I went into the process of reviewing NBA Live 10 with an open mind. It had been ages since I sat down with a basketball game, but I picked up The Bigs 2 earlier this year and it reinvigorated my interest in baseball games, so if Live were to have the same effect, I’d consider it a success. Sadly, NBA Live 10 failed to do that as it’s a rather mundane experience that offers little innovation for fans of the series and will frustrate any newcomers looking for an accessible entry into the pumpkin pushing realm.
This year’s edition of Live encompasses a new mode entitled “Dynamic DNA.” The mode brings up-to-date stats from the current season and applies those statistics to the game. If Lebron is in a funk in real life and goes 2/18 with zero assists, he’s not going to play so hot in the game. If Darko comes off the bench and lights it up for 40, you may want to get him off his butt and onto the floor. “Dynamic DNA” is a cool addition for this year’s Live, but becomes somewhat of a useless feature when the NBA goes into the offseason.
Another mode entitled “Adidas Live Run” allows users to create a team and join four others in an online battle of five-on-five against a squad of five others. However, I was rarely able to connect to a game where there were enough players filled all 10 slots, so I can’t imagine this mode being seen as the major feature of the game. If someone is lucky enough and finds nine others who stay the course for the entire game, they're very likely to have some fun.
One major focus of this year’s Live was to improve upon the basics of the game. Thus, revamped mechanics for setting picks and ball handling have been added. While these may do wonders for those already familiarized with Live’s controls, anyone new to the franchise will find them downright frustrating. Getting the right teammate to set the pick seems to be luck. Sizing up the defender mechanics, in an attempt to blow by him, often ended with the ball getting stolen and a fast break going the other way. Again, if one is familiar with the series, these improvements may be a welcome change and increase the pace of gameplay, but for beginners the onslaught of stacked-on controls is an awful lot to handle. An actual tutorial would have been appreciated, but one failed to find its way into this year’s edition. While in Dynasty Mode, one can go to training camps, but these are analogous to earning player points in Madden before the season and don’t really teach controls, but rather test how well the player already employs them.
While problems do exist with the gameplay, the presentation is pretty decent. The graphics are sharp (but no drastic improvements over last year), with the exception of the greased-up player models. While every star is recognizable, I look forward to the day when basketball players don’t look like their pre-game warm-ups entail wrestling in Crisco. Steve Kerr and Marv Albert do a good enough job with the commentary, and the commentary for the most part avoids any awkward comments that don’t match up with the action onscreen. Expect big action replays whenever game changing moments take place, and this year's player animations do a great job of making one feel like they are right in the mix of all the action.
Live certainly isn’t a bad game, it is just not a very accessible one for those unfamiliar with EA’s long-running series. Seasoned vets will likely appreciate the new improvements to the pick-and-roll, ball handling skills, and the Dynamic DNA mode, but newcomers will be overwhelmed by the controls and without proper tutorials. Their patience is likely to grow thin. NBA Live 10 does a lot of things right, but only those who know what to look for will see the fruits of EA’s labor. Before putting Live into my PS3, I was excited to catch NBA fever, but after spending ample time with it, it just wasn’t enough to distract me from what I’ve been waiting for, for so many years – a new NBA Jam.
NBA Live 10 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PSP, and Xbox 360.