Impressions of NBA Live 2006

Is it FreeDarko to review videogames? It surely isn't the main hobby of most of our correspondents, but gaming remains a passion for some of our faithful. Rumors are that even shoefly has been bitten by the World of Warcraft bug.

I was able to get my digital fingers on an advanced copy of NBA Live 2006, and cranked it up in my tricked out Xbox last night. The game is in stores today.

I was super stoked that Miami-Wade County was on the cover of the game, and was even more pumped to give the hometown Heat a spin now that they've been glorified as the best Playstation team ever assembled.

What are my impressions? NBA Live has never more accurately reflected the chaos of the NBA. This year, EA Sports unveiled a new Haverford College IBB inspired component called "Freestyle Superstars". What this little function does is allow the star of any team (some teams have more than one) to do almost God-like moves, passes, dunks and blocks.

Hold down the left trigger and push enough buttons and slamming and jamming will come from the ten-point line.

With the Heat, Jason Williams is a Freestyle Passer. By pushing two buttons you have no idea where the pass is going, but it will likely end up softly in the hands of a player in perfect position. Almost cheating.

Shaq is a Freestly Poster. Or something. The option is a disservice to the Big Fella, because instead of backing guys in (I couldn't figure how to post down) all you need to do is feed him near the post and he'll literally fly by players, making tomahawk dunks that bear no resemblance to Shaq's actual style of play. He is dominant though, but more Barkley than Chamberlain. All considered, you'd have to make this a wrestling game to get Shaq's actual movement in gear.

Wade is a Freestyle Flyer. Aside from Williams, he's the greatest joy on the Heat and can score basically at will. They seemed to have gotten Wade right, as in the few games I played he got leveled near the rim but still managed to put the ball up and in.

As with previous versions of the game, even if you dominate on both ends of the court, the other team goes on slated runs hitting three after three to make the game interesting.

I have the feeling that games will come down to who hits the "Freestyle" combination buttons at the right time, especially if you're playing another human. For example, a game may come boiled down to random chance on whether your LeBron James Freestyle Dunk is adequately countered by a Amare Freestyle Block.

Inadvertently, the Freestyle option also seems to have made the Players who lack the Superstar status to be the most effective at crunch time. Perhaps echoing a possible future, I found myself in the fourth quarter putting in Payton instead of Williams to avoid turnovers, and passing out to Antoine Walker for a ironically conservative three-pointer instead of chancing the freestylo of Wade or Shaq. Walker is clutch in this game, man.

It will be up to the end-user whether to hop and dance to the gloriously superficial beat, or call plays, formations and put yourself in triple-threat position.

Basketball simulation games have always been outgained by titles such as NBA Jam, Hangtime, Street and Ballers. Thats why Live has always been a niche title for purists.

Thats why this whole freestyle crap may make this year's edition the most accurate reflection of the real NBA than any simulation to date. Pick it up, its silly fun.

I'll have more if you want it. But feel free to outyell me with talk about music and shoes and shit if you can't bear it.


At 9/28/2005 11:44 AM, Blogger Ken said...

This sounds cool, the dunk contest in the last Live ruled. Anybody else think the ESPN NBA games are boring? They had the Heiroglyphics as playable characters and I still couldn't get into it. I don't have much more to say about this other than NBA Street 3 cant hang with NBA Street 2.

At 9/28/2005 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to hold down on the right analog to back players down, making it kinda cumbersome.

Anybody with the outside scorer freestyle option is a monster in this game however, I put up 35 with Joe Johnson versus the Spurs and the game really captured the pure crazniess of Manu's style.

At 9/28/2005 12:36 PM, Anonymous Brickowski said...

I want more andreo.

There's a good chance I'll get mocked for this, but whatever...

