The one area that EA Sports still struggles to remain on top in the sports genre is the NBA. For years the 2K series has flaunted its dominance in the hoops arena staying one step ahead of the game. This year EA took note and continued their trend of excellent improvement into the NBA Live series. NBA Live 10 is by far the most improved and feature-rich entry in the series to date. The improved presentation, on-court action and Dynamic DNA combine to create a title that is poised to once again regain the throne of best basketball game available.
The one area that Live has been lacking the most is the on-court action. This year’s version remedies that with some absolutely incredible authenticity in the gameplay department. The most notable difference is the AI of both your opponents and teammates. Playing on the easy difficulty is still a cake walk, but once you bump up the sliders you begin to see the amount of realism poured into the backend. Players will call screens, box-out and even double team on a dangerous outside or inside shooter. Blocking and rebounding has been exponentially improved and the physics and animation have been tweaked to near perfection. Everything on the court just feels so much better this year.
Defensive and offensive sides of the ball have been improved. The shooting mechanic has been tweaked, and the release of your shot makes a return. Now instead of simply tapping various buttons to perform different shots, it is all handled with one button. You can control the dynamics of your shot with the triggers and the analog stick. Holding down the right trigger while driving up the lane attempts a dunk, while pulling away from the basket on the analog sets up a fade away jumper. These new mechanics really feel natural once you get accustomed to the controls, and rival the smooth, responsive feel of the past 2K games.
All of this also bleeds over into the passing game making for a much more strategic form of hoops play. The pick and roll control from last year’s game makes a comeback. You can tap the right bumper or R1 button to call on your star player to make a move to get open. This tweaked dynamic will be necessary because of the aforementioned AI improvement. Rarely can you drive the ball straight to the basket unless you have the difficulty dropped to the bottom. Icon passing remains but ball control is a little less flashy this year. The move set is limited, but current NBA games will likely show you that this is a common affair. Above all else though all of the new gameplay features make this the best playing Live game in recent memory.
The most touted new addition to the game this year is Dynamic Season mode, which uses the Dynamic DNA introduced last year to allow a more immersive experience. We didn’t get to play this portion as the season doesn’t start for a little while longer, but the promise is intriguing. It basically allows you to download all the current rosters, stats, player tendencies and other essential data and play the season out on your own terms. While not nearly as involved as Dynasty Mode, you do get to keep up with all the current happenings in the NBA. The catch as always is that you have to buy the game new to obtain the code to unlock all of these features, so used game hounds will likely make up the cost with DLC payments. Regardless this new mode looks fascinating to say the least, and should satisfy NBA fans long into the season with the dynamic updates.
Dynasty Mode makes a return, but fans of the series will not find a host of improvements this time around. Things such as hiring staff are all still present, but as far as new features go this mode remains almost a carbon copy of last year’s game. Still the philosophy of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” applies as the mode is still extremely deep and likely to be the place you will spend the majority of your time. The new online mode is called Adidas Live Run, and it allows you to team up with four other players in a five-on-five pickup game. I actually really enjoyed this mode as it felt more spontaneous than the rest of the game. There was some lag from time to time but nothing game breaking. And of course you can always hop online and play a traditional game against a buddy or hit the old quick match and see how you stand up against the world.
The one area the game really takes strides in though is the presentation. Everything about this year’s game feels refined and authentic. Stadiums now sport more flash, players on the bench are much more involved in the game, and even fan attendance will vary depending on how well a team is playing. The little touches are really what set this game apart from previous versions, as well as what draws in players. The player models sport fantastic detail even if they still look a bit synthetic. Robotic animations have all but been eliminated and the detail on your clothes and players is incredible. The frame rate remains stable most of the time, and little features such as replays and stadium landmarks really draw you into the atmosphere. Commentary remains the sore spot as repeated lines occur far too often, but the crowd noise is exceptional and everything else makes up for it.
NBA Live 10 is a fantastic upgrade to the series as it focused more on what was wrong with previous versions instead of trying to substitute them with more features. The added online functionality is nice, but not revolutionary and the overhauled presentation is absolutely stellar. The gameplay tweaks are what really stand out though which should make fans extremely happy. If you have been hesitant on the franchise over the past few years you can take comfort in knowing that this outing is by far the best in recent memory. If EA continues this trend they could finally take the top-spot in the NBA arena and once again dominate nearly every sports videogame on the market.