#6 of 2009: NBA Live 10

Posted December 23rd, 2009 at 8:03 pm

The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.

This was a critical year for the NBA Live franchise to attempt to establish itself against the competition. In terms of quality NBA Live 10 was good enough that many took notice but in terms of sales it lost even more ground.The game excelled in some areas but also had some frustrating flaws that held it back from being one I could feel completely passionate about.

After playing the demo I actually stated in my impressions that I wasn’t sure if I liked Live 10 better than Live 09. That changed with the full version of the game but many of those gripes I had in the demo turned into annoyances that did affect my level of gameplay enjoyment.

Overall gameplay would feel sloppy at times because of a high number of turnovers. Just getting bumped down low meant losing control of the ball. It was nearly impossible to drive the lane and get a shot off without being drawn into a contact animation. These rarely resulted in fouls and usually ended up being missed, meanwhile the CPU tended to make those same shots. Attempting penetration basically felt like wasting a possession and that severely altered how I could play the game.

The new freestyle passing with the right stick felt great to use at times but I never felt as though I could rely on it. Same with the directional based passing which remains inconsistent. Those mistakes would result in additional turnovers but so would normal passes that felt safe only for the CPU steal or tip them away with my teammates not being aggressive in going for the ball.

I also found it really difficult to play one-on-one defense. There was no mechanic to really stabilize position so any movement in one direction resulted in giving the opposing player an opening. It made it difficult to play user defense since that player could just drive right by and as such made the tendency to switch and play off-ball.

Probably the other biggest issue for me outside of the general sloppy feel was the lack of fast breaks. Live 10 is an excellent half-court representation of the NBA but there were so few fast breaks for both the CPU and the user. Basically the reason as far as I saw it was even one player back on defense could just draw the ball handler into a contact animation and the shot would be missed. But even those type of opportunities were rare. Fast breaks were never really improved on with the patches.

Despite those things mentioned above the game also got many things right out of the box. Shot percentages and stat output were realistic. Live 10 rewards playing basketball the right way for the most part with running plays, setting screens, ball movement, and creating space being critical. Hustle plays were implemented well with players acting appropriately in the necessary situations. Basically this was the year it became a completely sim game. Still flawed in some areas sure but it was clear that was the intention going in.

Really there was one thing above all others that had me enjoying the game far more than I would have otherwise. The stadium atmosphere was represented better than any other sports game has been able to offer. The three levels (regular season, playoffs, and NBA Finals) are differentiated well and provide unique feels. I don’t think I realized just how much the atmosphere can mean to the overall experience until Live 10. It totally changed my perspective on what is most important to providing an emotional connection and experience in a sports game.

In addition to the crowd atmosphere was the addition of the player rituals, stadium specific sounds and a wide selection of uniform options. Vince Carter getting booed every time he touches the ball in Toronto is just awesome. Touches like those showed a dedication to replicate the NBA experience more so than Live has done in the past.

Dynamic Season was an interesting concept and a way to meet the desire of many to play along with the events of the current season. This was another way to utilize the excellent Synergy data that is downloaded on a daily basis. Issues at the start though with stats not syncing up and displaying properly and the daunting thought that I’d still be playing in mid-2010 just to complete the one season ultimately led me to drop it. I would be really curious to find out data on how many Dynamic Seasons are active especially into next year. At the very least the mode provides another avenue of longevity.

NBA Live continued to excel in online play with smooth and consistent performance in all the game modes. Adidas Live Run was the new spin-off from Online Team Play which added another unique mode to online.

On paper it made a lot of sense to offer pick-up style games. Everyone gets to control a skilled player and the gameplay was much more free-flowing with the removal of fouls. I did miss some of the atmosphere of the crowd though. The dominance of certain players (Yao Ming) and the flaw that allowed certain types of three point attempts to be nearly automatic were troublesome. It was also difficult to really coordinate to have everyone on for full teams at the same time. Still when playing the games it was largely a fun experience. Full thoughts on Live Run can be found here.

While EA was quick to provide a first patch that corrected some of the initial issues with the game it also caused one that resulted in goaltending scores not counting into the displayed scores. This was fixed by a second patch but was a black eye for the amount of time it was out there. There have also been questions as to the effectiveness of changes that were meant to curb exploits with certain types of three point shots. On the other end of the spectrum the two patches clearly took consumer feedback into consideration which was a positive development.

Despite the active work on the two patches the post-release support and communication has noticeably decreased. The Synergy data for ratings and manual roster updates have been lacking in consistency and made little sense. The sense from this along with the sales data and recent comments by EA regarding profitability of titles has led to Live being viewed as a possible cut down the line.

NBA Live 10 was a game that I enjoyed quite a bit due to the slant towards sim gameplay, solid online play, and especially the unbelievable atmosphere of the games. NBA Live 11 may very well be the make-or-break year for the series. If it doesn’t see a surge in sales its future will be in serious doubt.

#6: NBA Live 10
#7: Madden Arcade
#8: NCAA Football 10
#9: NBA 2K10
#10: Fight Night Round 4
The Worst of 2009