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NBA Live 14 Review

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  • XONE
  • PS4

NBA Live 14 is a pretty lousy basketball game.

It's strange to think back how long it's been since EA Sports' NBA Live franchise actually meant something. Live hasn't been a very good basketball simulation for close to a decade, but there were enough entries in the early 2000s that more or less justified the franchise's continued existence and kept the NBA licensing game competitive, especially with then-and-current top dog 2K Sports' NBA 2K series. Then things started going downhill, and a few years back, EA tried to reboot the franchise as NBA Elite with an all-new engine and all the expected trimmings. It was a disaster. EA cancelled the title just days before it was expected to hit store shelves. A few copies did slip out into the wild, and the resulting YouTube videos showcased what looked to be the nadir of an already downtrodden franchise, a game so distressingly broken that EA would rather take a bath on scrapping what it had rather than dare to let the public see what horrors it had wrought.

NBA Live is back, I guess. Yay?

How mortifying was the NBA Elite experience? Bad enough that it's taken EA three years to try the NBA thing again. Originally it was supposed to be two, but then another year went by before the company was able to finally conjure up NBA Live 14. With so much time between the Elite boondoggle and now, you'd hope that EA would have been able to come up with at least one revelatory feature, one thing that would make it stand out from its oft-praised competitor. Instead, NBA Live 14 is a game that feels tentative at every turn, a game that feels preoccupied with mere functionality, versus anything even resembling innovation. The core tenets, strategies, and mechanics of the game of basketball are all represented here in thoroughly unspectacular fashion. It has the skeletal structures of modes you'd expect in a modern sports game, but none of the depth, detail, or excitement necessary to make them fun. It's as flat and flavorless a representation of professional basketball as I can ever remember seeing.

This is apparent from the moment you boot up NBA Live 14 and jump into a game. From the opening tip-off, Live's malformed player models, clunky animations, and peculiarly suspect frame rate (especially on the PS4 version) all immediately gather up to greet you and let you know you've made an unfortunate purchase. Even if you discount the astoundingly good player models in NBA 2K14, NBA Live 14 doesn't look like it was developed for new console hardware. When you do factor in the competition, NBA Live 14 looks downright tragic. Few faces seem to resemble their real-life counterparts, and most players have this stiff, gangly look to them that gives them an altogether unnerving quality.

The one big, new-ish feature EA has touted for this game is its BounceTek system, essentially a buzzword for its right-stick-based dribbling system. Strangely, the game has no useful tutorial to explain how this system works. The only tutorial, actually, is a short, baffling afterthought of a video that just shows you that it has three tiers of complexity, without ever actually demonstrating how to best take advantage of said complexities. That BounceTek system actually does work reasonably well (once you research how it actually works, then learn the appropriate timing), but the fact that I had to wander into EA's official blog to get any useful info on how it works is kind of ridiculous.

While you might be able to get the hang of BounceTek's timing, a bigger issue is that everything else in NBA Live 14 constantly feels a step behind your reaction time. In-game animations are programmed so haphazardly that it constantly feels like the game is lagging behind whatever you've just asked it to do. Want to try to trip up a defender by playing around with the right-analog stick dribbling, change direction, then try to cut through to the paint on a layup? You can do that, but you basically have to wait for each movement to complete before putting in the next move, which takes considerably longer than one would expect. You have to be careful about it too, otherwise you'll probably accidentally make your guy do about seven other things you didn't intend because you hit the buttons over and over again wondering why the game wasn't responding to your presses.

No aspect of NBA Live 14's gameplay feels correct. The timing for everything you do feels well behind the kind of quick responses you need to play basketball effectively.

This isn't just an issue of spamming commands and the game not responding, but more a matter of having to constantly wait for the game to catch up to the pace on the court. Did you just swipe the ball out of an offensive player's hand, and would you like to run up and grab it and take it down the lane for a fast break? Terrific, first you'll have to wait for both players to finish their peculiarly long "ball just fell out of a player's hand" animation, then watch both players stumble around for a second, then you'll have to try and direct your player's momentum in the direction of the ball, wait a half-second for him to pick it up, then wait another second for him to transition into his dribbling animation, and--oh, whoops! The entire opposing defense already got set at the other end of the court. Too bad! These sorts of momentum killing situations are everywhere in NBA Live 14. Your reaction time will almost always be quicker than what the game is capable of responding to. In a game as quickly paced as basketball, not being able to make effective moves on the fly is straight-up inexcusable.

It's a mess made messier by a host of other small, nagging gameplay issues. Camera problems are prevalent under several different settings, with some instances of the camera just straight up refusing to move back down the court with you until you take a timeout or switch the camera to a different setting entirely. Until you get very good at using the BounceTek to fake defenders out, defending players stick to you like glue, only occasionally leaving an opening if they inexplicably decide to all converge in the paint (leaving multiple open players on the perimeter) or if they just decide to fall over for no identifiable reason whatsoever. Trying to set up pick-and-rolls--or, really, just about anything that doesn't involve you tossing the ball to your biggest guy and hoping he can score in the paint--is a deeply frustrating experience that repeated practice and unending patience never quite manage to improve. You don't get better at NBA Live 14 so much as you just learn how better to exploit it.

