NBA Live 10 Review (Xbox360)

The sports genre is a tricky one for developers in today’s landscape. Fans of the genre want their yearly installments. Pundits want innovation rather than the typical roster updates. To achieve innovation and changes that warrant a purchase on a yearly basis, developers need time to tinker and implement new features. For NBA Live 10, Electronic Arts and EA Canada have somewhat delivered the goods, or in basketball teams, almost made the game winning shot.

This year’s title comes packaged with superb presentation, great looking player models and animations, and improved computer AI. Looking past these three central positives, NBA Live 10 also has a few downsides that plague it from being a must-have basketball title. The franchise mode, the most important mode for offline players, is lackluster. On top of that, the controls aren’t to a satisfactory level – they are frustrating at times to the point that players might end up throwing their controller at their television screen.

Beginning with the presentation values, EA Canada took a step in the right direction with the series by improving the atmosphere. Crowds are alive and in full effect as they chant and get rowdy during games. In addition, when the stakes are raised – such as making it to the NBA Finals – the crowds get more rambunctious with how loud they can be for their home team.

The commentary on the other hand is disappointing as lines are repeated after 11 or so games. This is not an attribute that NBA Live 10 alone has; many sports titles in recent memory suffer from a lack of diverse commentary, so the genre, in its entirety, has to succeed at getting better in this area.

The graphical merits are fine by today’s standards. The player models, for the most part, resemble their real life counterparts. When going for a dunk, I didn’t see many glitches where my player would go through the backboard or have a funky maneuver to go underneath the basket for an unbelievable dunk. NBA Live 10 never steps outside the spectrum of being a video game, so don’t expect lifelike images that bystanders will mistake for the real thing.

Playing against the computer has never felt this good on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. They are challenging – at least on the harder difficulty levels – to the point that obtaining a win is absolutely gratifying. The Dynamic DNA has returned and players now behave similar to how they would in real life. Rasheed Wallace can be seen jacking up threes, Shaquille O’Neal is always near the rim for a jam, and Tony Parker is running the lanes looking to draw contact after a lay-up. The defensive AI is smart enough to adjust to the gamer’s habits, such as using Rasheed to light it up behind the arc.

That isn’t to say that everything was perfect throughout NBA Live 10. Often times, when spotting up for a three-point shot, the animations became jerky and would have the player step past the line for a two-point shot. These control issues plague the rest of the game as alternating between a dunk and a lay-up become awkward due to how the game positions the player’s animations in route for either shot. The next installment in the series needs to have better control over the shots and the ability to fine tune the shots in mid-air, rather than being stuck in a lay-up animation that is undoubtedly going to miss.

Lastly, the most important game mode – the franchise mode – fails to keep gamers begging for more. In the first two months of virtual play, there were over 12 trades that resulted in Shaquille O’Neal being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Al Thornton – a trade that makes no sense due to that Clippers already have centers such as Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, and DeAndre Jordan, while the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James at the small forward position already. Two years into a franchise mode, every team looked exotically different than they started and usually with five players at one position and one player at another. The AI needs to be improved and so does the simulation aspects of the title.

NBA Live 10 is a step in the right direction for the series. The gameplay and graphics are heading towards offering the best package for the next-generation consoles – especially now that 2K Sports stunk it up with NBA 2K10. Fans of the NBA and basketball in general need to pick up NBA Live 10 as it’s the best title released in the genre for 2010.

Top Game Moment: Taking 5’9” Nate Washington and dunking over 6’8” LeBron James in the middle of a game.

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