NBA Live was once a big hitter in the basketball world, but four years without even putting out a game has resulted in almost everyone forgetting about the series. NBA Live 14 was supposed to be the big comeback launching exclusively on the Xbox One and PS4 but unfortunately NBA Live 14 probably should have been cancelled long ago.
The most important part of any sports game is the gameplay. Without solid gameplay it’s all pointless. NBA Live’s gameplay is awful; it’s unbalanced, unrealistic and, perhaps most damming, it’s unenjoyable. No matter which player you’re in control of, getting to the rim is perhaps the only reliable way of scoring. Rarely will any player challenge a lay-up or dunk, so once you manage to get past your defender, which can easily be done almost every time with a simple spin, you are effectively guaranteed to get the 2 points. 3 point shots require acres of space and great timing; if it’s even slightly out, expect to hit the rim and look like a fool.
The biggest issue with the shooting is the 2-point jump shot, or at least the lack of a reliable one. The 2-point jumper is one of the most common shots in basketball and the pro teams usually have a good success rate using them, however in NBA Live 14 things couldn’t be more different. The other team, regardless of who is shooting the ball, will almost always reject 2-point jumpers. If a shot doesn’t get rejected it will probably bounce off the rim in a very unrealistic fashion. Shots have to be well selected and timed to perfection in order to go in, which results in them being an inefficient way of scoring.
Trying to play properly, scoring in a variety of ways, will usually result in a loss, but drive into the paint every time and your chances of winning improve a lot – though winning will still take a lot of work due to the game’s difficulty. I consider myself a fairly good basketball game player, but it took me at least 6 attempts to win a game (granted, this is because I don’t usually like to drive into the paint all the time but, still, the difficulty is quite unfair).
Shooting isn’t the only issue with the gameplay: players feel unbelievably sluggish and take an age to move from one end of the court to the other, making transitional play almost impossible. They sometimes seem incapable of catching the ball while maintaining any sort of momentum, often standing rooted to the spot for a split second before continuing, which also makes breaks almost impossible to execute.
The AI is not up to scratch, either. Often they will let passes they should easily pick off sail past, other times they will stand in one place holding the ball or bouncing it without moving for an inordinately long period of time, and even more common is them throwing a pass that hits a teammate in the back or a pass that appears to be intended for nobody. The AI also loves to commit fouls, too, and if driving into the paint doesn’t result in 2 points it will almost certainly end up in a foul from the AI, resulting in a couple of free throws.
Despite the poor gameplay, NBA Live 14 does have some remotely decent modes. Ultimate Team has made the transition into basketball and sees players having to buy and unlock packs of cards to get better players for their fantasy line-up. Ultimate Team is a well-rounded game mode and could be a massive time sink, but it’s missing one key feature: the ability to trade players online, a feature that makes assembling the team you want a hell of a lot easier. With this feature missing in NBA Live 14, creating the team you want will take a lot of time and a lot of luck, which removes the fun from the mode.
The Rising Star mode is nothing to really shout about, being a standard mode where you create a player and guide him from pre-draft and throughout his NBA career. The real star game mode is Big Moments, which criminally is hidden away in a sub menu. The mode allows you to try and recreate the biggest moments from the NBA season, and it is updated regularly and with a great selection of matches.
Unfortunately, the visuals are appalling, apart form the net, which actually deserves some credit. Player models are of a very low quality and I even struggled to recognize some. The crowd fairs somewhat better, but models are still janky, and in a clever piece of design in many arenas only the first few rows of people are visible, meaning we don’t have to keep looking at the poor visuals. Not only is a lot of the crowd missing, they are almost silent. Never do the crowd let off a big cheer when a player breaks through and dunks the ball into the basket (probably because it happens so often) and never do they show their displeasure with the team. Generally there is a small amount of noise coming from them, but rarely do the levels change and it definately does not have the realistic atmosphere that other sports titles do.
The crowd is not the only silent party: the commentary team of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy will often leave you in complete silence, especially if you are hovering around the 3 point line waiting for the right time to move. When they do speak, they often refer to players as “he” or “they” and not by name, and very rarely do they pull out an interesting story to pass the time, like good commentators should.
VERDICT: NBA Live 14 is a mess that probably shouldn’t have been released – hell, EA have even apologized because it is so bad. The gameplay is fundamentally broken due to the ease of scoring dunks, and 2-point jumpers being near impossible to sink, whilst the poor AI leads to a highly unrealistic game.
The visuals are a mess and the atmosphere is flat and generates no excitement. The game modes are generally the standard affair but the gameplay makes them un-enjoyable. Perhaps the only remotely redeeming feature of the game is the net, but let’s face it: you don’t buy a basketball game because of the net physics, do you? NBA Live 14 is a bad game that is not worthy of your time and money – if you really want a basketball game on the Xbox One or PS4, there is a much, much better alternative.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.
Review copy provided by publisher.