First off let me say I'm a huge basketball fan. I've loved the Cleveland Cavaliers since the late 80's. I've played basketball games since the early Commodore 64 days of Dr. J vs Larry Bird and the old Lakers vs. Celtics game. I've shied away from the NBA Live series recently because I was really frustrated by the product EA Sports has been putting out. When NBA Live 07 came in for the Xbox 360, I was hoping EA made an effort to produce a solid basketball simulation. Alas, what we have this year is another big disappointment.
Let's start with what EA Sports has done right. First off, the graphics are pretty solid. The players do sometimes look like zombies when they step up to the line for a free throw but overall EA Sports has done a great job at capturing the player's movements, nuances, and physical traits. Shaq
looks like a huge center while Lebron James looks like a man child just like in real life. The accuracy of the models can be a hit or miss but they are pretty good for the most part. EA has captured some of the signature moves of the players like Lebron James' tomahawk jam and Gilbert Arenas' twirl of the basketball around the body before free throws. Each stadium looks spectacular with nicely rendered crowd. Before the start of the game, you're treated with the player introductions complete with the requisite light show. The crowd looks pretty good as they don't look like cardboard cutouts.
I also liked the way free throws are done where you pull back the analog stick and push forward to shoot the ball. It adds a little more skill to the process rather than the two button press to line up the indicators in the crosshairs
. There are days where I would consistently miss as I wouldn't pay attention when I move the stick forward to shoot thereby missing off to the side. There's a help indicator that does pop up to let you know what you did wrong during the free throw. I didn't play last year's version so I don't know if it was in there as well but I do like it even if it's not new.
Players seem to play a little bit better defensively in terms of rotating to the open man. I was impressed at how quickly the computer would switch off and cover the person that was open unless I called for a double team. When moving the ball across the court at the top of the key, a computer player was sure to step up in front of the man receiving the ball as it was being passed around.
NBA Live 07 is also the first game to really incorporate the ESPN license. You can head on over to the ESPN section to download video and audio clips as well as read news that's featured on the website. When important events happen, you'll get that familiar ESPN newsbreak
and an audio recap of the events. If you are playing during a busy sports time, you'll get plenty of updates from ESPN keeping you up to tabs on what's happening in the real world. Sadly, EA didn't take the ESPN branding into the game itself like the old 2K series of football did but we'll get to that in a bit.
So what's bad about NBA Live 07? Well the state of the shipped game is so riddled with bugs and inconsistencies that I find it hard to believe someone would authorize this game to go gold. Each time I played a game I experience something new that really frustrates my experience with the game. Let's start with rebounding. I've hated the way EA handled rebounding in previous NBA Live games where the computer would get 5+ offensive rebounds in spurts consistently. While it's not as bad in NBA Live 07, I've come across the issue of players just standing around as the ball landed on the ground while the opposing team would come and scoop it up in the middle of three players. When someone shoots the ball, it usually falls into a player's hands in real life with it hitting the ground in rare occasions. The ball hitting the floor after a shot was a pretty common occurrence and it was pretty frustrating to see your players just stand around or bump into each other when going for the ball. Rebounding, while not as bad as previous years, is still a big work in progress.
In previous NBA Live games, you could have a foot or two on the 3 point line and still get 3 points when the basket is made. EA's
fixed this problem, but another has arisen that really takes this to another level. The game doesn't seem to take into account how far AWAY from the 3 point line now. If you watched the Cavs and Wizards' playoff game last year, you might've
seen Gilbert Arenas drill a 3 from 5 feet behind the line to tie the game in regulation in game 6. Well, in NBA Live 07 you can do this all the time. If you have even an average 3 point shooter, you can step back about 5-8 feet from beyond the arc and launch an uncontested 3 that has the same chance of going in as if you were standing right in front of the line. I actually went 4-6 from 3 point land this way with Damon Jones as the defended never put a hand up to try and stop me since i was far from the 3 point line. Get some scorer like Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash and you'll be draining 3's like crazy from an amazing distance. It got to the point where I would just take an inbounds pass, dribble up to the halfway between half court and the top of the key and launch a 3 because I had confidence it would go in more than I would miss. The shooter even goes up for a straight jump shot at long distances. 3 point shooting is horribly executed in NBA Live 07 as it just makes shooting 3's way too easy now.
When you're running a fast break opportunity, your wing players usually run towards the basket to try and receive a pass for an easy bucket. Not so in NBA Live 07. I've had 3 on 1 and even 3 on 0 fast breaks where I would bring up the ball hoping to pass off to a player cutting to the basket. What I got instead is my wing players stopping right after the 3 point line and sitting there leaving me to finish against a lone defender. I know NBA players need to learn the fundamentals again but all of them know that you keep running to the basket to finish off a fast break. I can't tell you how many times I'd throw up an alley-oop
pass to a high-flyer
on the wing only to have them stop 15 feet away from the basket, receiving a lob and having to try to flip it in with an awkward jump shot.
