The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
After a three-year absence including two aborted games, EA
Sports is finally stepping back onto the hardcourt with NBA Live 14. Over the
course of its struggles, EA continued to express its unwavering commitment to
the NBA, promising a return to the glory years where Live was a formidable
sports franchise. Perhaps that dedication was misguided, because even if it's
viewed as a first step in a multi-year rebuilding project, NBA Live 14 is in
From the unintelligent commentary and overenthusiastic crowd
to the inferior player models and awkward movements that lack transitional
animations, NBA Live 14 feels like a game in arrested development. The
basketball on display bears more resemblance to a YMCA pickup game than the
best league in the world. Players stand around on offense waiting for something
to happen instead of ad-libbing with dynamic decision-making. When you do call
plays, you have no idea what's supposed to happen unless you memorize the play
in the coaching menu. Limbs and balls clip through player bodies consistently.
NBA Live 14's signature gameplay enhancement, the BounceTek
dribbling system, doesn't feel dramatically different from other basketball
games I've played. It takes a while to get the hang of jump shooting; EA
clearly had trouble with it too, because I saw several players shoot with their
backs to the basket. But since help defense is largely an afterthought, you can
consistently score by driving the lane, taking a Eurostep, and shooting a layup
whether you are playing the CPU or another person online.
The game modes are in similar sorry shape. Dynasty operates
like it has been designed by former Timberwolves GM David Kahn, brought down by
terrible trade logic, imbalanced rosters, and a league-wide salary cap mess due
to inflated contract extensions for middling players. The Thunder traded
arguably the second-best player in the NBA, Kevin Durant, to the Nets for point
guard Deron Williams, even though the team already had all-star Russell
Westbrook manning the position. The simulation logic is equally flawed. In one
season, the Atlanta Hawks won the NBA championship with a questionable roster
led by perennially injured guard Martell Webster, who was the team's leading
The EA Sports equivalent to MyCareer, Rising Star, should be
renamed First Round Bust. It follows the same trajectory as the 2K mode,
starting at a draft showcase and leading into your first year as an NBA player,
but your progress is communicated in boring menu boxes instead of cutscenes, and
the punitive rating system is a constant source of frustration. Your performance
rating is knocked for every little transgression – failing a steal attempt,
missing shots (even if your shot selection was good), or allowing your
"matchup" to score even if you rotated to defend another player a long time ago.
Other play options include Live Season events that allow you
to relive big moments from the current season every day, Ultimate Team, and
head-to-head online seasons. Each of these is competent, but ultimately
undermined by the lackluster action on the court.
I've always argued that
competition breeds innovation in sports games, so I am rooting for EA Sports to
succeed in resurrecting its basketball franchise. But the vast gulf in quality
between NBA 2K and NBA Live right now makes this a tough matchup to
watch. Like an old player attempting a comeback after multiple knee
reconstructions and several years away from the game, NBA Live 14 doesn't have
enough skill or composure to keep up with the competition.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.