NBA Live 06

NBA Live 06

Written by John Yan on 11/23/2005 for Xbox  

The NBA LIVE series has always given me a lot of frustration. How can such a big company like EA always seem to miss these huge bugs that appear in very little time of gameplay? The last game I reviewed in the series had this huge rebounding flaw that made me want to throw the CD out the window only after a few sessions. So with hesitation, I went back to the NBA live series and let me say that it's still a very flawed game.

NBA Live 06 is the latest in the series of EA's attempts at making an NBA game. With coverboy Dwyane Wade in tow, EA looks to deliver but fails in a lot of respects. First off, let me say the rebounding issue is not as big as the earlier series but it's still a very large part of the frustration. Many times you'll see your teammates jump up for the ball only to see a lone player from the opposite team snag the ball. And it won't just happen once or twice. I've played many games where the opposition would just have a field day getting offensive rebounds while my guys came up empty handed even when they had position. I even turned down the offensive rebound slider in the game to the lowest point but this didn't seem to have any effect. Seeing the ball just fall to the floor with your players around isn't an uncommon sight as well. If there's any over the back fouls in the game, I've never seen one so you can jump around and try to grab the ball without fear. The rebounding issue, while not as bad as the previous series, still lingers and is a big source of frustration.

Another aspect of the game that had me tearing my hair out is the amount of times your player will drive to the hoop and throw it off the back of the backboard. Now I know there's contact in the paint but watching an NBA game, how many times have you seen a pro player shoot at the rear of the backboard after being bumped? It's not uncommon to be driving to the lane only to have your guys get bumped and try to shoot the ball while he's behind the backboard causing a turnover. I can understand if this occurred every once in a while but both the computer and yourself will experience this at least three times per game.

Speaking of turnovers, there's an issue with the stats keeping engine whereby a turnover is issued anytime the ball goes out of bounds. So let's say I'm Larry Hughes and I'm pressuring the ball carrier. I go for the steal but it glances off of me out of bounds. That's a turn over. Let's try another example. Let's say I'm jumping up and down on an inbounds pass. The player throwing it in hits my arms and it glances off out of bounds. The game considers that a turnover. To test this, I started the game and did exactly like my first example and had a poke away go into the stands. Pausing the game and going into the stats, I found that I am charged with a turnover. Now I know Lebron James isn't really a league leader in assist-to-turnover ratio but to consistently have ten or more turnovers because he's great at knocking the ball away from the offensive player is ridiculous. This especially happens a lot when the player with the ball is near the sidelines. You’ll have a high rate of reaching around to swipe the ball out of bounds and giving yourself a nice +1 in the turnover column. I went through a season averaging a triple double of 27 points, 10 assists, and 11 turnovers on six minute quarters.

Besides the turnovers, the way NBA Live 06 records assists also seems inconsistent. By definition, an assist is a pass that directly leads to a basket. An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player's pass led to the field goal being made. Usually a dribble or two before a basket will result in the player that passed to earn an assist. NBA Live 06 doesn’t seem to think so. Playing as Lebron, I would pass to Larry Hughes many times to see Hughes dribble once and spin the ball around his body and lay it in. You’d think Lebron would earn an assist each time this is done. Looking at the stats, I witness many times the computer the assist column would not change but other times I’d be credited with one.

It's rather funny that for a game with good defensive AI, the rebounding AI would be so tarnished. NBA Live 06's computer players do a good job of switching to an open man and rotating around so that they don't leave an open man open for long. The computer also does a good job of trying to double team players and you'll sometimes get to see the animation of an offensive player in trouble trying to find someone to kick the ball out to.

Defending the passing lane is very rewarding in NBA Live 06. I do like it's tougher to pass the ball cross court without having it being picked off. This should help curb pass happy players who just throw the ball around without being careful. I found myself using the icon passing for the majority of the game so that I had a lot more control on where it goes.

The offensive action on the court sides more to the arcade style rather than the simulation style partly because of the Freestyle mode that I will talk about in a bit. With most of my games, the majority of the points are driving lay-ups or dunks. Jump shooters do get more into the act in the series, especially those with the sharpshooter Freestyle characteristic. Even so, you can live just driving and performing slams or feeding it to a center that can muscle it down.

Whether you are Milt Palacio, Ray Allen, or Mike Wilks, guards that have a semi-free look to the basket will almost always tickle the bottom of the twine. I'm happy to see that jumpers are a lot more effective and even open jumpers at that but the CBA level guards should not be raining jumpers on me like Larry Bird at the 3-Point contest. It wasn't abnormal to see even the most mediocre player on the other team drain the twenty foot jumpers with consistency. While these are pros, even the most seasoned pros can't nail 85% of their jumpers.

