For those of you who have heard the many negatives about EA?s Madden franchise (no create-a-player, no mini camp, no owner mode, no superstar, no Madden cards, et cetera), fear not, NBA Live 06 is a much better title from EA Sports. There are still some modes and mini games that are missing due to EA?s rebuilding of its sports games for next-gen, but all-in-all Live 06 is a very passable first entry for the Xbox 360. Although after some playing time, many gamers may not agree with publisher Electronic Arts that the title is worth the suggested retail price of $59.99.
As far as gameplay goes, NBA Live 06 is pretty solid. There?s nothing in the game that screams next generation, but what is in Live, works well. Players are always moving around jockeying for better position. The constant movement helps the game to never feel stale and stagnant. The A.I. is pretty good. Defenses play very tough especially in the paint. You won?t get a lot of open lanes for dunks in this game. Players dive for loose balls. Opponents will try to make trick moves on you. Computer controlled players will pass the ball multiple times to find the best shot. Backing defenders down and setting up alley-oops has never been easier or more fun. It?s really cool to back down an opponent to draw a double team, and then kick it back out for a wide open three.
One of the new editions to the game is the open virtual court where players can practice, choose teams, make setting changes, or just fool around while their game is loading. It?s nothing that will make you think, ?Why hasn?t anyone ever done this before??, but it?s fun nonetheless. The best thing you can do in this empty court is learn the controls and hone your skills to become a better baller. So in this respect, it can be helpful for a little while. Checking out the fancy trick moves that are mapped to the right analog stick is a must, seeing as they work extremely well in games to get separation for shots. The moves aren?t as good as the freestyle superstar ones, but they are passable.
Most people will have to change the game speed settings because the game?s tempo is so slow in the default settings. Even with the speed maxed out, though, Live still may be a little to slow for some gamers. Some will also want to change the free throw settings after they get a load of the new mechanics. This is by far the biggest change to the series as far as gameplay is concerned. No longer are free throws shot by lining up moving targets. Now players must use the right analog to attempt the baskets. You will have to move the stick down and then flick it up to mimic the foul shooter?s loading up and releasing the ball. In principal, I like the change up, but I just couldn?t master the controls and you can?t practice them in the virtual court. I have seen others get the mechanics right pretty quickly so it seems to depend on each individual gamer as to where the free throw difficulty should be set.
Not everything is all peaches and cream though. Sometimes players will go out of bounds to get loose balls, but not be called out of bounds. Fouls are a bit too touchy, but I guess that?s true to life. There?s not a lot of variety in terms of dunks. You can?t pick the 3-point contest or dunk contest to play in. This is a shame because these mini games were always very fun ways to pass the time and great games for multiplayer. But the biggest problem with NBA Live for the 360 is that you can only play one season. This is a huge mistake on the part of EA. While I doubt that gamers take full advantage of how many seasons they can actually go through, I do believe many people play more than one season. To not be able to defend you NBA title is a huge minus for EA?s much respected franchise.
While the gameplay falls somewhat short, the graphics in Live 06 are absolutely gorgeous. Players and coaches are simply stunning to look at. The sweat looks great, although it would?ve been nice for EA Sports to have made some of it drip off of the players onto the floor. Then we could?ve seen people in the background mopping up the sweat on the opposite end of the court. The arenas are fabulously rendered. Stadiums are huge, courts are shiny and reflective, and fans are rendered in lovely 3D. There are amazing TV styled visuals which add greatly to the idea that you are playing in a real sporting event.
The physics and animations are smooth and done with great detail. It?s cool to see players get skinny to get through picks. Uniforms shift and ripple in the wind from player movements. It?s a thing of beauty just to watch the players? shorts move in the wind. Jerseys move too, but it would?ve been nice if they came untucked as the game goes on.
The graphics are not without a few nit picks though. Unlike Madden NFL 06, you can choose from a short list of different camera angles, but none of them feel right and the camera isn?t always able to keep up with the on the court action. Another camera related problem is that although you can watch replays after almost every basket, you can?t control the camera like in previous iterations. The diving could?ve been more grand with players jumping into the stands. Fans? looks and reactions are a little too much alike. My biggest gripe, however, was in creating a player. There are just too many little options, which doesn?t make it very user friendly. There is a fine line between fun and tediousness when adding options on top of options for creating a player, and EA crosses that line just enough to take some of the fun away. In my mind, the Tiger Woods franchise (from Electronic Arts as well) is still the best when it comes to creating a player.
The sound is another big plus for the series. EA Trax is carried out excellently, if you like Hip Hop that is. Great talent like Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Black Eyed Peas, N.O.R.E., Jurrasic 5, and Stat Quo can be heard on the monster soundtrack. It would?ve been nice to get some R&B and rock songs in the game just to mix things up a bit though. Anyways, the arenas are very, very loud and sound like they have their own pulse which raises and lowers with how its team performs. Dunks are crisp and clear. Really the only dull spot are the announcers, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. They just don?t do enough talking. There are long periods of time where Albert is the only one talking, because he?s giving his stilted play by play. Oddly enough, the only time Kerr and Albert seem to have any kind of conversation going on is during free throws. Then they won?t shut up.
NBA Live 06 won?t blow you away with its gameplay, but it?s still a very competent title when all is said and done. There is a lot of replay value simply because it?s a good sports game, but the lack of 3-point and dunking contests does hurt it a bit. It?s reassuring to see that EA isn?t doing things halfway with all of their sports games like they did with Madden. NBA Live 06 is a solid game that isn?t bad, but it could?ve been better. If you?re a fan of the franchise you?ll probably be pleased with where the series is headed. If you?re new to Live, you may want to rent it first and see if issues such as only a few play modes, the inability to take part in multiple seasons, and a tiresome create-a-player are enough to keep you from liking this game enough to own it.