Another new addition is the “one-time-stop”; by pressing the triangle your player will immediately stop running, make a little jump forward and be one step ahead of the defender. This move is really usefull to beat your defender and leave him standing while you go for the dunk. All the tricks in the game are still made by moving your right thumbstick in all directions, just experiment with it until you find your favourite move.
How can you make a player feel even more in control of his team? By giving him the chance to control every player on the court, even the ones without the ball. It’s called “Off the ball play” and it’s a rather effective way to make sure you’re free to get the ball. While the guard is dribbling you can control the forward and set blocks on other defenders. Once you’re free, ask the ball and go for the big ass jam! As you see, EA has made a big effort to give you even more control over the game and the effort is paying off as it really feels like you’re the big man on court. Actions performed by the computer are narrowed down to a minimum so no longer blaming the PS2, it’s all your own fault!
One thing that most basketball games have a problem with is the passing. The option to assign a button to every single player and then press the according button to give a pass to that player, has been cut. Don’t ask me why but it’s not a good thing! The passingsystem lacks accuracy, it often happens that you’d like to pass to the center on the left but the PS2 thinks different about it and gives the ball to the player on the other side of the court, resulting in a turnover. Pretty frustrating if you ask me.
Other versions of NBA Live had a pretty low difficulty level resulting in some really simple gameplay and also some dull moments. This time around the highest difficulty setting (Superstar) is just insane. The AI of the opponents is just not human (has it ever been human?), just set the difficulty at Allstar and you’ll find a well balanced opponent giving you just enough competition.
Concering the game modes, NBA Live does it right. The dynasty mode is, without a doubt, the biggest one, giving you all the games of a normal NBA season but adding some nice little extras to it. You’ll get a task list with tasks such as: score 20 points with one player, block 10 times in one game, etc. You’ll receive dynasty points when you complete a task and with those you’ll be able to do some training with your team. The training will give your players some extra points on dunking ability, 3pt scoring, blocking,…If you think your squad is good enough as it is you can always spend some money on special gear like exclusive shirts, socks and real Jordan shoes. A nice little touch is the addition of real shoes, you’ll see players running around in the latest Nike’s made by some underpayed asian kids who should be in school getting a proper education. The polygonmodels of Nike’s shoes are made by overpayed designers in super trendy development studios, but they did a good job nonetheless! Ok, sorry for wining, but it’s true isn’t it?
You can’t make a game these days that doesn’t have tons of unlockable items and again NBA Live is no exception. The new EA Sports Bio searches for other EA Sports games (eg. Madden NFL 2004) on your memory card and if you do have other EA Sports games in your collection you’ll be able to get some extra stuff that others can’t unlock. Smart marketing trick by EA, but I doubt if there are really people who buy another EA Sports game just to unlock every thing in NBA Live 2004. On the other hand, who am I to judge those people?
I think a lot of people expected NBA Live 2004 to go online because PS2 has made an exclusive agreement with EA to give all titles a PS2 only online play. NBA Live 2004 does have online support in the North-American and Korean version but the European version doesn’t. The reason for this is the fact that the American market is way ahead when it comes to online PS2 gaming. Therefor EA chose to only give the big titles online play like SSX3 and Need For Speed Underground. EA says there is a big possibility that next years NBA Live will support online play.
Basketball equals hiphop and EA Sports equals big ass soundtracks. Black Eyed Peas, Outkast, Dilated People and other big hiphop names give the game a unique flavour. Chingy even recorded an exclusive NBA Live-only version of his latest hit “Right Thur”. The original lyrical content was perhaps a bit too adult orientated changing the E rating that it has now. No problem though, this exclusive version is still very pleasing to the ears and really gives you that typical basketball feel.
The graphics aren’t really different from last year’s version. The biggest difference is seen in the animation department. EA Sports has made an effort to make the animations look even more realistic by putting ten players in a ridiculous mo-capsuit. It really paid off because basketball never looked that convincing. NBA Live 2004 looks good overall but doesn’t really stand out in comparison to last year’s version.
NBA Live 2004 does his job when it comes to new additions. The all new “off the ball play” together with the seperate dunk/shoot button make for a fresh gameplay. The passing system on the other hand often results in a turnover (= frustration). Graphically it’s good enough, especially the animations look great. For now NBA Live 2004 is the best B-ball game out there but Sega’s ESPN Basketball could turn the tide as it has some promising new game modes. If you’re just looking for a fun sports game NBA Live 2004 delivers!