The introduction of Freestyle Superstar mode gives you another EA feature to abuse, and abuse you will. There are six different types of modes. Lebron James will have the high-flyer mode whereby he'll sky over the opposition and slam in their faces. On defense, he'll have the stopper mode where he'll be able to get that great steal to lead the fast break. Ray Allen, for example, has the sharpshooter mode which enables him to get off quick shots with deadly accuracy. Some players have multiple modes that you'll have to choose to use as you can only have one offensive and one defensive Freestyle mode at your disposal during gameplay. Using Larry Hughes, I was able to average over five steals because the Freestyle mode just amplifies his already great stealing ability. Lebron could easily get to the hoop many times because of his great high-flyer Freestyle. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas abusing centers with his scorer Freestyle, it was easy for my Cleveland Cavaliers to cruise through most games even at higher difficulty. Freestyle does add some great animations to the game but they have to tone it down some in future releases.

While the Freestyle mode gives you great scoring and defensive opportunities, the general control of the player seems to hinder you at times. You'll see a lot of sliding going on and that does lead to some easy baskets for both teams. I've also had issues where my player would continually move one way even though I was pushing the analog stick the other way. This seemed happened on inbound plays and while it wasn't often, it happened enough to be annoying. I've also experienced times where I would drive and hold the shoot button only to have my player stand there dribbling the ball. When I press the shoot button, I expect the player to go into the act of shooting. Instead, my dribble and pull up jumper became a dribble and stand around while the opposition converged on what little space I had left.

When things are working though they aren't too bad. I'm glad to be able to finish a fast break now where last time I tried an NBA Live series, the computer would always find a way to catch up to me and cause my fast break to turn into a half court offense even if I was ten feet ahead of them. Momentum of the players don't seem to break up now with a pass and they'll glide nicely to the basket for the layup or a rim rattling dunk. The times when you run around the picks to lose your defender and nail that 15 foot jumper is a thing of beauty. When a team moves the ball around with crisp passing to find that open person, the game plays well. It’s just too bad those times are over shadowed by the problems the series exhibits.

EA's timing on releasing the game and lack of roster updates is really horrible. I can understand some moves not being in like DaSanga Diop on the Mavs but not to have Joe Johnson on the Hawks, Bobby Simmons on the Bucks, or Jeff McGinnis on the Nets to name a few really shows how little EA paid attention to the rosters. Yet, some off season moves are in the game such as Larry Hughes on the Cavaliers. Yes, you can get updates and move them around yourself but there are a lot of moves EA missed when they had plenty of time to put them in the game.

If you want to be the GM, NBA Live 06 gives you all the necessary tools to run the team. To trade players, the game follows the NBA rules of matching salaries. Because of that, I know the pain of Isiah Thomas and trying hard to trade away dead weight with large salaries. I tried fooling the computer in a few lopsided trades but I couldn't accomplish the feat with much success. Besides dealing with player salaries, you'll also need to hire coaches, trainers, and scouts. All play an important role to the success of the team and you'll need to balance the amount you spend on each individual.

To help keep you abreast of the news in the NBA, you'll be using your pager to gather information as it comes in. The news is separated into different categories. Injury news on other teams coming in can help you prepare for them should you face them in the near future. You'll also get updates on your players and how they are doing in training. The pager is a nice little quick way to keep up to date.

EA has always presented games that looked great and NBA Live 06's graphics are pretty good. I still think 2K Sports' series looks better but for the most part, the players look very close to their real life counterparts. From the different body types and the style of play, EA did a pretty good job of modeling and animating the players. Your players can morph into different shapes if you don't keep them training right. You won't have a team of Shawn Kemps but you will see them change over time.

The movements of the player are a hit and miss though. You’ll see a lot of skating or gliding which can lead to easy baskets but look very unnatural. Because of this, computer guards do seem to slide through your defense a lot easier than they should. The Freestyle animations are really well done and when you pull off these moves, they look just like ESPN highlights. Transitions from one type of animation to the next aren’t too bad but you can see some breakups in some of them. When you get picked, you do see a nice animation of your player trying to fight through.

Marv Albert and Steve Kerr are the play by play guys for the game. As with most sports games, you'll get a large amount of repeat comments which can become annoying. Playing as the Cleveland Cavaliers, I hear the two talk about how Lebron came right out of high school and surpassed expectations about 3 times a game. A few times the line was repeated right after another. The two do follow the action on the court well though unlike some of the basketball games I played before. The two aren't the worse commenting duo for a basketball game and the they sound very natural during gameplay. 

NBA Live 06
is still a very arcade like game that relies heavily on guard play a little too much. There's still that horrendous rebounding issue and the addition of Freestyle Superstar mode makes some players score too easily. The on court action has improved a little bit but its' still pretty lacking. While the game will surely sell on name value alone, I can't recommend the game too much to basketball fans looking for a good solid representation of the game.

 

The NBA Live series still has some ways to go. While it's got some good graphics and some good options, gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.

Rating: 6.8 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.


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