|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (10 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
NBA Live 10 could be the best 'Live' in about a decade if presentation was all that mattered. Developer EA Canada has clearly placed a premium on the experience gamers will have in their time spent off the court. The audio has been ramped up with arena-specific chants and realistic crowd reactions, the soundtrack is a hip-hop fan's dream, and the new stat engine and Dynamic DNA mode might just be enough to Stump the Schwab.
Sadly, aside from a few minor tweaks (most of which are new names for old features) Live 10 does little to correct any of the most obvious issues with the series. AI defense is still porous, certain players are still automatic from beyond the arc, and, though there seems to be a new emphasis on more realistic play (specifically in the paint), this game, like most other 'Live' entries, feels like a glorified shootout.
The problem is that there is ultimately little balance to the game. Watching the Lakers play the Nuggets quickly descended into a Kobe-fest, as McDonald's former spokesman dropped probably a dozen threes. Okay, leaving aside the fact the all-time leading three point percentage is about 45% (Kobe's was somewhere in the 70's or 80's), he was double covered about a third of the time, not to mention the number of times he was leaning/fading away/running. Areas like this are where the game approaches NBA Jam-type farce. Essentially, if you can get your finger into the rhythm and hold the button just long enough, you can drop 10 three's in a heartbeat with a good player. Depending on which team you're on, it's either very frustrating or very funny.
In my case it was frustrating. As a critic, whenever I have to rate a sports game, I place a lot of emphasis on the exhibition mode. After all, when you pick up a copy of your favorite franchise, you're probably looking to embarrass and abuse your friends with replays of your amazing athletic exploits. I naturally decided to replay the Bulls-Celtics series from last year's playoffs. Though the series was relatively close in reality (at least in part because of the conspicuous injury-inspired absence of Kevin Garnett), apparently the powers-that-be in the NBA Live universe make all their decisions based on higher seeds (PS, I'd love to see their brackets for March Madness 2010).
The game began realistically enough; Joakim Noah managed to drop a few lay-ups and Derrick Rose managed to control the tempo with scattered jumpers. Other than that our defense and offense were underwhelming - made sense to me. Of course, the Celtics got off to an early lead built off a 10-2 opening run, but it was the rest of the game that really put me off of the 'Live' experience. For the next seventeen minutes, I watched in a mix between embarrassment and dismay as Ray Allen drained three's ad nauseum and my defenders managed to allow a consistent hole in the lane. This kind of superstar supremacy is common among EA SPORTS games, but it's in rare form in Live 10. It was more common to see extreme plays (i.e., Kevin Garnett leaping from the free throw line to pull a rebound over two forwards and a center boxing out) than it was to see a simple, effective pick and roll. Those looking for a realistic NBA experience should look elsewhere.
Running plays, playing off ball, and getting open for the pass takes a backseat to grabbing you're team's franchise player and gunning your way to victory. While this isn't as easy as in previous years' 'Live' games, it is definitely a viable tactic. A competent gamer with a good NBA guard for instance could take over a game without much effort, Kobe ended up scoring about 75% of his team's points in the aforementioned game, not unheard of, but not all that common. What's more difficult to swallow is the fact that even mediocre players (Andrew Bynum and Jannero Pargo) can be ridiculously efficient in the right hands. I'm not sure how to deal with the problem, but then again I haven't had over a decade and a half of fan support to find my development legs, either. This many years on the market you'd think EA would find a way to make a sincere effort in the one aspect of their game design that seems unchanged.