Live is the only video game I play at this point in life. I thought I had permanently quit games at some point early in high school when I refused to upgrade the old Genesis. In college I played a little Madden and Live (the Duncan cover after that Spurs-Knicks Finals debacle) with friends, but still abstained from really committing to them or buying a system. Then, as the 2004 Playoffs were beginning, I saw a $20 copy for the PC and was powerless to resist. After all, the Spurs had won the year before, so I figured we’d be great. Wrong! I think the Raptors were actually rated higher that year (which one of you was responsible for this?).

Last year they added the dunk contest, so naturally I bought a copy the day it was released. What an amazing feature. Has a video game ever affected THE game so dramatically before? That gorgeous J.R. Smith around-the-back was in Live before it was on TNT, as was Nash’s rainbow flip to Amare (which Kenny astutely noted). Even Chris Anderson’s embarrassing half court lob efforts seemed inspired by the game. It was no coincidence that the dunk contest returned to form in the same year that EA introduced this feature.

The SuperStar moves have me salivating, but they will have to wait (Duncan kisses the glass–is there any truer testament to his boringness? Everyone else gets Street moves, he gets a bankshot). The LSAT is on Saturday, and if I have any chance of joining Shoals on the UT campus next year I’m gonna need to spend every hour of the next few days getting my weight up. Having the option to control an 88 ranked Ginobili would effectively kill any chance I had.

Thus, I turn to Andreo. Lemme hear whatever other thoughts you have.
Some questions/notes:
-I heard a couple of weeks ago that Finley and Van Exel were not on the Spurs. Is this true? I thought this current squad was guaranteed to be a team Live loved. If this is true, what other notable player movements are not in the game (is Reef in Jersey?).

-Can SuperStars operate without their SuperStar moves? You said Shaq doesn’t play like his normal self, but last years game managed to capture him pretty well (i.e. drop the shoulder, knock the defender backwards, and then babyhook, floater, or two-handed dunk with leg-split kickout).

-I loved playing with the Heat last year even before they upped Wade, but I can’t imagine that this years squad will be more enjoyable to play with than last years Suns. In my pretty uninformed opinion, they were the most enjoyable video game team of all time. A simple formula for success: 1) put the ball in Nash’s hands, 2) have him speedily snake around the court and throw lobs that Amare, Marion, Q, or JJ almost invariably slammed home. It really made me sad to see that team breakup.

At 9/28/2005 1:16 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

did j.r. smith really get that dunk from a video game? i thought he was some sort of basketball savant for coming up with that move.

i haven't played an nba live since i had '97 for the playstation. is the PC version straight? i may have to get it and play it when my wife's not home or not paying attention.

At 9/28/2005 2:06 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

wow. a master of the klondike is married. i'm a little shocked.

i often sneak away to play after the girlfriend has fallen asleep.

i think the PC version is the same. i occasionally play ‘04 on a friends Xbox, and it seems the same aside from the few small differences between an Xbox controller and the PS2-style logitech controller that I use (a pretty necessary $20 investment). An advantage to the PC version is that you can play online for free, so you can always find a game against "humans" when tire of annihilating the computer.

At 9/28/2005 2:43 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i'm the sober elder statesman of freedarko. all right, i'm not often sober, but i am old and married.

At 9/28/2005 3:08 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

-Van Exel is on the free agent wire. Payton is still on the Celts. Damon Jones is on the Heat. Finley is likely a free agent, but I need to check on that.

-Yes, Superstars can operate without the freestyle moves, however whenever they touch the ball or you select them on defense a huge popup comes up in the upper left of the screen reminding you of their Freestyle talents.

At 9/28/2005 4:45 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I haven't enjoyed an nba game since NBA 2k2. I haven't enjoyed a Live game since 96 (dana barros was obviously my leading scorer). I'll be honest though, i haven't given basketball games many chances as of late because of the dissapointment in live03/2k3. I like more simulation kind of stuff and i was thinking of buying this but the whole freestyle thing scares the crap out of me. How is the game simulation/franchise wise? I'll probably rent this and 2k and let them have at it until one is crowned victor.

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