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With the birth of a new console, do we get a new
style of basketball game?
The NBA live series goes back a long way. In fact the first
game in the series was released in November of 1995 for the SNES. NBA
Live 1995 set new benchmarks in basketball video games. Since then, the
game has been updated every year with the really big jumps happening
with the launch of a new console. The game play manages to stay the same
with a few tweaks here and there but essentially and fundamentally NBA
Live 2002 is the same game as it was in NBA Live 1995. Sure the faces
have moved around. MJ is now a Washington Wizard instead of a Chicago
Bull. Shaq-diesal is now a proud member of the world champions Los Angeles
Lakers instead of the perennial whipping team the Orlando Magic.
Lets start with the good stuff first. Graphics wise NBA Live 2002 is very
impressive. The dunks are animated very well. And I found myself several
times while playing the game going to the rewind feature to watch an amazing
dunk. The power and explosiveness of the dunks in NBA Live 2002 is captured
very well. EA captured over 50 different and unique dunks this time around.
"...extensive franchise mode which will keep you busy for a long time..."
Electronic Arts spent a considerable
amount of time capturing the little moments that happen during the
game. For example, during a free throw attempt your player will make
a shooting gesture to get his form correct. Or after a foul where you
can see the offending player talk with the other player explaining
why he just fouled him. The facial expressions are also done very well.
For example, Michael Jordan goes for a slam, his mouth opens as he
readies him self to make a rim shaking dunk. You can see the anger
and the intensity in his face.
The player's faces are quite often
hit and miss. Some cases the players look very close to what they do
in real life, while others are a strange caricature of the real deal.
The player models have a shiny plastic look to them, which is somewhat
unsettling at first glance.
Presentation wise, NBA Live 2002 shines
very well. Say what you want about everything else, but just based
on the Menu style, and the production values with the music and the
sound effects, NBA Live 2002 looks like a million bucks. I have always
said that Electronic Arts has the best production values anywhere.
The frame rate is a rock steady and I didn't notice any slow down what
so ever during my time with the game.
The commentary can be done much better,
and this is one area where NBA Live 2002 falters a bit. It seems like
EA was content of recording only a few sound bites, so the commentary
never really establishes a flow like the commentary in NBA 2K2 does.
It can be somewhat distracting to hear the same tired cliché over
and over again.
"... found myself... going to the rewind feature to watch an amazing dunk."
The musical track for this game is
mostly a hip hop groove to it which doesn't get too tiring after a
extensive play time. Unfortunately, you do not have the option to use
your own soundtrack from the Xbox hard drive.
NBA Live 2002 has a good mixture of
modes. Unfortunately the popular 3-point shooting contest is nowhere
to be found in the Xbox version. The game does feature a extensive
franchise mode which will keep you busy for a long time trying to establish
a dynasty. The game also features a 1 on 1 practice mode, which is
very cool. It's a blast when you have your buddy. Another cool feature
making its return is the "create a player". I found it to be very easy
to make a close approximation of my self. Now you can be the hoops
here you always knew you should have been.
The game play still fells like the
Playstation 1 version, which to some may be a good thing. Others will
not see it this way. One problem that I noticed while playing the game
is that once you perform the cross over dribble (by pressing X) you
really don't have control of your player. This means that your player
could do a sweet looking cross over and end up out of bounds forcing
a turnover. Naturally, this became a source of frustration. Another
thing that didn't seem to come together is the jumping and trying to
block shots - it just does not feel natural. There seems to be a delay
from the time you press the jump button (which is the Y button) and
the time your player actually jumps. Rebounds seems also to be a problem,
because even when I did time it properly the ball still is not picked
up by my player.
NBA Live 2002, seems to be a mixture
of simulation and arcade aspects. But the problem with that is that
by trying to do both it excels at neither. NBA Live 2002 is arcade
in the aspect that it seems that every player in the game is equal
and has the opportunity to drive the lane and score at will. Which
normally would not be a problem if the game were like NBA Street. But
NBA Live 2002 is touted to be a simulation of the NBA. It should be
as close to what actually happens on the courts as possible. I don't
know about you, but any of the NBA games I watch on TV there is some
defense happening on the court. No lie, I played NBA Live 2002 on the
hardest setting and still burned the opposing team by over 30 points.
The AI in this game has some serious issues. Which I honestly hope
is fixed for next year's version. Another small nagging point is that
on the hardest level the computer AI does not get better. It simply
cheats. I mean, all it has to do is look at you funny and it's a turn
over and they're trotting down the lane for a basket.
With a bit more work on the gameplay
(and taking advantage of the Xbox hardware) this could have been one
of the greatest sports games. What we have is good, some might say
really good, but it left us wanting for a little more.
Uses the create a player to play with himself a bit too much.
NBA Live 2002:
Overall, NBA Live 2002 is flawed but solid first time
effort of a NBA title by Electronic Arts for the Xbox.
Presentation and Graphics set NBA Live 2002 above all
of the rest but the lackluster AI brings the title back
down to earth. For those of you who have to get your
basketball jones fixed right now you might want to pick
this title up now. The rest of us will have to wait it