Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: September 21, 2004
Perhaps it was because of my lumbering and lanky height; perhaps it was because I had long arms and good hand-eye coordination. Whatever the reason I often was dragged out onto various basketball courts. The assumption that I would be good at basketball was a fallacy at best. Despite my height and coordination, I was more likely to place the basketball in the street than the hoop. I never was able to get into the sport, and I never really saw what other kids saw in it. I definitely had no hoop dreams.
Yet here we are in 2004, and I am reviewing the newest NBA Live game released by EA Sports. Just to make sure we start off on the right foot, I wanted to make it clear that I am not a basketball fanatic. I have not watched a full game… ever, and I could not name a single player outside of Michael Jordan (thanks only Nike and Wheaties). Now that we have that out of the way, let us proceed with the review.
Remedial P.E. for the eternally lazy:
The controls, while being intuitive, definitely required a little bit of time to adjust to. Everything does something different, depending on which mode you are playing in (not to mention if you have the ball or not). After a handful of games, however the controls grew on me and generally seemed fairly straight forward. Unfortunately, even after a decent amount of practice, they still were not always agreeable. To this day, I still occasionally end up trying to jump up and block a shot when the ball is not only far away from the basket, but it has not even in my opponent's hands yet. (Yet being the keyword there since by the time I recover from this silly error, the opponent has had time to grab the ball and make it to the hoop, basically unhindered).
This brings me to another complaint I have about the controls. I often felt sluggish and stuck in a potentially unwanted animation. Perhaps I am spoiled by my previous experience with fighters and other high-paced games, but I found this to be extremely frustrating at times. If it were possible to cancel some of the motions with others or stop an animation without too much penalty, the game would have been faster-paced and possibly more entertaining. I do not like having a simple input error result in an unrecoverable mistake that essentially hands the point over to your opponent. Then again, I might just suck at the game.
When I was able to manipulate the controls in the way that I wanted without error, I found NBA 2005 Live to be quite enjoyable. Despite the fact that it is a basketball game, it is still a good game. This perhaps goes slightly against the previous conceptions I had about sports games (I figured you had to like the particular sport to like the games, and it's just not true). I find myself having friends come over just to play and my friends, like me, never really liked sports games before.
There are essentially five different modes; while there are similarities between them (like using a basketball on a court…), each mode is different enough to warrant its existence.
The whole point here is to pull off the hottest, coolest (insert random hype term) dunks possible. Make sure they are near-impossible by doing things like 720-degree spins in midair followed by bouncing it off the backboard and slamming it in (I may have made that one up). This mode is my favorite, and it’s a great party game. Invite some friends over, kick back a few drinks and see who can dunk the best (it even makes for a great drinking game… but what doesn’t?). You also have the option of going for a three-point shootout which, while still entertaining, was not nearly as exciting as the slam dunk challenge.
This was definitely my second favorite option, as I always enjoy head-to-head competition, and I do not always have friends around. It was relatively easy to find matches, and they had the standard EA features (built-in messaging interface, score tracking, and cheating prevention measures, of course).
For everyone who ever wanted to own their very own private team, this is your shot. You recruit the players you want and build the best offensive and defensive lineups you can afford. You manage all of this with your handy-dandy PDA so this can cover two dreams that people may have: dreams to be important enough to need a PDA and dreams of owning a basketball team.
An All-Star-Weekend is a special broadcast event of miscellaneous basketball goodness, and in this title, the weekend consists of four separate events. Slam dunk contest, is similar to the aforementioned dunk contest, only in this mode, the physics are slightly more realistic and a touch less flashy. The three-point shootout has a number of players trying to score as many three-point shots as they can in a 60-second time period. The rookie challenge is all about putting the veteran players up against the newbies fresh off the recruiting blocks. Last, but not least, we have the All Star game where the east and west conferences are vie head-to-head to see who is top dog.
This is your run of the mill quick start. You can tweak anything from rules to length of the quarters and play a quick standard game. This is almost like a practice mode in that you can do it how you want, when you want and without worrying too much about the outcome.
Being new to the realm of sports games, I was a tad disappointed with the graphics because they looked slightly blocky and unrefined. Again, I guess I am spoiled by the newest fighting games when it comes to eye candy. Thankfully, the graphics are not everything and the gameplay is good enough to make up for them. The effects and replays were nice and stylish, even if it did mean watching those strangely angular people move in slow motion.
Thankfully, the backgrounds did not suffer the same fate as the stars. The court looked realistic, glitzy, and full of shiny glory, doing a really good job of making you feel like a star yourself. Then you have the lighting, which incorporated excellent use of lens flares to give it the as-seen-on-TV appearance. I cannot say too much more about the backgrounds because, well… they are basketball courts, and we have all seen one of those.
The soundtrack features a number of tunes by rap and hip-hop artists, which aren't really my bag. Therefore, the developers should have added the feature where players can rip their own tracks and play them in lieu of the game's packaged soundtrack, as in Burnout 3. Unfortunately, this was not an option for this title, and I had to mute the in-game music and turn on the stereo if I didn't feel like being subjected to hip-hop.
The sound effects were good and gave me flashbacks of high school gym classes at some points (it’s that sound of rubber shoes on hard wood floors I think… or maybe that particular reverb-laden sound of a basketball bouncing on a court). Either way, the sound did its job with bravado and lived up to the high quality gameplay.
The game was good, damn good. I really was able to get into it and even care about what happened on the court. The freestyle mode was just what it took for me to get into the game; it was the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down. The amazingly fantastic feats of exhibition caught my interest more than realism ever could. Once the game had my interest, the other modes managed to keep it locked on tight, and when I had my friends over, we had a blast playing. Even if you don’t really like sports games, EA’s NBA Live 2005 might just change your mind.
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