There should be a label on the cover of EA's newest NBA sim: "Warning: Degree in Hoopology Required." Out of the box, NBA Live 07 is set firmly to "wanton ass kicker" mode, so casual ballers and basketball junkies alike will need to dive into the guts of the engine's sliders to get the gameplay right. Otherwise, you'll be sure to invent brand new and exciting profanities after missing 10 straight open jumpers.
Live wants you to bust out all sorts of the freestyle moves to do just about everything - scoring, defending, and, for crying out loud, even passing. Passing! We've got nothing against making J-Kidd toss some behind-the-back oh-my-goodness to Vince Carter, or having Steve Nash oh-no-you-didn't, no-look dish to Amare Stoudamire, but freestyling is looser than the busted wheel of a 10-year old grocery store cart. In a few ways, they’ve put a little Street Fighter into your NBA game, since it’ll take a half-circle swoop here or a double-tap there to execute the hip moves, and it feels a bit random at times whether they connect or not.
Many of the superstuds (meaning the fun guys to use) have more than one freestyle mode - for example, they may excel at outside shooting, playmaking, and three-pointers. This translates to the need to scroll through those icons on the fly. Furiously cycling through skills with Kobe breathing down your neck - not a pretty sight.
We know, it sounds like we're hating on the game, and that's really not true. The Dynasty mode is back and deeper than ever. Flesh out a coaching staff and massage the outsized egos of your players to ensure the team chemistry keeps 'em from going all Ron Artest on you (yes, that's a cheap shot, we admit it). You may have to ship some of them off to other squads where they can spread the misery, so long as you're capable of discerning the complex ins and outs of the NBA salary cap.
The All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas is a fun diversion that is a party game more than anything. In the Slam Dunk contest, have your stud dunkers somersault through the air on their way to the hoop, or fire off alley-oops to themselves. It'll take some practice, but some wildly entertaining jams are possible with a bit of experimentation.