Let’s be honest right from the get-go, the NBA Live franchise has been up against it for years. 2K have managed to continually hit a winner against their rival franchise NBA 2K (although last year’s was admittedly underwhelming). For a while, NBA Live hasn’t been given the resources its needed to make a serious play for 2K’s crown. This year EA have gone all out to improve the game and give 2K a run for their money. Enough small talk, let’s hit the courts.
FIFA has seen us follow the career progression of Alex Hunter, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and EA have brought a similar theme to NBA Live with its ‘The One’ career mode, introduced last year. The One is back again in NBA Live 19, and its unique division of allowing players to choose between The League and The Streets is a great way to let the NBA Live franchise find its own identity, bringing the game forward in leaps and bounds.
For me, The Streets is the best aspect of The One. Hitting The Streets will see you take your own character around the globe, playing ball, shockingly, on the streets. Embarking on The Street World Tour will see you jet-setting across the world, forging a name for yourself and improving your skills at tournaments on iconic courts like Quai 54 in Paris or Dyckman Park in New York City. In each tournament, you’ll play three matches, a bonus game, and a throwback game against an NBA or WNBA legend from the region you’re competing in. Each tournament has its own flair and rewards to unlock, which adds to the replay value.
What’s more, The Streets isn’t just about you; its about building up your squad of ballers to take around the globe and call upon, as each new tournament will give you the ability to pick up a new player to add to your own roster. Why would you care? Well, dear reader, you’ll care because EA has also introduced Court Battles, where you’ll take on other players and their own hand-picked rosters, while also leaving some of your squad at home to take on others trying to claim your custom-made turf. It is actually a well thought out mode that adds considerable depth to a franchise that has been lacking in the past.
If getting into the NBA is your thing, you can take your baller off the streets and into the NBA combine without completing The Streets mode. That being said, the two modes compliment each other, and skipping the Streets before heading to the NBA will make for a harder progression; you’ll be starting on the back-foot with less skills and a performance in the combine that will, in most cases, see you getting a lower spot in the draft. Spend time on the streets honing your skills and trust me, you will be rewarded with a better skillset and better performance that could even see you take that boost-worthy number 1 spot in the draft. Putting the time in to improve your skills is deeply rewarding, and you see it pay off when you hit the NBA.
When it comes to actual gameplay, this is where you either love NBA Live or hate it. The gameplay has improved, with the addition of Real Player Motion which adds more momentum to your players, but the gameplay will still be polarising for some. A flick of the analogue stick will see some of those killer moves come out to get the perfect shot off but, compared to NBA 2K, NBA Live still has that arcadey feel to it. The gameplay is easier to pick up and play, requiring less learning than NBA 2K, but with simplicity comes forgiveness from the AI. You’ll find yourself getting away with some dodgy passes and any real requirement for thinking about strategy is pretty much thrown out the window.
As for the rest of the game modes, if you played last years NBA Live then you’ll find everything is much the same. Franchise mode is still as you would expect ,and Ultimate Team is there too. I admit, I really struggle to see real longevity in building an “Ultimate Team”; I’m a simple guy, I just wanna get out there, hit the courts, and sink some highlight reel worthy buckets, and building up a star studded team that requires blood, sweat and tears isn’t my thing. I’ll happily take my current roster Houston Rockets team, thanks.
When it comes to the visual presentation, NBA Live is a let down. Even going hell for leather with 4K visuals, NBA Live 19 manages to miss the backboard altogether. It’s clear that for all the innovation and improvements EA Sports are trying to make, they continue to forget about allocating resources to the visual side of development. Make no mistake about it, NBA 2K19 crushes NBA Live19 in the visual department, and only because NBA Live continues to be presented like it was made three years ago.
Look, there is a lot to like about NBA Live 19. The One career mode is a welcome addition that has brought NBA Live forward, and make no mistake about it, this is the best NBA Live in years. Unfortunately, the visual presentation lets the game down and, until that is sorted out, NBA Live will continue to lose the Championship to its competition.