NBA Live 16 Review

NBA Live 16 Review

Big on Offensive, Fails on Defense

EA Sports’ fall lineup is shaping out to be one of the best the publisher has dished out in a very long time. This year has been all about EA’s redemption story and how they’ve managed to pick up the pieces and improve the quality issues that’s plagued them in the recent past. For me personally, it all started with the vast improvements in NHL 16, FIFA 16, and reportedly Madden 16. I’ll have to admit, after reading several optimistic press releases, I was skeptical that EA Sports could even come close to recapturing my heart as they did when I was young. However, after spending some significant time with both NHL 16 and FIFA 16, they’ve definitely managed to instil some much needed old-school nostalgia into this year’s titles. Yes, the only question that remains is can NBA Live 16 make it four in a row for EA Sports’ fall 2016 lineup, or will the highly touted basketball simulator fall flat on its face?

This year’s version of NBA Live 16 seems to focus solely on you, the player. Upon initially booting up the game disc, you’re presented with the option of downloading EA’s NBA-Live GameFaceHD Companion app, which allows players to scan their face with a mobile phone. I whipped out my iPhone 5S and followed along with EA’s on-screen guide that is built right into the opening game tutorial. Once the facial scan was complete, EA uploaded my captured image directly to their servers, which I then applied to my created character. Once I managed to get past the pain of capturing and recapturing of my face, along with navigating the buggy iOS app, the result was actually pretty cool. My captured facial image didn’t come out as perfect as advertised, unless I just look somewhat like an alien in real life, but having the option to do so was pretty awesome regardless.

After being buried knee-deep in the GameFaceHD app as if I was learning to change a diaper for the first time, I decided to customize my new baller so that he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It’s no secret that the game of basketball, regardless of what level you’re at, is shrouded in both hip-hop and fashion-based culture. The quality of a player’s game is just as important as the shoes beneath their feet and the shorts that hangs from their hips. NBA Live 16 is no exception and I took full advantage of the customization options. The Live Spot is where players can completely personalize their character from the ground up. Everything from tops, shorts, shoes, headbands, and even socks can tailored to the player’s liking.

Feeling like reliving the glory days of Allen Iverson and his famous array of on-court accessories? Not a problem, head on over to the Live Spot Outfit Selection screen and rock as many finger bands, knees pads, shooting sleeves, and just about everything else that made Iverson standout from his competition. Similarly, if you’re one of those dudes that shows up to the court like a weirdo in jeans and a long-sleeve on a 90-degree summer day, NBA Live will oblige you with a wealth of unorthodox options – the choice is entirely up to you, even if it’s the wrong one.

Take your fully customized character from Live Spot into either Rising Star Career mode or Live Pro-Am, which features the reemergence of the popular Live Run option that allows players to play 5-on-5 over PSN or Xbox Live. I spent a majority of my time engrossed in the Rising Star Career mode and the wealth of options that came along with it. The mode started me out in the Adidas Rookie Showcase, where I matched up against this year’s past rookie draft class before being selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. After logging nearly a dozen or so regular season games, I have to say that I’m really impressed by the overall offering of the mode. Not only will you have to work your way into the starting lineup, but you will also need to adjust your playing style in order to fit with how the team runs their particular scheme. Your player is awarded experience points, which can be spent on gear and attributes, based on how stellar your gameplay was. Don’t worry, if you suck like old man Kendrick Perkins, then the game will simply give you some much needed pointers rather than deduct attributes.

NBA Live 16 Screenshot

When I was looking for a break from the traditional organized basketball set of Rising Star mode, I took my created player over into the Live Pro-Am offering, which reminded of the classic NBA Street games. I faced off against follow PSN members, presumable fellow reviewers or rich kids with massive connections, in a competitive game of 5-on-5 that was set on the historic courts of Rucker Park, Harlem, New York. The really awesome aspect about transitioning from one created-player mode to the next, was the ability to keep my player’s stats and gear unbroken. Gone are the days of building two and three separate players for each different mode – this year’s version lets you streamline the offerings by creating one player to be used across all modes. This was especially nice to see my hard work from Rising Star mode projected on court during my first game of Live Pro-Am.

NBA Live 16 Screenshot

After logging most of my time with the created-player modes, and a handful in both exhibition and GM, the overall presentation of the game was good, but not great. This was upsetting because it provides a massive amount of content for players to explore. When I say massive, I mean it could easily have been broken down and refined into a series of different titles. I really liked most of the sights and sounds like the chatter amongst players, the swoosh of the ball on a three pointer, and even the timeout cutscenes. I was particularly stoked to see the crowd get rowdy during a close game as they stood up and yelled “three” when I chucked one from 25-feet away. Yes, they also went ballistic if I managed to bomb one from that far away to either take the lead or cut it even closer.

