NBA Live 15 review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

EA Sports and the game of Basketball haven?t been relevant on the tongues of gamers for quite some time now. Even though last year the series returned to next generation systems, it was a shell of the franchise we remembered it being, not to mention nowhere near in the same league as the NBA2K series. From the less than next gen visuals to the stiff and unresponsive game play, NBA Live 14 was an egg that still needed to cook another year before it could even be considered a playable option against their rival. What a difference a year makes, as now I can say and with great confidence — NBA LIVE IS BACK! NBA Live 15 not only is heads and shoulders vastly superior to last year?s effort, it is making the right strides that just may make 2K Sports take notice. While NBA Live 15 still plays second fiddle to 2K, that doesn?t mean that if you choose to go with this title over 2K you will be disappointed, especially if you are growing tired of the 2K series, and maybe even looking for a version of basketball, that if anything, plays with a greater degree of fun factor than their hardcore sim competition.

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Like any good sports game, game play is the most essential piece of the puzzle that matters the most. Without a solid foundation and accurate representation that mimics the actual sport, you have a game that is forgettable by the masses and passed on by the hardcore fans. Per usual of old school NBA Live the game wonderfully teeters on a balance of both simulation and arcade style game play, which the end result winds up being realistic box scores with slightly over the top dunks and action that makes it fun as hell. One major improvement over last year?s game play is the overall responsiveness and flow of the game. Gone are the stiff and choppy animations which lead to frustrating sluggishness. The entire game play engine, from the A.I. to game play mechanics, have been overhauled resulting in a game that turns out as initially promised when NBA Live 14 was released. While it?s a year later, it?s nice to see that the development team never gave up on their vision and have accomplished what they have set out to do, while still leaving room to grow as well. All the improved elements are complemented with a new dribble and shooting technology that really gives players full control of the player?s actions on court. Now the battle for the rim is key thanks to improved dribble mechanics allowing you to really size up the defense and make your way to the rim, or break off their ankles to take a fade away shot from 15ft. New player physics create more realistic collisions and reactions on contacts for layups and dunks. It?s not only the ability to pop, slip and roll on call, but the reactions of the defense to such plays all the more make NBA Live a much smarter and better playing game than that has been brought to the table for quite some time by EA.

The new and improved NBA Live list of enhancements doesn?t stop there. Visually there has been a drastic improvement in player likenesses. Over 70% of the league has had their faces scanned, but also their emotions and reactions were captured as well. Even signature celebrations such as Westbrook?s gunslinger or Carmelo?s 3 to the head have been motion captured to a T. What?s more, when new players are introduced and/or roster updates made, even more likenesses will be uploaded throughout year to allow for the most updated look possible. This holds true for the wonderful looking NBA courts that now even as we speak have been updated to show off the Cavs new court and much more.
Full ESPN integration has been brought back and that include overlays, pregame, post game, and a half time show that replicate the Sportscenter look beautifully. You can also expect much of the news and updates to be in full swing not only in text but in the game?s commentary as well. Speaking of audio, never before, not even in 2K?s series, has the crowd seemed more alive. Whether it?s the roar and chanting during big moments and beginning of the game, or the sound of eerie silence when your home team is being blown out, the game really captures the most authentic sounding NBA arenas to date. The commentary, however, isn?t quite as spot on, and while is a vast improvement over last year?s effort, the team still has a long way to go In simulating a live broadcast much like 2K?s commentary has done so well over the last few years.

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NBA Live 15 is not short of game play modes either as they are really bringing more ?game? to their game. The Jordan Rising Star mode returns bringing that single player career mode to gamers. Here you are a draft pick looking to become an NBA Superstar. You begin by earning your spot by impressing the scouts at the Jordan Draft Showcase game, and then it?s time to be drafted and make your mark on your new NBA team. Developing your skills and spot on the team over time will gain you more play time off the bench and make a greater impact on your career. This means you need to play smart and not let your ego get in the way and share the ball with your teammates. Selfishness is punished here as well, so do the best you can with your opportunities and you will make it far in this mode. There is also a deep GM Dynasty Mode that allows you to control all the team decisions, contract negotiations, free agent signings, drafting of new talent, and setting team goals to lead your team to multiple championships. Other modes like Big Moments that present you with Key Moments of the year to try to replicate or change the course of history. NBA Rewind allows you to play the previous day?s game along with team specific goals, and EA?s big online mode the Ultimate Team comes to NBA Live complete with all the frills you love about this fantasy franchise mode; including legends, challenges, and the ability to make a real All Star Team and test your skills with the world.

In the end, if EA Sports moves in the same leaps and bounds that they have represented from last year to this year, then 2K?s franchise will really need to keep on their toes if they don?t want to lose their crown. NBA Live may still not be the best virtual game of basketball out there, but it is certainly worth a look if you are hoping to change up your game, as it looks great, has tons of modes, and is fun to play to boot. EA has finally found a winner after many failed attempts with this franchise. Let?s hope they keep 2K?s feet to the fire by continuing to ?bring it? for many years down the road.

Grade: B+