There is nothing here to justify learning how to exploit it, mind you. This game is not very much fun in any facet of its execution, and the supporting modes don't make the crappy basketball-playing any better. The game's franchise mode is so bare-bones it might as well have been decomposing in a desert for a century, and the Rising Star mode--essentially the game's answer to NBA 2K's MyCareer mode--is, at best, a sketch of a good idea. Here, you just make your own player using some basic presets, get drafted by a team (whether they actually need a player at your position or not), and then proceed to play a bunch of games while trying to earn good grades for achieving vague objectives. There's no storyline here, nor anything to really keep you interested beyond the notion of just playing a player you created and trying not to suck enough to get decent grades. Mostly, it's just dull, with a dash of the infuriating when your AI teammates suddenly go full-lobotomy and just sit there with the ball, dribbling until the shot clock goes down to almost nothing. You can call for a pass whenever that happens, but it happens so often that you often end up in a situation where you have to constantly prod your team into doing much of anything. Incidentally, this happens in any situation where the game locks you to a single player. It seems like Live's A.I. just isn't programmed to respond intelligently to having to move the ball around itself, as opposed to having player control switch from player-to-player as you pass it.

I like the implementation of NBA Live 14's live season mode--it's just a shame you have to actually play NBA Live 14 to take advantage of it.

While these modes are merely dull, online play is straight-up garbage. Lag is constant, making an already unwieldy game that much more infuriating. Every game I played devolved into free-for-alls where all anyone could do was try to throw players toward the paint and hope the animation for a halfway makeable shot would happen. Timing on any other kind of shot is so horrid that you simply can't rely on them. If by some miracle you are able to start draining threes or making free-throws with any consistency, then you are probably some kind of server lag wizard and your powers should be put to use on better games than this one.

I suppose there are some positives worth lauding in NBA Live 14. Its live season mode, which regularly updates the game with challenges based on scenarios taking place during the current NBA season, is well-implemented and seems to be getting updated very quickly. Ultimate Team is about as solid as any other implementation of the concept in EA's other sports titles this year (though it maddeningly lacks the auction feature found in every other game), and I did think the game's broadcast presentation--namely its pre-game and halftime stat overlays and solid (if deeply repetitive) commentary from Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy--was pretty good. Unfortunately, these few bright spots aren't nearly enough to make NBA Live 14 appear as anything but a perfunctory, depressing mess. Yes, EA is making basketball games again, and perhaps that's a good thing, given that competition generally pushes developers to do more interesting things than they would otherwise. But if NBA Live 14 is any indication, it's going to be a long time before 2K Sports needs to acknowledge, let alone worry about, what EA's up to.

Alex Navarro on Google+
151 Comments
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Edited by WolfHazard

oh shit

Posted by david_maurer

This is pretty depressing. It'll be interesting to see what happens with these supposed updates they have planned for it.

Posted by davo

Well, then.

Posted by Matterless

oof

Posted by ultrapeanut

I laughed out loud when I saw EA advertising a new basketball game at E3. I laughed even harder when they (non-apology) apologized for its shittiness on the day of its launch. EA Basketball games are the gifts that keep on giving.

p.s. COLLEGE HOOPS 2K8 BEST GAME EVER MADE

Posted by CitizenCoffeeCake

I want to hear Alex talk shit about this game, simply reading is not enough.

Online
Posted by ThunderSlash

I want to see this game in the GOTY deliberations.

Posted by conmulligan

Holy shit, I had no idea this was so bad.

Posted by BeachThunder

So, @alex, are you going to lie in the middle of the road again?

Posted by flippyandnod

Sounds like I'd be better off playing Ashes Cricket 2013 instead.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

So I am not able to change the price of French fries in my stadium?

Posted by bgdiner

They say to expect the worst and hope for the best. Seems like EA expected the best and hoped for the best, and we get this trash. Sad that some people will buy this merely due to the similarity in name and brand between Live and 2k14, or associate EA with Madden and think all EA sports games are on par with each other.

Posted by bybeach

I want to hear Alex talk shit about this game, simply reading is not enough.

I agree completely. Hell, I can almost hear him right now. Alex is unique that way.

Posted by artraider

even the cavs player does not look happy to be on the cover

Posted by ninjalegend

I feel bad for the team who made Live 2014. Not only do they have to go up against 2K14, it looks like they really tried to do something new with this bounce tek thing and failed miserably. These feelings I have for the Live team are tempered by my hostile feelings toward EA sports for not letting Madden have competition. I wonder if Alex's 3 star review would still be a 3 star review if he had something to compare it to? How far would football have come on these next gen systems if 2K was still a competitor?

Online
Edited by Bartz

Nothing aspect

edit: Thanks for fixing it!

