NBA Live 2002 REVIEW

NBA Live 2002 Review (Xbox)

In many minds, NBA Live 2002 is the demon spawn of the basketball world. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because EA Sports develops it. Maybe it's because Inside Drive and NBA 2k2 (PS2) capture a better feel then Live. If you were to ask many gamers what game they prefer it wouldn't be NBA Live. While I'll concede that Live isn't a perfect title, it's been given a bad rap this year that it doesn't deserve.

I'm not going to speculate why NBA Live is shunned but I have a feeling that it's more of the same every year out with this game. Quite honestly it's a few tweaks away from a really great title. But as pass history tell us EA Sports doesn’t want to improve this title.

Let's dive into what Live 2002 offers us on the court. The positive is that Live does a good job of playing basketball. It's not perfect but you'll be able to drive in for a lay-up, post a fade away J, and spot for a 3. My problem with the offense is that if you give it up to your big man more they will most certainly make a hook shot anywhere near the basket. Overall not a huge disappointment but unrealistic in terms of when a small center can post up Shaw and frequently make high percentage shots.

The other problem has to do with rebounding. It doesn't matter who's on the boards but the ball always seems to go to the nearest offensive player. You could shoot three's all day long only to have your big men come up with the rebounding. It's also disappointing that the rebound system is dependent not on jumping for the ball but rather who is position where the ball will fall. The affects the game immensely because there is rarely any pressure to take quality shots when you know your players will get the boards.

On defense, Live does one thing better than those other two games, it allows your player to get in defense position automatically. You don't have to hold a button to guard a player any longer. I will say that this is a feature I hope many other basketball games develop. The negatives while playing defense do outweigh any good. First off, the CPU will never have a fast break they are programmed always to hold up the ball even if no one is going to stop them. The second is that the CPU has EA's idea of what a game should be. What I mean by that is that if you are going to lose in this game it's because of catch-up AI rather than good basketball. Going into the fourth quarter on occasion I've been up by double digits only to have more steals, blocked shots, missed easy shots. On the flip side of this the AI doesn't have sensible late game logic. Down by 4 points late in the fourth with six seconds left, they called a timeout then after the inbound pass they guard dribbled until 2 seconds left. There's no hurry up in the CPU AI.

Some other aspects that are lacking are substitution AI and play calling on the fly. Often in games, players that have a few fouls get pulled early and never return until very late in the game. The other thing to note, is that CPU AI (and if you set your substitutions to CPU controlled) players are gone in critical points in the game. Star players will be benched even starting the fourth quarter only to find that they have full energy. Another feature lacking is that there is no way to call plays on the fly. Unlike other basketball games, you have to call your play in the menu screen or you have to memorize every play when having the automatic play calling set. This is unacceptable not to have a play calling method in the game.

Where Live shines is its feature enriched franchise mode. If there's one thing to count on EA Sports for is to neglect gameplay but give you features to cover it up. The draft is one of the best I've seen on any sports game. With every player, you get a full scouting report. That includes the expected position of the player, the players potential, positives and negatives. The downside is you can't sort or filter the draftees rather you have to wade through dozens of players and positions you don't want.

Live also includes a feature that is missing from many sports games, the ability to set both the in-game clock and sim clock. To get realistic stats you might want to play a 9-minute quarter while allowing the league to sim 12-minute quarters. Even if you wanted to play shorter quarters with shorter simmed quarters it's possible.

In terms of audio/visual Live does a below average job. Players look like they did 2 versions ago. If I had to compare them it would be to High Heat visuals of last year. Sure they look like basketball players but heavy detail is missing. Animations are wacky, I've been trying to find a way to describe them but it's not normal. When the players turn they seem to waddle and pivot on one foot to face up. Posting up, the player might completely turn around to get his right hand, which takes a second to complete. Overall the graphics are very disappointing. Commentary in the game is basic. The announcers will call the name, maybe give a blurb if it's a star player and say what he's doing. The crowd does get energized at points in the game. This adds a little bit to the overall lacking presentation.

So in short what is NBA Live. It's an average basketball game, it does some things good but does more insufficient. There are some features that I hope other game take from Live but Live needs to take many more to compete with the likes of Inside Drive and NBA 2k2. It's defiantly not as bad as some reviewers make it out to be but when EA Sports doesn't try to improve this franchise I can see why so many are disgusted with it as you should be. If this game was the first edition of Live I'd give it better marks but since EA Sports doesn't feel the need to improve it, I'm going to have to drop the score lower than I normally would. Do yourself a favor and experience better basketball with Inside Drive or NBA 2k2.

NBA Live 2002 Score
out of 10