NBA Live 10 Initial Impressions

Posted October 4th, 2009 at 5:40 pm


The NBA Live series comes into this year with increased expectations after primarily concentrating efforts on improving the gameplay experience rather than adding in new modes. While EA has built out a good feature set the last few years, the primary focus of gameplay was necessary and appears to have paid off if gamer response and early reviews are to be believed.

Continue on for my observations from playing NBA Live 10 over the last few days. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

It quickly became apparent that the way to be successful in Live 10 is to play the game in a sim manner. 12 minute quarters are probably going to be necessary to consistently get realistic scores and stats. The game rewards playing basketball the right way. Certainly there will be some things found that aren’t balanced properly, but I’ve yet to come across anything that is overly effective on offense. Running plays, using dribble moves to break down the defense, and creating space to get open shots is a very satisfying feeling.

I had a lot of issues with the demo as I detailed in my impressions of it. In general the game felt sloppy despite the obvious improvements that had been made. The full game is a lot cleaner, but not just in some adjustments that were made following the demo build but also from the personal side of getting acclimated to the controls and comfortable with the way the game plays as to what works and what doesn’t.

Still there can be quite a lot of turnovers. Some passes that I sense are safe get stolen or tipped away. When backing down or trying to make a move down low the ball is often knocked away. You really have to concentrate while playing the game or the defense will make you pay for that. Something I really appreciate is being able to affect passes while playing defense. I like putting my hands up manually with the right stick, and I’ve had a couple times where I’ve been able to deflect passes that way.


The contact that is felt especially when driving into traffic is great, it prevents too many easy layups or dunks from happening. At the same time it can also be frustrating. I now hesitate to drive to the hoop because while I may believe I’m in a position to have a high percentage attempt I end up in a contact animation. Most of the time that results in a missed shot. Fouls are rarely called, if ever, on these animations which is somewhat odd. For some reason the CPU can make more of these than I can which has bothered me also.

Last year I didn’t find the Synergy effect on gameplay to be all that significant. In Live 10 though it is very apparent. Players act like themselves on the court. As many people pointed out in the full game video I posted, Dwayne Wade was relentless attacking the rim and took charge offensively. It isn’t perfect, though certainly the best a game has represented tendency of players and teams. Going against the Cavs there were times where Lebron James seemed to disappear, but then he’d come back and dominate a stretch of a few minutes. It was during that period where he wasn’t having a big affect on the games that Shaq seemed to take over.

I really like the hustle plays that are seen. They make sense in the context of the situations and don’t happen too often. There are occasions where a lack of aggressiveness towards the ball are seen, sometimes after a rebound or even after a hustle play as the ball is loose. While it may not look right as long as the result feels right it doesn’t bother me too much.

Rebounding is much improved and for the most part proper positioning and timing will see the correct player come down with the board. It is just those occasions, which don’t happen all that often, where the ball will hit the ground or maybe the player won’t even jump but still pulls it in that look awkward.

The CPU also seems more likely to get offensive rebounds than I am. I’ve found that the best idea is to switch over and control someone under the hoop so you can manually position him to box out. Otherwise the CPU has a good chance at getting the board. The stats don’t necessarily show a huge discrepancy between the two sides but it definitely feels like they’re more apt to get the offensive boards. Not only that but when I do get an offensive rebound I usually end up getting stripped or my put back blocked or missed.


Fast breaks are rare and I think it’s because the defenses all get back so quickly. I think I’ve only had a few successful fast breaks and those came from steals on the perimeter and it has just been the one guy going all the way. I don’t believe I’ve seen any 2-1, 3-2 type fast breaks from either myself or the CPU let alone successful ones.

I’m looking forward to the patching in of the manual back down mechanic. I just don’t feel completely comfortable with the contextual take on it so I haven’t spent much time attempting moves in the low post. Since the ball gets knocked away often when making a move I’ve been avoiding the potential turnovers.

While the player control and momentum are represented well, I find that I’m getting pulled into some types of shots I didn’t intend. I have to stop a player completely before pulling up for a three, otherwise they’ll take a couple steps over the line and go for a long distance leaner. The game should be able to recognize a little better the situation and what someone would likely be wanting to do. I’m starting to adjust to this some more, but I still have a bunch of shots in every game that were not what I was anticipating when I started to take them.

The CPU players seem to force shots randomly, almost like they have determined they have to take a shot and must find a way to get it off. It doesn’t make sense in the context of the situations either. It could be early in the shot clock and a player, which could be anyone not just a superstar, will have the ball and do something like a turnaround fadeaway or shoot through a double team.

Shooting percentages are excellent right out of the box for both the user and CPU. I feel like the 3pt % may be a little on the low side though. Most games I’m seeing about 10-30% combined between the two sides.


The CPU can be a little slow to start the offense and actually at times it feels like they’re just standing there with the ball waiting for you to move in on them before they do anything. This was an issue in the demo also. It may not be as blatant as the demo but I still get a little antsy when the CPU is standing out there and not running the offense.

Blocks often look really awkward. I know they worked on making the blocks realistic but they still don’t look right. Sometimes I’ll go up for a jumpshot and have it blocked, not really understanding how it happened and the ball just getting knocked away instantly.

