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PlayStation 4 Review: ‘NBA Live 14’

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NBA Live 14’s reactive crowd is more intelligent than its featured on-court players. Post defense is a comedic routine the Harlem Globetrotters couldn’t manifest in their planning phases. Guards shift to play the low key with regularity and rebounding causes the ball to bounce off heads and dumbfound players.

There are no solutions to Live’s woes, just an emphatic crowd.

Fans stand up and launch into excitable routines as games draw near to a close. They boo teams who slink away into a timeout down by 20. Playoff basketball brings overwhelming home court heat on critical dunks, all elements covered by a commentary team displaying a tinge of boredom as their chemistry sinks.

What has finally been released after years of sunken promises is a protozoan pro basketball title, a simulation with a singular idea and limited visible impact on gaming’s simulated sports world. EA Sports’ Ignite engine, which exists because everything the company produces needs a flashy name, brings about a dribbling system with world-changing perspective – and then it does nothing.

Much is made of NBA Live’s careful application of ball-handling physics, with capabilities slung onto the right analog stick. But EA’s dev team fails to build upon the concept or bridge their design ideals to the end user. These ballyhooed dribbling routines are unnecessary given defensive maneuvering, which is fantastic considering NBA Live lacks even minimalist tutorials for this complex, three-tiered system. Live’s newfound infancy belittles itself by not establishing teachable control rhythms.

EA has found a more organic basketball game, dropping NBA 2K’s tight (and intentional) stubbornness for concepts open to how the sport naturally moves. This creates NBA Live as we have always known it, a highlight reel dunk-fest harking back to 1994’s franchise inception. This series was a necessary response to the lurching NBA simulations which dawned with the 16-bit era. EA’s reinvention needed to be fast and upbeat to better capture the uptempo sport.

Now, that speed has caused mass confusion. Behavior is erratic and in post-play routines there is twitchy panic as players bounce off one another to reach pre-determined slots. It is as if NBA Live has lost the ability to think, and its only exchange is a ball handling system of minimal consequence. NBA 2K carries right stick dribbling systems, but those have purpose. Embedded systems force their use for satisfyingly springing open for jump shots or breaking defensive holds. For Live, massaging the left stick is enough to slink through unimpeded.

Rising Star, a solo create-a-player mode, exposes the glaring inadequacies of sub-par intelligence. AI point guards stand near the three-point line’s tip statically, unaware of next steps or potential openings. Centers and forwards stomp into the post where they sit until someone passes. Inactivity becomes a disease while making any position – sans play-calling point guard – frustratingly broken. These identical concerns are mirrored across the appealing (and complete) mode selection.

NBA Live has nothing to hinge on outside of its ESPN license, draping halftime shows with stuttering, if impressive, technical touches such as Wired coaches spouting advice in their timeout huddles. On the court, it’s a mashed up mess of weirdly darkened lighting and plasticine-skinned players. These stadium interiors mimic Division III colleges with budgetary cuts to bulb purchasing. This never looks like professional basketball let alone an interactive representation of the sport. EA “ignites” nothing, not even the light bulbs.

NBA Live 14 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Xbox One

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.