It’s been a long time since EA Sports actually followed through and tossed a new NBA Live title onto consoles, with nothing but a line of cancelled releases filling the space since NBA Live 10. However, with a new generation of consoles arrives the ideal opportunity to revive the dormant franchise properly. Sadly, the awful NBA Live 14 is stuck chasing the shadows of 2K Sports’ masterful NBA 2K14, and it can’t really compete.
Honestly, though, even if Visual Concepts’ aforementioned next-gen masterpiece hadn’t set such a lofty standard for basketball titles, the rough-edges and bare-bones content would still make this tepid reboot a gigantic letdown. It adopts a much more arcade approach than its rival, lacking the precision movement and technical court play that you’d expect from a more modern sports game. Controlling players is stiff and their reactions are loose, while the artificial intelligence is slow and moves unnaturally around the court. Furthermore, dunking the ball is far too easy and frequent, and it’s not helped by the overly effective dribbling mechanic that helps you to set these shots up with unnatural accuracy. Try a mid-range shot, however, and it’ll be blocked with unrealistic regularity.
Adding to the unrealistic gameplay are the equally unconvincing visuals. The crowd are a blur of colour, lacking any detail or definition. Worse still, the players are much the same, with the addition of stiff animations that detract from the believability of the experience. To be fair, the courts do look great and augment all of the right sound effects to help keep you immersed in the experience, but the commentary from ESPN’s Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy is vague, generic, and off-putting. The half-time show fares better, with actual, real-life coach encouragement and analysis dropped in depending on the context, but the sequences can go on for what feels like an eternity.
The game doesn’t even have the content to make it a true contender to NBA 2K14 either, with the usual array of sports game modes and little more. Rising Star allows you to create and follow a player through their career, but it pales in comparison to 2K Sports’ far more fleshed out alternative. To make matters worse, the game judges your progress by the number of baskets that you score, rather than your overall performance as a team-player.
Rounding out the set of gameplay options is Ultimate Team – the card collection, team building, and online competition system from EA Sports’ other games – and Dynasty, which allows you to build up a sporting franchise through a stream of unappealing menus and bland decision making conundrums. Big Moments is the only real standout from the dreary roster of options, allowing you to complete challenges based upon real-life achievements. Better still, these are updated with new ones as they happen in a season.
NBA Live 14 doesn’t drop the ball entirely, as the aforementioned arcade mechanics can make for some tolerable head-to-head matches in multiplayer, where the artificial intelligence is less of an issue. However, unavoidable comparisons to the infinitely superior NBA 2K14 make this look like a bit of a mess. The gameplay’s poor, the modes are predictable and shallow, and it’s aesthetically extremely underwhelming. Don’t even consider giving this a shot unless you find it very, very cheap.