NBA Live by EA Sports in Review – EA’s Attempt At Another Slam Dunk!

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EA were one of the first big companies to begin porting versions of some of their most popular titles to the iPlatform. I had the opportunity to get my hands on one of their latest and most recognizable series in NBA Live. With all the successful releases of other franchise titles – FIFA, Madden 10, C&C: Red Alert, the public (myself included) have set the bar fairly high for the powerhouse developers. Read on to see how one of the most popular console sports game franchises stacks up on the iPhone/iPod Touch.

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One of the things that EA have been able to do extremely well while developing on the iDevice is maintaining a high level of quality in the visuals department. NBA Live is no different. The courts, crowd and players themselves look great on a mobile screen. They put a lot of work into trying to keep a certain level of realism into the setup and it shows. You have a packed stadium all around you, announcers, even the LED banners that circle the insides of stadiums now-a-days is present.

The animations are also quite well done; though just don’t expect to find an endless repertoire of moves/animations that are found on the console counterparts . As expected in sports games, after you make a fancy dunk, you get to watch an instant replay of the action. The video quality is great and who doesn’t like to watch their handy work replayed in front of them.

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Controls in NBA Live are pretty simple. On the left, you have a d-pad that you use to control your movements. To the right, you have 2 virtual buttons: a red one to shoot/dunk or block shots and a blue one to pass or steal the ball. I actually found the setup well implemented and enjoyable to use. They were easy to get used to and after going through the available tutorials, I had no problems jumping into the action and playing as my Raptors.

Three game modes are available to you: Exhibition, Season and Playoffs. The first mode allows you to pick 2 teams and hop into a game. Season mode  is exactly what you’d expect from a sports sim; choose your favorite team and play ‘em throughout an entire season. If however you want to skip the long and grueling 82 game schedule and get right to fighting for the glory, then playoffs is the mode for you. Simply pick your team and begin the 16 team playoff race. For those who enjoy taking their teams into multiple seasons, Franchise mode is unfortunately absent in its current release.

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There are 3 levels of difficulty that you can play: Rookie, Veteran and All Star. If you are looking for a challenge I would recommend starting at the veteran setting to see how well you match up against the AI. However if you are new to the game or just out of practice, then ‘rookie’ is an excellent place to start. Venturing through the menus you have access to help/tutorials, options for visual/audio quality as well as rules and controls. For a mobile 5-on-5 basketball sim, EA have included quite a few settings and stats, even allowing you to trade players and sign free agents.

While EA Sports does a good job overall bringing full court basketball to mobile gamers, not all is perfect with their first ‘Live’ go around on the platform. From a visual (and physics) standpoint, collision detection is hardly consistent. You’ll find players ‘clipping’ through one another, among other odd behaviors. One such example is when you drive to the hoop, you’re able to initiate a dunk even though you are actually well past the basket. The end result is an animation where the player’s body goes through the hoop as he makes the dunk. To be fair, these oddities do happen even on consoles (though perhaps not to same extent), so it’s not too surprising to run into similar issues on the iPhone. And for those  hoping for a true basketball sim with loads of realism, you’ll likely be disappointed in this regard. NBA Live plays more like an arcade basketball game than a real sports simulation. On the bright side, you’ll have fun launching 3′s and attempting vicious dunks with reckless abandon on every play (if you so desire).

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Another ‘issue’ to note, and one that seems to plague all sports games, are the rosters. You’ll notice players that aren’t in the league anymore or on teams that they no longer play for. It’s a bit of a hassle to manually update teams’ lineups to reflect the most up-t0-date players. Again, this is to be expected from sports games on all consoles.

All in all, I think that EA Sports have done a solid job with their first NBA Live release on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Aside from some of the animation and detection issues in the game, it is still the ONLY 5-on-5 basketball experience at the App Store and one that’s fun as well. The controls work well for the small screen and its options and gameplay are deep enough to keep you ballin’ for the 82 game season . Fans of the long running hardwood franchise or even just sports fans in general will enjoy what Live has to offer.

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App Summary
Title:NBA Live (V 10.1.18)Developer:Electronic Arts
Price:$9.99App Size:101 MB
  • Great graphics/visuals
  • Multiple game modes
  • Lots of attention to detail
  • Play iPod music in game
  • No online play
  • Animation glitches
  • Expected roster issues

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