I would like to run plays more often in the game but it’s another thing I don’t fully trust or understand. The A icon comes up and even if its lit up there will be times where I hit A and it passes to someone else completely. I just can’t afford to risk turnovers like that.

The atmosphere of the games is absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced in a sports title.  The crowd goes nuts in playoff games and it feels so intense because of it. I’ve never felt pressure playing a road game in any sports title no matter how “loud” they have presented them. That is until now, where the crowd legitimately unnerves and intimidates me. Great job by EA here and it really accents how the other sports games aren’t living up to fully representing the atmosphere found in their respective sports.

It isn’t just the atmosphere but also the unique authentic touches that are seen. Whether it is the personal pre-game rituals, arena specific sounds or the wide array of jerseys to choose from, the overall experience is completely immersive. In the videos I’ve posted you can hear things like Vince Carter getting booed every time he touches the ball in Toronto or the Ric Flair “Woo” in New Orleans after Chris Paul scores. There are different things like these seen across the league. The attention to detail is great and hopefully they just continue to expand on this going forward to offer unique authentic feels for every team and arena.

I was glad to see that not every game has that awkward starting lineup introduction that has been seen in the videos and in the demo. That is only for playoff games and it doesn’t feel completely out of place there. I prefer the other intros with players warming up but they’ll need more variety in the future.


The overall presentation is not great but it’s decent. I like that the replays and featured highlights don’t affect the flow of the games since they only play at dead ball situations. I don’t particularly care for the post score reaction cut-ins though. There also needs to be something better than just game stats and the top player’s stats displayed during halftime in the future.

I really like the feel of the freestyle passing method but I don’t feel like I can trust it. By holding down the LT instead of just having the icons to pass to you can now use the right stick to send it to a player in a general direction. There have been times where I’ve been able to use it for a quick pass on a fast breaks or to open players nearby. However there have also been instances where I’ve thought it would go to one player and it went somewhere completely else. In one situation I recall it was a fast break and I tried to flick it over to a trailing player off to the side and instead the pass went all the way to someone in the back court for a turnover.

One of the problems I seem to have is playing one-on-one defense. There is no mechanic to stay with your check, and when you make movements they can be sharp and take you out of position. Because of that lots of times I have guys drive right by me as I’m just standing there not sure how to react. That has probably been evident in the videos that except for the times where it contextually brings my player into a bumping animation with the ball handler I feel like I’m out on an island and more comfortable playing off-ball defense.

After simming through Dynasty mode and playing several games throughout the season there doesn’t seem to be much that differentiates the games in dynasty compared to the standard ones. There is supposedly dynamic commentary based on the events of your dynasty but I didn’t hear anything that stood out. About the only difference seen is with some on-screen displays that show up at different times. I noticed ones for the upcoming schedule, conference standings, and up-to-date seasons stats or stats from the last game for specific players.

Dynamic Season can’t begin until the regular season actually starts but it is an intriguing concept that a lot of people will probably enjoy. I had initial reservations considering whether or not people would be playing on regular basis and keeping up with the real season, but there is enough flexibility that you can play “rewind games” or play only the games you want to. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops over the course of the season. Last year the DNA updates kept interest in the game alive longer and Dynamic Season should strengthen the replayability to an even greater extent.


While I like the flow of the commentary and the pairing of Marv Albert and Steve Kerr it is definitely getting stale for people who have played the game the last few years. The supposed addition of dynamic commentary in Dynasty mode was not apparent in the games I played which was disappointing in that regard.

I really like the graphical style, the vibrancy of the colors and environments. Players faces are generally good, though the players do have a bit too much of a shine to them that give them a slightly manufactured rather than natural look.

The push for refining and increasing the impact of the Synergy data will pay dividends, though I wish it also took into account defensive tendencies. While the daily roster updates and rewind games are great benefits of the service, it does appear to have also really affected how the players act on the court and how well the team styles are represented.

I was a little disappointed that the NBA Academy had been removed, but it is actually there in Dynasty mode for training. However they are all the same drills from last year. Unfortunately no new ones have been added.

As detailed in my analysis of the performance installing to the 360 hard drive, loading time into different parts of the game are quite long. This is probably due to “The Hangar” loading up in some instances but it also takes a while to get into areas such as Dynasty. Loading times are significantly improved by installing but they are still on the long side of things.

In-game saves should be a necessary addition for next year. Having to play what is extended games for most people at 12 minute quarters, that can be a time commitment that will create problems for some.

Following the end of the game you can access what has been determined as the top plays from the game. They can be sorted and browsed through a few different categories such as dunks, layups, or emotion. The problem is the replays are cropped early and at the end. So if you were looking to save the replay there is little you can do in the editing stage because the replays begin right before the event and end right after it. So my suggestion is to take care of that immediately during the games which isn’t ideal since it breaks up the flow and pace of playing naturally.

Online play impressions will come this week once the wave of people hit following release. Online performance and options have been a strength of Live the past couple years. If you missed it check out the Live Run online impressions posted earlier.


Overall while I still have a number of issues with NBA Live 10 I’m taken aback by the sim nature and the unbelievable atmosphere. I came out of the demo with very mixed feelings but many of those concerns have been put to rest with the full game. The most important thing to me with any game will always the fun factor and the elements contributing to that have been more prevalent than any frustration stemming from the flaws.