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NBA Live 07 Review

Developer: EA Canada Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: September 26, 2006 Also On: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox and Xbox 360

Have you ever watched a basketball game where your team was down and you thought if they’d just make a few adjustments, they’d come back and win it? I have. I’ve also played a series of basketball games that mimics this very well. It’s called NBA Live. It’s a basketball franchise that has always been that one step behind, missing that one little touch that would make it an excellent contender. I was excited to see that the 2007 might be the year that EA Canada really came out on top. I visited the studio back in early August and got a glimpse of NBA Live 07, and at the time I was slightly less impressed with its next-gen offering than its current-gen one. Flash-forward almost two months, and as I write this review, I feel the same way. NBA Live 07 dropped the ball in so many ways in its second next-generation season that it’s almost more disappointing than last year’s abysmal Xbox 360 launch title.

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NBA Live 07 isn’t a great basketball game in any way, really. In most categories, it just falls flat. It’s like watching Shaq have a ho-hum game in the Playoffs, only to end up fouled out on the bench. It’s quite sad, really, after seeing all of the work that went into so many different areas that ultimately don’t make the most important factor of a basketball game: its entertainment value.

On the court, NBA Live 07 just doesn’t perform. It performs so badly, in fact, that I’d almost consider it unplayable. Where EA Canada strived to deliver a feeling of momentum, they created an awkward and uncontrollable feeling of control that is actually too difficult to describe, so I’ll quit trying. It just feels like crap, to say the least. Having dunk and lay-up buttons was a stupid decision, and I simply thought it was the most annoying thing in the world to watch a professional like T-Mac clang a dunk off of the front of the rim on a fast break. Similarly to 2K Sports’ competition, NBA 2K7, the CPU in NBA Live 07 lacks any sort of awareness. Your players will simply watch as opponents hop up and down and all around for loose balls and rebounds. Rebounding controls are nonexistent. I can’t say I enjoyed watching the CPU score more second-chance points than I thought were possible. On defense, the right analog control system is completely out of whack. It used to be a fantastic system that quickly allowed you to squat down low, swat at the ball, or even hold your hands up to defend the pass or close-range shot. Now it’s sluggish and more frustrating to use than anything. In reality, telling you how badly it feels to play NBA Live 07 on the Xbox 360 is hopeless. It’s such an embarrassing flop of a control system that it should simply be played to be understood.

Visually, NBA Live 07 would be a lot more successful if its animation wasn’t as awkward and sluggish as its gameplay. While the character models are quite good and feature a ton of detail, they animate so poorly that it’s almost funny to watch the players move around like robots. At least the commentary is good–and by good, I mean great–Marv Albert and Steve Kerr can really go at it in basketball chatter. On top of fantastic on-court chatter and realistic crowd effects, NBA Live 07 is definitely entertaining to listen to. It’s just too bad it has to be done while playing a game of basketball that isn’t much fun to control.

In terms of features, NBA Live 07 is loaded. It’s got everything you could want out of a basketball game (sans the smooth animation and good controls). It’s got a Franchise mode that is chock-full with deep options like hiring a staff that actually affects on- and off-court gameplay and managing funds. It’s got the NBA All-Star Weekend mode that lets you play the high-flying Slam Dunk Contest and even the Rookie Game. It’s even got ESPN Integration that lets you hear headlines and news clips in the sports world every single day as well as several other things. This ESPN integration is fantastic, and I’d say that it’s the strongest addition to any sports game so far this year–but having this integration with a solid basketball title would have been nice.

Overall, NBA Live 07 makes improvements on its awful next-generation predecessor. It’s an Xbox 360 basketball game that is missing a few very important touches, like playability and streamlined animation. EA Canada has some great ideas here. They’ve got the ambition, they’ve got the ideas. They’ve just got to execute. Like any rookie in the NBA, you can’t just have the heart, you’ve gotta have the game to make it big and run with the competition. In the end, you won’t be cheering for NBA Live 07. In fact, the chant will be, “DISAPPOINTMENT!”

Graphics: 6.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide