First off let me say I'm a huge basketball fan. I've loved the Cleveland Cavaliers since the late 80's. I've played basketball games since the early Commodore 64 days of Dr. J vs Larry Bird and the old Lakers vs. Celtics game. I've shied away from the NBA Live series recently because I was really frustrated by the product EA Sports has been putting out. When NBA Live 07 came in for the Xbox 360, I was hoping EA made an effort to produce a solid basketball simulation. Alas, what we have this year is another big disappointment.
Let's start with what EA Sports has done right. First off, the graphics are pretty solid. The players do sometimes look like zombies when they step up to the line for a free throw but overall EA Sports has done a great job at capturing the player's movements, nuances, and physical traits. Shaq
looks like a huge center while Lebron James looks like a man child just like in real life. The accuracy of the models can be a hit or miss but they are pretty good for the most part. EA has captured some of the signature moves of the players like Lebron James' tomahawk jam and Gilbert Arenas' twirl of the basketball around the body before free throws. Each stadium looks spectacular with nicely rendered crowd. Before the start of the game, you're treated with the player introductions complete with the requisite light show. The crowd looks pretty good as they don't look like cardboard cutouts.
I also liked the way free throws are done where you pull back the analog stick and push forward to shoot the ball. It adds a little more skill to the process rather than the two button press to line up the indicators in the crosshairs
. There are days where I would consistently miss as I wouldn't pay attention when I move the stick forward to shoot thereby missing off to the side. There's a help indicator that does pop up to let you know what you did wrong during the free throw. I didn't play last year's version so I don't know if it was in there as well but I do like it even if it's not new.
Players seem to play a little bit better defensively in terms of rotating to the open man. I was impressed at how quickly the computer would switch off and cover the person that was open unless I called for a double team. When moving the ball across the court at the top of the key, a computer player was sure to step up in front of the man receiving the ball as it was being passed around.
NBA Live 07 is also the first game to really incorporate the ESPN license. You can head on over to the ESPN section to download video and audio clips as well as read news that's featured on the website. When important events happen, you'll get that familiar ESPN newsbreak
and an audio recap of the events. If you are playing during a busy sports time, you'll get plenty of updates from ESPN keeping you up to tabs on what's happening in the real world. Sadly, EA didn't take the ESPN branding into the game itself like the old 2K series of football did but we'll get to that in a bit.
So what's bad about NBA Live 07? Well the state of the shipped game is so riddled with bugs and inconsistencies that I find it hard to believe someone would authorize this game to go gold. Each time I played a game I experience something new that really frustrates my experience with the game. Let's start with rebounding. I've hated the way EA handled rebounding in previous NBA Live games where the computer would get 5+ offensive rebounds in spurts consistently. While it's not as bad in NBA Live 07, I've come across the issue of players just standing around as the ball landed on the ground while the opposing team would come and scoop it up in the middle of three players. When someone shoots the ball, it usually falls into a player's hands in real life with it hitting the ground in rare occasions. The ball hitting the floor after a shot was a pretty common occurrence and it was pretty frustrating to see your players just stand around or bump into each other when going for the ball. Rebounding, while not as bad as previous years, is still a big work in progress.
In previous NBA Live games, you could have a foot or two on the 3 point line and still get 3 points when the basket is made. EA's
fixed this problem, but another has arisen that really takes this to another level. The game doesn't seem to take into account how far AWAY from the 3 point line now. If you watched the Cavs and Wizards' playoff game last year, you might've
seen Gilbert Arenas drill a 3 from 5 feet behind the line to tie the game in regulation in game 6. Well, in NBA Live 07 you can do this all the time. If you have even an average 3 point shooter, you can step back about 5-8 feet from beyond the arc and launch an uncontested 3 that has the same chance of going in as if you were standing right in front of the line. I actually went 4-6 from 3 point land this way with Damon Jones as the defended never put a hand up to try and stop me since i was far from the 3 point line. Get some scorer like Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash and you'll be draining 3's like crazy from an amazing distance. It got to the point where I would just take an inbounds pass, dribble up to the halfway between half court and the top of the key and launch a 3 because I had confidence it would go in more than I would miss. The shooter even goes up for a straight jump shot at long distances. 3 point shooting is horribly executed in NBA Live 07 as it just makes shooting 3's way too easy now.
When you're running a fast break opportunity, your wing players usually run towards the basket to try and receive a pass for an easy bucket. Not so in NBA Live 07. I've had 3 on 1 and even 3 on 0 fast breaks where I would bring up the ball hoping to pass off to a player cutting to the basket. What I got instead is my wing players stopping right after the 3 point line and sitting there leaving me to finish against a lone defender. I know NBA players need to learn the fundamentals again but all of them know that you keep running to the basket to finish off a fast break. I can't tell you how many times I'd throw up an alley-oop
pass to a high-flyer
on the wing only to have them stop 15 feet away from the basket, receiving a lob and having to try to flip it in with an awkward jump shot.
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