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.