OK sports fans. Drop whatever
you happen to be playing, grab your coat, and head to the video game retail or rental
store nearest you to purchase NBA Live 2001. Run along now. Ill wait
Youre back? Wonderful. Doesnt it feel good to have the best new basketball
game in your hot little hands? It should. EA Sports brings us the newest NBA title, and
boy oh boy, did they pull through on this one. Although there are still several elements
on my wish list, these things are relatively minor when faced with such a great game.
basketball fans have complained that not enough attention has been paid to their sport in
the games of the past. NBA Live allows you to play exhibition games against all 29 NBA
teams as well as the eastern/western all star teams and all-decade teams from the past.
You can also pick your favorite franchise and go head-to-head against current teams in
regular season matchups, playoffs, and, if youre good enough, the championships.
Youre in the mix on everything from draft picks to player trading, and if that
isnt enough to keep you occupied, the game also comes equipped with a one-on-one
function that allows you find out how players stack up against one another. The game is
set up for one to two players at a time, but since it allows you to make multiple user
profiles and records each ones stats and game standings, the game is nicely set up
to keep track of eight separate users.
first thing I noticed about NBA Live 2001 is how easy it is to customize your game and, as
an offshoot of this, to add lots of depth and longevity to the title. There are three
difficulty levels (Rookie, Starter, and Superstar) which start out the process. The Rookie
level is great because it allows non-basketball junkies an easy way into the game by not
only limiting the competition, but also taking care of minor tasks for the user, such as
regular substitutions and default settings for moves and gameplay. For those who are pros
at the genre, the game steps up the CPU capabilities for greater challenges, and allows
you to customize your teams by re-ordering the rosters, trading players, or even creating
your own players, as well as changing the quarter and playoff length to tailor your game
play. You can choose to alter the CPUs team or leave them on their default settings.
I also loved the fact that you could choose the simulation mode (where player ratings
affect outcomes) or an arcade mode (where player performance depends solely on the user).
leads me directly to what I feel is one of the greatest strengths of the game. Gone are
the days when your team ran around like chickens with their heads cut off when they
havent been given a specific play or youre not in direct control of them. I
remember on several older titles getting so frustrated because I felt like my team behaved
more like pre-schoolers than pro ball players.The AI on this game is great, with your own
team holding logical defensive/offensive patterns in line with your teams skills
ratings. The opposition also learns as you go, getting faked-out occasionally (again,
depending on player stats) but also learning your plays if you get stuck in a rut. This
encourages you to keep your gameplay fresh and take some risks.
The one-on-one mode allows you to play in the day or night on what looks like an
inner-city court (complete with street sounds and the occasional siren). While the venue
isnt terribly exciting, I enjoyed the option of using any of the players or one of
my own creation. I was able to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams in this mode by defeating
Michael Jordan (one of the computers favorites) while playing Larry Bird (my hero).
It was all about the sweet three pointers, baby!
graphics on this game are great, from the court floor to the players and the audience. The
players faces were well done for the most part, being the most detailed and real in
the cinema and transition screens, but often recognizable during actual gameplay. The
weakest graphic elements during the screens were the players hands and occasionally
arms, which became flat (especially noticeable because the rest of their bodies were
rounded with great skin tone) and very rigid in their movements. Luckily, this wasnt
the case during the game. Probably the most recognizable during the game were Kevin
Garnett (the live-action model for many of the moves) and Grant Hill. The crowd was highly
detailed, but their movements had distinctive patterns to them. On the whole, though, the
graphics were very nice.
There are two different elements of movement to look at in the game. The first is the
way in which the players move and the second is the ease of control by the user. The
players have come such a long way from even a generation ago. They no longer jump like
theyre puppets on a string, they no longer run or dribble the same, and their fakes,
shots, and inside moves are unique. Each player feels different to control, and although
the buttons to execute moves is the same for each, they all perform them in slightly
different ways. As far as user control, the basic controls for this game are extremely
easy to master, and moving from player to player is a breeze. Calling plays and a handful
of more complicated moves are harder to master, but the response time is excellent and the
movements are smooth and logical.
are tons of camera angles to choose from to give you whatever view of the court and
gameplay you want, with multiple versions of overhead, sidelines, backcourt, or
follow-the-ball. You could also adjust the amount of zoom (as well as the angle and camera
switching in specific modes). Each mode has its strong points, but I tended to prefer the
sideline camera. The soundtrack during cinema and transition screens was excellent,
featuring hip-hop tunes by Montell Jordan, Bootsy Collins, and Choclair, and the in-game
sound effects and player commentary were great. I was also impressed by the dialogue of
announcers Bob Elliot and Don Poier, which was not only relevant to gameplay, but also had
enough variation that, for probably the first time in my life, I didnt want to
strangle the commentators. Bravo! And the players verbally interact with each other. Not
only was there some amusing verbal sparing (especially in the one-on-one mode) but there
was also quite a bit of positive and congratulatory banter between teams! That says a lot
to me about games attempting to be positive role models in regard to team spirit and
So what are the downsides to this otherwise glowing report? They are few and far
between. I think the addition of alternative venues for the one-on-one games would add a
lot of flavor to the game. I would also like to see a more realistic way to shoot free
throws. As it stands now, you use a T-Meter in the top right of the screen to stop a
moving ball as close to the cross-section as possible, and then the computer physically
makes your shot. With targeting systems as advanced as they are now, Im surprised
some other method wasnt used to shoot when youre at the charity stripe. I also
wish there were more options when you are constructing your own player (which was fun, but
quickly over). And finally, I wish that the east/west all-star teams had matching uniforms
(maybe its the girl in me?) But all in all, this is the best B-ball game Ive
seen to date. That said, get out there and shoot some hoops!!