NBA Live 18 review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Tiburon
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-10
Online: Yes

Grading NBA Live 18 is all a matter of perspective.

In an objective sense, judged against the entirety of, say, every current gen basketball game, it’s a little above average. It doesn’t do anything incredibly well, but it’s significantly better than NBA Live 16. There are obvious areas where it could improve, but mostly in terms of minor tweaks, rather than huge overhauls. In this sense, it’s a good-but-not-great game.

In a more narrow sense, however, there’s an argument to be made that NBA Live 18 is a Game of the Year contender. This sense, of course, requires looking strictly at the year’s basketball games — and seeing as NBA 2K18 was a pay-to-win abomination, if you’re trying to decide between the two, the choice couldn’t be clearer. For the first time in years (possibly even forever), in the battle between EA and 2K Sports, EA is the clear winner.

To be clear, a big part of why NBA Live 18 is so good, relatively speaking, is that it’s simply not NBA 2K18. It doesn’t seize every opportunity to gouge you for money, and it’s possible to improve your created player without having to either dip into your real-world wallet or grind through hours upon hours upon hours of practice. That’s not to say that NBA Live 18 doesn’t want players to spend money — you can buy plenty of shirts and shoes and shooting styles here — but the way it’s implemented here is far less obnoxiously intrusive.

But NBA Live 18 also succeeds, to a certain extent, on its own merits. The game has a proper story mode, told via text messages and TV talking heads. Admittedly, the talking heads are a little annoying, seeing as they give Stephen A. Smith screen time, but nonetheless: there’s a solidly engaging single-player story here.

Likewise, the gameplay itself does the job. The players don’t seem as graceful as they do in 2K18, and it occasionally feels like you’re fighting the camera, but on the whole, it’s a solid basketball experience.

Normally, of course, “solid” wouldn’t be a descriptor you’d apply to the best basketball game of the year. But when the alternative is the hot steaming garbage that is NBA 2K18, solid will more than do. It may be a tainted victory for NBA Live 18, but after years of being second-best, they deserve applause for eking out a win this time around.

Grade: B