The ESPN scoreboard at the bottom of the screen looks pretty fantastic and provides a lot of valuable information – timeouts, shot-clock timer, and game time are all present in a noninvasive form. The other positive aspect that I noticed is the arenas and the players seemed to be perfectly scaled to size in relation to what they would look like on a real NBA court. This has been an annoying issue in the past, but it looks like EA Sports has finally refined this problem out.

The player movements were spot on, for the most part, and they really reacted well to real life in-game situations. I loved how players will actually ride their opponent out of the paint on specific off-ball plays, forcing you to stand your ground or be eaten up by stronger players. I really liked that your defensive teammates can (and most certainly will) make mistakes and force you to either recover and adjust for their error. No longer can I cherry-pick at the three-point line, looking for the easy outlet pass that leads to a smooth transition dunk. I now have no choice but to work for my turnovers, providing a much more authentic feel that I look for in a basketball simulator.

NBA Live 16 Screenshot

The player models that accompany these great movements, however, looked generic for the most part with the only exception seen in a handful of NBA superstars that possessed a little more detail and refinement. Additionally, most of the over 300-plus shoe options available in Live Spot are poorly rendered and look more like something out of NBA Live 2005 than 2015. The arenas are not too far behind and look rather basic, lacking the much-needed realism gamers are looking for in an authentic basketball simulator. At times, from a visual standpoint, the game felt as if it were being played on the last-gen consoles rather than the current-gen. It was upsetting to see that EA Sports didn’t fully capitalize on the firepower of the PS4 and the Xbox One.

The disappointing features don’t stop with the aesthetics but bleed over into some of the gameplay mechanics as well. During my 25 or so games, through every game mode offered, I kept experiencing some annoying bugs and downright non-basketball-type play from the AI. The most annoying one came during a game versus the Lakers. The score was tied and I had just taken possession of the ball when, for whatever reason, the arena sounds cut out and disappeared for the entirety of the game – the hype was sucked right out of me and I didn’t care if I won or lost after that. To top it off, this happened at least five times during my time with the game, which is unacceptable in my book.

The disappointing non-basketball actions mostly came from my fellow teammates and the lack of intelligible AI that came along with them. For whatever reason, my running mates didn’t foul when we were down by three points in the fourth quarter. I could understand being down by ten or more, but three points is a manageable number to come back from and everyone knows you foul in this situation. Additionally, when the game clock was ticking down to either end the quarter or the game, my teammates wouldn’t shoot the ball or even attempt to score. It didn’t matter how close they were to the basket, they hung onto it like a kid winning a prize at the carnival.

Bottom line, this game has a massive amount of content and an even larger amount of replay value from top to bottom. The featured game modes, along with the classic GM and exhibition, are excellent and really provide a lot of ankle-breaking, posturing enjoyment. However, with the exception of a few visual and minor gameplay concerns, the main issues center on simple tweaks EA could have QA checked before letting the title hit retail shelves. Yes, I did download their day one patch as instructed, but I still think they missed several annoying issues. On the upside, EA does have a solid foundation in order to create a stellar basketball simulator – they just need to hammer out the petty problems before hand. Needless to say, NBA Live 16 has a lot of promise but only comes in a little bit above average at its current state. Hopefully EA Sports provides gamers with an October patch or else the game will fall well below the ranks of its highly touted expectations.

Player models, arena builds, Pro-AM Park, and customized Live Spot gear look generic and lack the realism gamers look for in a next-gen title. 4.5 Control
The new Live Motion controls are a big upgrade from last year and make the game feel much smoother as you’re slashing through the paint. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds of the game are excellent, when they work properly. Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen are two peas in a pod but can’t seem to stop ragging on DeMarcus Cousins. 5.0 Play Value
I’d give it a 10.0 if I could – this game has so much content you’ll be still sifting through it come Christmas time. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • CUSTOMIZATION: Customize your player from head to toe with the latest kicks and gear from leading apparel brands including Jordan Brand, or get some ink from world renowned artist, Tattoo’s by Randy. The NBA LIVE companion app features our exclusive GameFaceHD scanning tech taking personalization further than ever before. This easy-to-use, mobile face scan allows you to look just as great as the NBA stars already in-game. Play with you, as you, with unprecedented quality.
  • LIVE PRO-AM: Introducing LIVE Pro -Am, a fun, fast-paced way to play with your friends, featuring LIVE Run and Summer Circuit, two innovative online multiplayer modes for you to connect and compete on iconic indoor and outdoor courts across North America. Experience LIVE Pro-Am for yourself with a FREE demo on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 starting on September 15th.
  • LIVE Run – Back by popular demand is the most reliable and stable online player vs. player mode for you and up to nine of your friends to connect and compete. LIVE Run is the place for 5 v. 5 pick-up basketball on storied street courts from Venice Beach to Rucker Park.

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