NBA Live 14
Published by: Electronic Arts
Released: November 19
Rating: E for Everyone
Available On: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Once upon a time, NBA Live and NBA 2K were competitors. Friendships were made and shattered over which game should be played. Both titles looked good, both played well, and both brought hours of authentic-feeling NBA action to consoles across the globe. Those days, unfortunately, are gone. 2K has quickly eclipsed Live in almost every category; with the latter performing so poorly that it actually skipped a couple of years at market.
NBA Live 14 was supposed to change things. Debuting Live 14 on next-gen consoles was supposed to mark the turning point in the franchise. And, most of all, it was supposed to give Electronic Arts a new position in the lucrative basketball game niche. However, none of these things is likely to happen. The reason? NBA Live 14 is terrible.
The physics are incredibly sluggish. Moving players around the court feels like wrestling with super glue. The ball bounces realistically enough, but friendly and opposing AI is so bad that there’s rarely anything interesting to do with it. Practically everyone in NBA Live 14 scores primarily through dunking – there’s no mid-field game to speak of and shooting/passing are so unreliable that they’re not even worth attempting.
In almost every respect, NBA Live 14 feels like a shoddy rip-off of NBA 2K 14. Rising Star mode, which is basically identical to 2K’s MyPlayer, allows you to play as a rookie as he lives through the draft and a milestone first game. But the game is tuned heavily against you; missed shots, turnovers, and other mistakes skew much more heavily than well-executed plays, and the game punishes you even for things that aren’t your fault. Grab a perfect pass and shoot a wide open shot but miss because of the game’s random-number generator? That’s a negative mark. It makes the mode more frustrating than entertaining.
The graphics pale in comparison to 2K’s next-gen offerings. While NBA Live is touted as a next-gen experience, it looks decidedly last-gen. Animation is especially bad; players look more like stiff dolls than actual simulated human beings. The learning curve is incredibly steep. At every opportunity, NBA Live 14 punishes you for not knowing everything about its convoluted control scheme. Sometimes players don’t execute on the commands you give them, but Live never explains why. It’s a mish-mash of interesting ideas executed with a stunning incompetence.
There’s one silver lining here: If you like basketball games, you can always play NBA 2K14. NBA Live isn’t the only basketball game around because EA doesn’t own the rights like it does with the NFL and Madden. If you’re a basketball fan and can’t wait to get in on the next-gen action, 2K is better looking, better made, and better playing. There are interesting ideas in NBA Live 14. Perhaps they’ll be better executed in NBA Live 15.