How many times have you watched an NBA game where a person is on a fast break all alone only to airball
a layup or throw it off the side of the backboard? In my 20 some games, I've seen it about 10 times. I know Sebastian Telfair isn't a top player but even he can make a simple layup in real life. In one of my games, I saw the computer all alone run up to the basket and flip it over the rim. The ball didn't even hit the backboard. It looked like a layup try I did when I was 5 years old. Another time, I saw Shannon Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers trying to score on an uncontested fast break only to throw the ball off the side of the backboard. It's really a quite comical sight after the fourth or fifth time experiencing this.
Speaking of the backboard, the players in NBA Live 07 don't let something like a solid glass backboard get in the way of jamming it into the rim. When you are underneath the basket, it's not uncommon to see a player reach up from behind the backboard, phase the ball and hand through the solid obstacle, and slam the ball home for 2 points. Yes, all the players in the game have the Kitty Pryde ability to phase through solid objects when holding the ball. The first few times it happened, I couldn't believe my eyes and I had to replay the event five or six times to see it clearly. NBA Live 07 clearly doesn't consider the backboard as a solid object when players are in certain situations and seeing them slam the ball through the backboard became very common place.
Clipping issues also arose where players would make a move with the ball and actually dribble through other players. I'm not talking about the fancy dribble between the legs of players but actually moving the ball throw a player's leg and off they go. You'll see a shake and bake move where the ball travels through a player as if the defender wasn't even there.
I know traveling isn't called in the NBA consistently but NBA Live 07 sometimes takes this to the extreme. I've seen players move towards the basket after picking up the ball a few feet away with their feet shuffling. I don't know if it's because the game's trying to transition to different movements or what not but more than one occasion I've seen the player pick up their pivot foot and continue on to the basket for a layup or slam try. If it's in the game, it's in the game but traveling this bad is not in the real game. I saw traveling worse than Lebron's travel in game four of the Washington/Cleveland series to win the game.
While players are taught to go after rebounds and loose balls hard, there is a limit to when you should go out of bounds to grab it. The AI in NBA Live 07 doesn't seem to grasp that as you can knock the ball away from a defender near the sideline and he'll go diving in to grab it and tumble out of bounds for a turnover. If a defender knocks the ball out of the hands of the player out of bounds, you won't see them going after the ball when it's clearly headed out of bounds with no chance of the defender being able to grab it. Not so in NBA Live 07 and it leads to some very unnecessary and frustrating turnovers.
Another issue with easy turnovers is if you have the ball near the side and try to do a juke
move to throw a defender off a bit. See you want to do a jab step to the side and reset yourself back to the triple threat stance. The players in NBA Live 07 have no grasp on how close they are to the sidelines so you'll see the take a big jab step out of bounds. You never see a player try to jab step out of bounds and one can say that you shouldn't even try to do it on the sideline in the game if this is the case but there are times I want to try and create a little space by faking a dribble with my player. IF you're standing near out of bounds in NBA Live 07, you won't be able to do this without turning the ball over as you'll just step out of bounds carelessly every time.
Something as simple as statistics isn't even done correctly in this game. After 20+ games into my Dynasty everyone on my team had shot a certain number of free throws making atleast
a few. During games when your player steps up to the line it sometimes shows their free throw percentage for the season. No matter how many I made, it would always say 0%. I thought perhaps it was telling me the percentage for the game even though it said season but even players that made a few during the game also showed 0%. This one really had me baffled as to how it could've
passed Q/A given that it's such a simple procedure and a bug that could've
easily been found by playing a few games.
There are a few more bugs I experienced while playing the game but I've already said enough. There are enough that I found alone that I don't see how the producers would let this game go gold the way it is. I don't see the beta testers not experiencing them as well since I find a new bug almost every game I played. The state of NBA Live 07 is just horrible and I find it pretty horrible that they would release it like this.
The game still lacks an online
league component which is prominent in the oppositions' NBA title. Yes, you can play quick games online
against others but I want full blown league capabilities without having to have friends come to my house to play an entire season. It's disappointing to see the other game have it for a while now and EA playing catch up in this area.
While EA may have snatched up the ESPN license, they still didn't incorporate it into the game very well. For example, in NFL 2K5 you get these nice full motion replays of key events with Chris Berman narrating. There's nothing here but a recap of the stats at half time or after the game. You can't save great replays to show them to others at a later time. While I do like the ability to see some news while playing in the game, EA should've
taken the license and worked it into the game itself like how Visual Concepts used to do with all their sports games.
I've been disappointed with the NBA Live series recently to the point of skipping a version or two only to see new problems have cropped up to make this NBA game a big mess. Lack of features, bugs galore, and frustrating gameplay
make NBA Live 07 the Portland Trailblazers of NBA games. If you have a previous years version, don't bother picking this up. Even if you don't just pass over this one and wait for next year or pick up 2K Sports NBA game. EA Sports really needs to overhaul the game for next year or take a year off to fix the glaring issues present. At the current state of the game, NBA Live 07 is just a horrible mess.
More On:NBA Live 07
NBA Live 07 is an example of a game rushed to meet the deadline without paying any attention to quality. There are so many bugs in the game that any semblance of a basketball simulation is lost.