“The alley!… the oop?”
Available on PS4 (tested) and Xbox One
When being tasked with NBA Live 16 review, I was pretty optimistic, as you couldn’t go anyway but up from the last year’s letdown that NBA Live 15 was. Sadly – albeit the game looks pretty and has a fantastic presentation – clumsy controls, input lag and a weak defensive play makes this year’s iteration of the franchise better than the last one, but only by 1 or 2 free throws.
In regards of presentation, which is the game’s best aspect, EA makes a really good use of the ESPN license, making you feel as if you are watching a real match transmission, mostly because of the constant commentaries. The crowds also contribute with this feel, as they are lively as ever, reacting to every play within the match. Menus are very well crafted, making the access to the wide array of options intuitive and simple. Graphically, the game looks beautiful, but the poor variety of player physiques, full face scans and the fact that every single player moves like the one next to them damages the experience and suddenly, most of the players look alike from a distance.
In the game modes department, there are some highlights, such as the Summer Circuit or the Pro Am Live Run, both modes using the Rising Star player you create at the beginning of the game. Summer Circuit lets you group with friends and play matches online on various basketball courts along the States, against the machine, which increases the AI difficulty progressively. Talking about Rising Star, it returns with the same features it had on Live 15, both the good and the bad. It adds a functionality to scan your face with your phone (with the help of a companion app) and translate it to the game. The face positioning after being rendered is a bit awkward and you will have to scan it a couple of times in order to get it somewhat right (after 5 tries I kinda gave up, and the player ended up similar to me, but with a weird face positioning). The progress of your player is determined by the overall score during a match, affected by the actions you perform; making open shots, assisting, cause a turnover or deplete the rivals 24 second clock are some of the example of actions that would affect positively your overall score. After a match, depending on your overall score, you are awarded points which in turn, can be exchanged for different abilities upgrades. The only drawback it has is that the fastest way to increase your overall grade is to score points, almost forcing a selflessly play style.
And then there’s the gameplay. Oh man, where should I start? If you are games’ developer, by now you should know that every product you create, regardless of how beautifully presented or graphically polished it is, needs to play at least good and preferably very good. NBA Live 16 plays inconsistently; it has an awful player response, which usually ends up in the player reacting when the ball has already passed or you dribbling out of bounds. Playing defense is almost pointless and you will end up betting on the rival missing the shot in order to grab a rebound, which, by the way, it’s also based on luck; you can be perfectly positioned for a rebound with a 7 ft tall center, just to watch how a 6 ft tall point guard crushes your dreams by grabbing said rebound. It doesn’t make sense most of the times.
One would think that with such a harsh competitor as 2K games are, EA would step up their game and polish every feature to the max, in order to compete with its direct rival. Sadly, core aspects that make basketball such a fast and precise sport are overlooked, staining the experience and making NBA Live 16 a game with some really good ideas eclipsed by a flawed gameplay.
Should you play it? NBA Live 16 is an improvement from its predecessor and ideas such as Summer Circuit are good additions, but its flaws are bad enough in order to make this another failed attempt to recover the NBA game-to-go throne.