It’s an exciting time of year for gamers and basketball alike, with September marking the release of the latest edition of the NBA Live series. NBA Live, which has typically found itself significantly behind the 2K series for NBA gaming supremacy, made some significant inroads last year. With NBA Live 19 dropping on September 7, the early signs are that they have continued to close the gap.
The most important aspect of any video game is the gameplay itself, and this is an area in which NBA Live has typically struggled when compared to the 2K series. After an improvement last year, NBA Live 19 has taken another big stride forward thanks largely to the incorporation of Real Player Motion technology. This technology has made a major difference, resulting in a more realistic animation. It still isn’t at the level you would find in 2K and may take some time to catch up, but it’s far more enjoyable to play than previous incarnations of the game.
Source: NBA Live 19There are a number of other additions which have been made to the gameplay this year which also significantly improve the game. Many of the players adopt personalized animations - LeBron’s chest puff one such example - and there is a lot more action happening off the ball. On top of that, there seems to be more dribbling maneuvers to enjoy.
Unfortunately, there are still some elements which keep it behind its competitor, most notably in a few unrealistic happenings which occur a little too regularly. I was as impressed as anybody with Spencer Dinwiddie’s breakout season last year, but he’s nonetheless a fairly limited player who I certainly haven’t seen finish as many off-hand, contested, falling to the ground 8-footers as I managed to drain with him. Likewise, I don’t find the outside shooting to be as predictable as it probably should be - often I was dropping some pretty implausible long range daggers, and missing a few too many that I thought should probably drop. Obviously this element of uncertainty is necessary to keep any game interesting, but it felt a little too often like the outcome wasn’t what it should have been - certainly more so than in 2K.
Having said that, the shooting itself actually feels fairly realistic. An addition to this year's edition made by EA was to incorporate different release points and jump heights across different players - a fairly minor change but one which certainly adds to the authenticity of the gameplay. When you do manage to get hot with your shooting, you'll also find it easier to get fed; more than ever, CPU controlled players in NBA Live 19 feed the hot hand. Considering how prevalent this is in the actual NBA, it's an important addition to this game.
Despite the earlier criticism, the gameplay of NBA Live 19 is still significantly better than previous editions of the game. It may not have the level of realism that you’ll find in NBA 2K, but it can hold its own and is far more enjoyable to play than in the past.
The Live franchise has brought back most of its various playing modes from last year, with a couple of notable additions and changes. With the game officially labeled NBA Live 19: The ONE Edition, it’s not surprising that ‘The One’ game mode is a feature. Essentially, this is the same concept as NBA 2K’s ‘My Career’ mode, and though it isn’t as comprehensive, this version is decent enough and makes some improvements on last year.
Source: NBA Live 19The first change you’ll notice from last year’s version of ‘The One’ is where your journey starts; where last year you were a college prospect, this year you’ll start in high school as a highly touted prospect, and will attempt to earn some cred on the street courts. Within the mode itself things stay fairly similar to last year, with a few features, like cosmetic options, made a little more in-depth. You’re also able to make choices about which skill upgrades you’d like, and in the gameplay itself, are forced to show a little more discretion with how you play. Unlike last year, in NBA Live 19 you get docked points for being selfish - an important addition to the game to ensure there's some motivation to play properly - so make sure you look out for your teammates.
Source: NBA Live 19Aside from that, the game modes are mostly fairly typical, with a focus on street ball which has become a feature of this franchise. Court battles are a great addition to this year’s version, enabling you to create your own custom made court. You’re then able to go out and challenge other courts, with each possessing a unique look and set of rules, while also looking to defend your own court.
Everybody loves to debate the accuracy of the ratings on the Live and 2K series’, so why not do it here too? Typically there aren’t too many glaring outliers between the two games, and while for the most part the Live 19 ratings seem reasonable enough, there are a few ratings which raised my eyebrows.
The most notable of these was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was given an OVR of 90, ranking him equal 13th in the league. Giannis is not yet the product that he will one day become, but anyone who thinks he is as low as the 13th best player in the league is kidding themselves. He’s also listed as a power forward, seemingly far more a reflection of his height than his playing style - I certainly can’t think of any other power forwards who have run the offense as often as him.
All of the players ranked above him are extremely good basketballers deserving of very high ratings, but some of them shouldn’t be as high as they are. Chris Paul, as reliable, intelligent and just good a player as he is, is rated too highly at 92. He slotted in beautifully to the Rockets last year and was a major reason for their great season, but at 33 years of age and heading into his 14th NBA season, he isn’t going to be performing above Giannis’ level this year.
Source: EA SportsOne seemingly high OVR which I was pleased to see in Live 19 is that of Gobert, who is at 89. Many may feel this is too high for the Stifle Tower, particularly given his offensive limitations, but he is so far and away the dominant defender in the league that he deserves every bit of that number.
Aside from those notable exceptions, the ratings in general feel reasonable enough. There are a few others which could certainly be questioned, but for the most part they seem to have been assigned fairly.
7.5/10 - Being entirely honest, NBA Live 19 still doesn’t stack up with the 2K series. At this point in time, however, it doesn’t have to. The Live franchise is coming from a long way back, having spent years unable to even compete with it’s far more successful competitor. Last year bridged what was at that point an enormous gap, and while the gap remains fairly significant, this latest edition appears to have minimized it further. The gameplay is significantly improved, elements of various modes are better, and the Live series, at long last, is at least a worthy adversary to NBA 2K.