Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
I really, really wish I could write that NBA LIve 19 is better than NBA 2K19. For nearly a decade now, EA?s basketball franchise been trying so very, very hard to get out of the twin shadows of both the NBA Elite 11/NBA Live 13 debacle and the fact that the 2K series has, at times, been held up as the pinnacle of sports gaming achievement. It?s undeniably made great strides, and last year NBA Live 18 even came close to dethroning its competitor, and arguably even succeeded, but really, that was more because NBA 2K18 went too heavy on the microtransactions than because NBA Live had closed the gap.
As you can probably guess from the tone of that last paragraph, NBA Live 19 still has to settle for second-best. Don?t get me wrong: if you?re looking for a complete package, this is it. NBA 2K19 may eased up slightly on their insidious Virtual Currency system, but it?s still almost everywhere you look. By contrast, NBA Live 19 offers everything you could want from a basketball game, from a robust number of online options, to a deep franchise mode, to a single-player mode. It even offers you the opportunity of making your create-a-player a woman who can compete on both mixed-gender teams, plus you can control fully-licensed WNBA teams. These are all good things — great things, even, once you account for the fact you don?t need to spend a dime of your own money, beyond what you pay for the game.
But no matter how much effort NBA Live has put in, it still never feels like an equal to NBA 2K. In part, this can be attributed to the fact that none of its gameplay options feel essential. In particular, I found the created player mode pretty forgettable, with text chats in the place of the kind of (admittedly poorly-told, generic) plot you?d get from 2K. Sure, you won?t have to spend as much to enjoy the game, but apart from the WNBA option — which to be sure, is kind of neat, and probably even more welcome if you?re a female basketball fan looking for a little representation — everything you can get here, you can also get in NBA 2K.
Which, in turn, leads to the larger issue: the on-court action here still isn?t as good as what you get in the competition. The players all feel slow and heavy; no one moves with any kind of grace or style. Fast breaks feel lethargic, Steph Curry-style threes from everywhere never feel like a threat or possibility (even when you turn those sliders all the way up!), and in general, it all feels kind of plodding. Player sizes also seemed inconsistent: when I was controlling the Raptors, for example, I often found that someone like Kawhi Leonard would seem to go from being undersized to giant and back again over the course of a few plays, with no reasonable explanation for why that would be.
The so-so effort even extends to the broadcast booth. Despite the presence of female players, the broadcasters still only refer to ?men.” Even worse, the canned chatter is repetitive to a ridiculous degree — when playing in the franchise mode, I had a stretch of several games where the announcers told the same stories every single time.
Given NBA Live 19?s status as an underdog, I?m willing to overlook a lot of these flaws. Moreover, given that it provides you with a full game out of the box, I?m inclined to give it all the benefit of the doubt in the world, and to say that it?s still worth checking out if you?re a basketball fan. I?m all for competition, and that competition is undeniably shrinking the gap between NBA Live and NBA 2K. But the reality is, as far as this game has come, it still has a ways to go before it can be considered a true equal.
EA Sports provided us with an NBA Live 19 PS4 code for review purposes.