NBA Live 06 Review
Basketball has never really been one of my favourite sports. I’m not a huge fan of non-contact sports. I’m more of a football/Rugby fan myself. So when I got NBA Live 06, let’s just say I wasn’t leaping for joy. However, I decided to give the game a try with a very open mind. And in all honesty, I was quite taken aback by how addictive the sport is — in a videogame at least.
Presentation plays a major part in all games, and as always, EA Sports really hits the nail on the head. As soon as you load up the game, you’ll find yourself watching what look like a pre-animated intro, with the camera panning around and watching tall images of NBA legends light up. Then you watch as the NBA court lines light up and a futuristic basketball net creates itself. On comes Dwayne Wade — computerised and looking seriously good…Wait, he’s not moving. That’s because this is an ingenious new idea from EA. It’s actually a little training area. The menu system starts off with your controlling Dwayne Wade, and bashing in as many two point dunks as you can. It’s a great way to start off the game, as you instantly get a taste of what’s in store and how the game reacts — you can practice dunks and three point long shots to your hearts content. Once you’re happy with that, simply press the start button, and the menu will appear bottom left. This practice arena also comes in handy whilst a game loads. Instead of just sitting there watching a “loading…” animation, you can actually continue playing. Once the game has loaded, the camera will pan to the big screen and enter the game.
Graphically, NBA 06 is stunning. It’s probably one of the most impressive looking sports titles to date. Every single player looks identical to their real life counter-parts, with players like Shaquille O’Neil towering above his opposition. As the players run about and start to get sweaty (Easy ladies! -Ed) you’ll be able to see them perspire! Sweat beads treacle down the players faces in a stunning way. You really are taken a-back by the totally amazing graphical ability that the 360 has, and how EA have fully utilised it. The crowd and arenas also look stunning, reacting to your every move. If you take a free-throw and you’re away from the home, the home fans will wave and boo you to try and put you off, which is a really nice touch.
Whilst we’re on the subject of free-throws, I might as well explain that they are pretty tricky. It does depend on which player you have, but the idea of the free-throw system is to pull back the right analogue, and then quickly push it up when the free-throwers arms outstretch. Easier said than done. Free-throw does take quite a bit of getting used to, and because there is no real way to judge what you are doing wrong, it can get quite frustrating.
Sound in NBA Live 06 is typical of EA Sports. The crowd sound superb, and react to you scoring. If you’re playing away and score 6 or 8 points without reply, the crowd will sit in utter silence until the home team score. Commentary is also top draw, as it always is with EA. Both commentators chat to each other in a really realistic way, making you sometimes think you’re watching a game on TV. However, if you’re playing career mode, you’ll find the commentary repeat itself a lot, and this can sometimes get quite annoying.
Presentation isn’t everything though. We still want good gameplay, right? NBA 06’s gameplay is addictive, but tricky. The controls are pretty simple, but the game feels a bit sluggish. There seems to be little pace to the game, even with the game speed set to a higher level. There is also evident slowdown in some areas of the game, which makes me think that the game may have been rushed slightly. When playing the game yourself, you do get used to the slight drop in frame-rate occasionally, but it’s still something that should have been ironed out.
As well as that, the camera angles sometimes make it quite tricky to see what the hell is going on! The best camera angle is sideline, which follows the action from the sideline (obviously) but when the ball is at the back of the court, it seems to be so far away from the screen, that you struggle to see where you are going. Also, if you make a quick break attack and pass the ball long, the camera takes a second or two to catch up with the ball, meaning you launch the ball way of screen, and have no idea where it’s gone until the camera catches up. Maybe it’s my complete lack of Basketball knowledge that makes me crap at this game, but it seems to be quite tricky to get the ball from the CPU and pass it around without losing it.
Career mode on NBA Live 06 is pretty much the same as every other Career mode, with you coaching and playing your favourite NBA team (All of which are fully licensed of course!), sorting out your tactics, team management and transfers to ensure you stay at the top of the table.
Xbox-Live is pretty much the same as a single player game, but you play against another human. There is sometimes slightly more slow-down during play, but again, you won’t notice it that much when playing. Everything else is pretty much identical during online play, but it can somtimes be hard to find anyone online to play against.
All-in-all NBA is a solid game. Despite the evident slow-down during play, the annoying camera angles and the repetitive commentary, the gameplay is very addictive, and you’ll find yourself loading up NBA Live 06 again and again. The game is definitely worth renting out and trying for yourself before you buy, because not all of us are massive fans of Basketball games. Those of you who are fans however, don’t have much more choice until the New Year when NBA 2K6 comes out. Until then, this is the closest thing you’ll get to reality.