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Being a game that has received a less than enthusiastic reception in recent years, EA Sports’ NBA Live has more room for improvement than most of the company’s other sporting franchises. While it might not have the most solid gameplay foundations to build on, there probably won’t be too many people desperately upset if EA were to tear it all down and start from scratch. Actually, they haven’t gone quite that far, but the good news is that NBA Live 10 comes with a list of enhancements as long as Shaquille O’Neal’s arm.
The most immediately noticeable improvement is to the graphics, which now boast more detailed – although still noticeably robotic – facial animations and sweatier skin. These things are important. The TV-style presentation has been given a swanky makeover, and it’s as glitzy and new as you’d expect from a fresh season of this most Hollywood-friendly of sports.
A smoother animation system in general means that not only does the game look better than last year’s version, but also has a handful of previously impossible moves. Unless there’s just been a drastic improvement to our natural playing skills in the ten months or so since we last touched NBA Live, it seems easier to pick out teammates with passes when they’re tightly marked.
If you find yourself getting your a-b-x-y mixed up in these sorts of in-depth sports sims, you’ll probably appreciate the merciful decision to replace last year’s separate dunking and shooting with a single context-sensitive button. However, there are still moments when the action feels like it’s taken out of your hands and you’re just hoping that luck and the AI gives you the animation routine you were hoping for. Perhaps the intention was to mix things up so you don’t keep seeing the same things repeated, but the result for us was that we kept scoring with cool-looking moves that we had no idea how to repeat. Part of it seems to depend on which player you’re using, so knowledge of the real sport and the strengths and weaknesses of its superstars will be advantageous.
The Dynamic Season mode allows data from the NBA to update your game, making results and stats accurate to real life. Imagine taking the current NBA season and seeing what would happen if you were the coach of your favorite team. It’s very cool.
So, while NBA Live 10 is quite decidedly an improvement over the last outing, there’s still work to be done before it can call itself the undisputed number one in basketball sims. After all, if they made it perfect, what would they do next year?
Oct 12, 2009