NBA Live 16
Over the course of its rebuilding process the NBA Live series hasn't attacked rival NBA 2K's weakest offering – the competitive online team play marred by frequent server disruptions and "got next" lines that waste players' time. Until now.
On the heels of NBA 2K announcing its revamped 5v5 online Pro-Am experience, EA Tiburon is stepping onto the court with a new suite of experiences for NBA Live 16 called Live Pro-Am (a name that appears to be popular among basketball game developers). EA says this collection of modes is based on the off-season experience of real NBA players, who often play in local leagues against talented amateurs and fellow pros alike.
Before you jump into Live Pro-Am you first need to visit the player creation center to build your pro. Here you can import your face using GameFaceHD scanning tech featured in the companion mobile app, which EA says rivals the quality you see in some player scans like Russell Westbrook's. Once you tweak your hair style and select a body type, you choose a position and play style, the latter of which is based off a player archetype like three-point specialist, slasher, etc. Each play style has its own rating caps for skills, progression system, and skill tree. As you rank up you collect "Sweat Equity" (a.k.a experience points from playing games) which you can spend to improve your player ratings. You will also earn credits to spend on new authentic clothing, shoes, tattoos, animations, and contextual celebrations.
Your player progression is global, carrying across both the Rising Star and Live Pro-Am offerings. Within Live Pro-Am you have two modes to choose from - Live Run and Summer Circuit.
If you're looking for pure competitive play, this 5v5 mode is the place for you. Given that this is the first year for the mode, EA says it doesn't include deeper features like creating clubs, divisional play, tournaments, customizing jerseys, or building your own home court yet. Instead, the action is focused on pickup games with friends and new players and progressing your character. NBA Live 16 executive producer Sean O'Brien says the studio has a three-year plan to expand the offerings of Live Run, so some of these features could come to future installments.
When outfitting your player you can customize a home and road look, so if you play a lot with friends you can still create a uniform of sorts should you choose to coordinate.
Getting into a match is as simple as logging into the mode and joining a lobby. You can either find a game to join or set up a custom match with friends. Once you are in a lobby you can see your teammates and compare skills.
Featuring a new camera that has a wider view of the court, Live Run features short games so you can get in multiple sessions. The first team to 21 points wins, so games typically last between 8 to 12 minutes. Your chat is limited to your teammates, so you can strategize and run ad hoc plays. The playcalling system present in the single-player modes does not carry over to Live Run, so communication will be key to setting up off-ball screens and pick and rolls.
For those who want bragging rights in the absence of clubs and divisions, a weekly leaderboard will show how you stack up against fellow players.
If you'd rather play with teammates against the CPU, you can join the summer circuit. This five-player co-op mode throws you in tournaments that take place on real-world courts like Venice Beach, Rucker Park, Brooklyn Park, Kezar Pavilion, Toronto Hoop Dome, and Seattle Pacific. EA says each venue looks and feels different.
The five-game tournaments pit you against increasingly difficult teams featuring unique mixes of NBA players. Winning the tournaments isn't the only thing at stake, as each team performance earns you a star grade. By earning all three stars through every tournament game, you can earn unique rewards that showcase your prowess. The requirements for earning stars will be different for each game and often promote teamwork. For instance, in one game the point guard may need to set up teammates with drives and kicks a certain number of times to earn the reward.
Teams are also graded on how they play. If you hustle off the ball by setting up screens, you can earn bonus teammate points. Conversely, ballhogs will be penalized for not integrating their teammates into the offense.
EA realizes that due to the uneven past offerings, many fans are still uneasy about committing money to NBA Live, so the publisher is giving fans a chance to try Live Run via a free demo on September 15 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can even download the companion app, scan your face, and begin to build a character that carries over to the base game should you choose to buy the game. NBA Live 16 comes to Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 29.