Posted by Viking_Funeral

Damn, EA. Do something right. I'm starting to feel a little bad for you.

Posted by RetroVirus

So I am not able to change the price of French fries in my stadium?

The most criminal of injustices.

Posted by Dizzyhippos

Is anyone really that surprised? The only EA sports games that change for the better every year are Fifa and nhl. Though it was a bit of an off year for NHL

Posted by t3chie

But that BounceTek though...

Posted by Tblockkiller

Well deserved

Posted by mrsmiley

This shit is hilarious!

oh man... tears...

Posted by Shadowself

"maddeningly"

...I see what you did there

Posted by lordgodalming

Haven't read it yet, but saw the one star and KNEW it was Alex. Ha ha. Best one-star reviews on the internet.

Posted by HighPriest

Now I'm just waiting for Alex's review of that godawful Barbie game.

Posted by Death_Burnout

After all the NBA Elite turmoil they still put out a terrible game...Goodness me.

Posted by ptys

One star is a pretty strong statement, I feel for the guys that worked on this thing. Surely there's something redeemable about it?

Edited by BenderUnit22

I don't know anything about sports games, when if I look at this and compare it to those completely broken 3-star wrestling games with video editing tools in pre-alpha status and 2 minute load times, fugly graphics and horrid animations, I don't see a quality difference.

Posted by JohnZimmerman

too bad. EA should have got it at least decent this year. oh well, maybe EA should leave the NBA games to the big boys..... "price is right loser horn"

Posted by AcrophobicPilot

Thanks for taking one for the team, Alex.

Posted by Godmil

Oh man, I'm actually crying with laughter from those videos. I just wish Alex could participate in a quick look of this.

Posted by heatDrive88

The game's franchise mode is so bare-bones it might as well have been decomposing in a desert for a century

You're doing the world a service, Navarro.

Edited by noizy

Was looking at metacritic (cause I love looking at a train wreck on the internet) and I'm wondering: who picks the quotes they pull?

I must say I prefer the one for XONE: Online play is straight-up garbage. It's got the required bombasitc signature we all love.

Personally, I loved this one "From the opening tip-off, Live's malformed player models, clunky animations, and peculiarly suspect frame rate [...] all immediately gather up to greet you and let you know you've made an unfortunate purchase".

Posted by jimmyfenix
@noizy said:

Was looking at metacritic (cause I love looking at a train wreck on the internet) and I'm wondering: who picks the quotes they pull?

I must say I prefer the one for XONE: Online play is straight-up garbage. It's got the required bombasitc signature we all love.

Personally, I loved this one "From the opening tip-off, Live's malformed player models, clunky animations, and peculiarly suspect frame rate [...] all immediately gather up to greet you and let you know you've made an unfortunate purchase".

Peter moore and Andrew Wilson hard at work.

Posted by nothingreal

@l4wd0g: EA is putting put some real winners in 2013. SimCity, BF4, and NBA Live.

yeah it's pretty sad when three of your major releases in a year need to come with lengthy apology letters..

..Although I will say that Battlefield 4 (on PS4 anyway) is no longer the steaming mess that it was as of the most recent patch - I'd say it's now probably where it should have been at release.. so they have held true to their promise to fix that game.. maybe the same will carry over to this game?

Posted by Rihanna

At first glance, I thought Alex updated his NBA2k14 review to reflect the changes 2K has made to the game since release.

Posted by noizy

@jimmyfenix: That or deluxe edition "pre-orderers" in full Stockholm syndrome denial mode.

Posted by Harabec

I see Alex is still getting stuck with reviewing the shit games.

Posted by ripelivejam

but is it better than brothers

Edited by Alex

@ptys: Nothing that would make it remotely worth purchasing, whether or not there was a better competing game (there is). I feel bad for the team, since it sounds like they had about a year or less to make this from scratch, but it's still a game being sold at full price at retail, and it is not a game I would ever recommend to anyone.

Staff
Posted by whatisdelicious

@alex said:

@ptys: Nothing that would make it remotely worth purchasing, whether or not there was a better competing game (there is). I feel bad for the team, since it sounds like they had about a year or less to make this from scratch, but it's still a game being sold at full price at retail, and it is not a game I would ever recommend to anyone.

What if I don't like the person I'm giving it to?

Posted by wardcleaver

This shit is hilarious!

Fact: George Hill is also a professional ice skater.

Posted by CrimsonAvenger

This is a must buy then. If it's this bad then I really want to try it.

Edited by Cybexx

From what I've heard, EA builds a NBA game every year even if they don't ship them. So this isn't the culmination of 3 years of work on one product, they built 3 games and thought that this one was the one worth shipping. I hear this one was developed in about 9 months.

Edited by HellknightLeon

So.... not game of the year?

Edited by MB

EA should be embarrassed about this. I mean...this game is bad. So, so bad.

Moderator
Posted by Ravelle

You deserve something good to play, Alex. :(

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