NBA Live 10 Demo Impressions

Posted September 12th, 2009 at 9:10 pm


The NBA Live 10 demo came out on Friday for the 360 and now having played enough of it I feel comfortable posting my impressions. The general response appears to be largely positive from browsing various forums and Twitter. While I’m recognizing some great things about the game I’m also finding myself frustrated by some of the flaws which are tampering with my overall experience.

Continue on to read the full impressions as well as watch two new demo play-through HD videos.

I’ve played the demo solely on All-Star difficulty which is the recommended setting by EA for the sim experience. The CPU definitely plays tough on this difficulty but the challenge doesn’t necessarily feel organic. The CPU is shooting very high percentages with 75% being approximately the average I’ve seen. Shot selection is decent but they’re draining many well contested shots and not just from Kobe which I can live with. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest hit contested threes quite a bit, it seems like every game one does that on the opening possession. All the CPU players hit mid-range shots and driving shots even with players in their face and it is rare to see them miss from the low post.

The visuals are incredibly impressive. The game presents a vibrant experience from the players to the jerseys to the arenas. Player models are improved and player faces are well done for the most part. The only visual quirk comes in the “Hangar” where players look light and with Yao and Nash in the background almost translucent as pointed out by someone on Twitter.

The atmosphere is excellent and given that it is the “Finals Atmosphere” is does a pretty good job of representing that. Hopefully the crowds react well in regular season games, and amp up for playoff games (and more so in places like Atlanta and Golden State). When the Lakers score in the demo I find myself affected by the crowd which is a feeling that I can’t say I’ve had from any other sports game. That is cool.

While the player control is excellent there seems to be no adjustment made based on location. What I notice most is that the players don’t adjust their strides when they near the sideline or half court line. So making a step towards the sideline may result in stepping out of bounds because there is no recognition of that boundary. It appears to balance that they made it so out of bounds isn’t called in those situations. So it looks awkward but it is better than if there were OOB calls that were basically out of your control which would happen pretty frequently.

The most improved aspect of the game to me is the rebounding. The sense of positioning is much better and the majority of boards are legitimately grabbed by the right team or player. I have gone through a few instances where mistimed jumps resulted in multiple offensive rebounds by the CPU though I suspect that is just a matter of adjusting to the difference in rebounding strategy from last year.

I have mixed thoughts on the changed passing controls. I do like the multiple options especially the potential of freestyle passing with the stick and how that improves fast breaks. However I’ve also found myself passing to an unintended players. With the numerous different passing options pressing a particular button may mix up the passing style and with so many other things to worry about at a given time I haven’t come to recognize those situations yet.

The most perplexing change to the controls is the removal of the post-up mechanic. I really appreciated the feel of holding the left trigger to back down and then having the array of moves on the right stick. Now I’m uncertain every time I’m in the post whether my player is going to post up or not. Which usually means I end up turning the ball over or taking an awkward shot.

Live has always represented court space well which allowed for realistic spacing and the ability to call plays and use pick and rolls effectively. This continues to be the a great aspect of the game. I was running plays and having Vince Carter come off screens that resulted in open looks. It is relatively simple to run plays and seemingly can be effective and for that I’m finding myself doing it more often than I have with previous iterations. The main problem I seem to have is not fully understanding when the pass will go to the intended teammate with the icon over his head or to someone else.

One thing I’ve noticed is that seemingly there is no way to affect a player or their shot as they’ve gone into an animation towards the basket. If Derek Fisher beats my defender on the perimeter and drives the lane, Dwight Howard and friends are there to watch him slice by, jump for a block attempt that appears can not ever be successful from the side, and watch as he scores the bucket. When I switch over to a player like Howard to try and affect a shot as the CPU player is going to the hoop it seems to all be futile unless I get directly in his path.

I haven’t seen a many of the hustle plays but when I have they’ve made sense for the situation and looked really neat. Having a player dive to bat at the ball is a refreshing thing to see for the Live series.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the CPU getting called for illegal screens. I have yet to see one called on my team so I’m not sure if it’s almost a scripted thing that only happens for the CPU.

Not a big deal cause I will usually be skipping over it but the starting lineup presentation is laughably bad. Can we get real introductions please? On the plus side the signature pre-game rituals are a great touch and it’s good to see them done with a variety of camera angles instead of using the same one every time. I’m already sick of the post-scoring cutaways to the player running back up the court and pointing or hopping back. Feels like those interrupt the flow more than add to the presentation and its just too repetitive.

There seems to be a bug that happens occasionally with the CPU player holding the ball and not starting their offense. You have to engage said player for them to make a move. Hopefully this has been addressed because it’d be hard to believe the dev team didn’t notice it happening along the way.

The overriding feeling I can’t escape is one of sloppiness. Despite all the improvements and flashes of excellence I’ll find several possessions where something madly frustrating occurs. It may be a defensive player seemingly warping for a steal. It may be having simple low risk passes stolen as my player stands there in place but the defender arrives out of no where to knock it away. It may be my player taking four steps and not getting called for a travel. It may be the CPU making tough shot after tough shot while I miss wide open opportunities. It may be my defense not collapsing on a driving player. It may be how I can’t get positioning on offense without the CPU knocking the ball out of my hands. In all there are just way too many turnovers and various oddities to overlook. Sometimes games can be strong enough to overshadow things like those but given how much they’ve bothered me already I can’t say for sure that Live 10 will be one of those games.

So as I sit here I’m conflicted with my feelings on NBA Live 10. The vast improvement is obvious but at the same time when there are a handful of frustrating instances in every short play-through of the demo I don’t know how to decide whether I actually like the game or not. Live 10 is fun and very satisfying when everything works as expected but then again it remains marred by the occasional sloppiness. Hopefully the final version is cleaned up and balanced better than the demo and if it is then Live 10 has great potential to be a hit with hardcore basketball gamers as well as the more casual crowd.