NBA Live 15 Review: Can't Buy a Bucket

Still aching to even come close to the technical assuredness of NBA 2K15, NBA Live 15 does fare much better than last year's debacle. However, crucially flawed gameplay, lackluster commentary and a shortage of worthwhile modes leave this player coming up weak on the court. Our review.

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After last year's abysmal NBA Live 14 failed to connect with basketball gamers, EA Sports is hitting the court once more with the arrival of NBA Live 15, with the promise of an upgraded presentation and a gameplay system that may connect better with sports fans. Suffice to say, while part of that statement is true, and the game avoids being a complete gutter ball like last year's, it still comes up short in its drive to the basket.

Gameplay's All Over the Court

One of the largest changes EA Sports made is to the shooting, as the system actually rates how well a player does when it comes to timing and release of the ball. However, the system never really clicks because of two crucial errors. First, basing it partly on the player rating never really gives them a chance to improve, and it's a bit ridiculous when someone with a lower grade still can't square away a solid shot, even standing close to the rim. Secondly, even with the timing system in place, it never really gels correctly. I can't tell you how many times I managed to release a shot with a rating of "great," only to have to bounce off the rim anyway and end up in the hands of a defender. That's like earning gold stars on every exam and flunking the class anyway.

The addition of a pick and roll system, where you call over a teammate to shrug off a defender while making an attempt for the basket, would seem like an ideal inclusion. However, in practice, it just doesn't come off as smoothly as it should. Half the time, your teammate doesn't get into the right spot; and the rest of the time, your defender still prepares for your attack.

Other problems surface over the course of the game as well. The defense can be sleepy at times and wide alert during others, and even when you make moves to keep them from sinking their shots, foul calls work mostly in their favor, resulting in free throws and more undeserved points on the board. On offense, the behavior remains the same, and when paired with the uneven shooting system, the frustration quickly mounts.

In short, EA Sports feels like it's in flux with figuring out what it wants its NBA Live gameplay system to be. Instead of relying on basics, it goes to the well with too many ideas, and comes up dry anyway.

Putting On a Show

The visuals in NBA Live have undergone a significant improvement. The game holds up reasonably well with a 60-frames-per-second (most of the time) visual show, and the player models aren't nearly as creepy as we've seen in past renditions. Some even look like their real selves, like LeBron hustling with his fellow Cavaliers.

However, some of the animations can look a bit awkward, especially when a whole team reacts like a robo-squad with the same synchronized animation on an incoming shot. Players are supposed to react differently, but instead, it's almost like they're performing as a weird dance squad.

Otherwise, the ambiance of the arenas, and the crowd that cheers on what's happening in the game, are highly detailed, which goes to show that EA Sports, at the very least, knows how to improve in some areas.

Yet, the running commentary brings that theory crashing right back to Earth. For every great visual feat, we're paired up with rather dull commentary by Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy. These guys fail to mesh when it comes to providing details when it comes to what's happening on the court, and can't even come close to the pure magic that Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg generate in NBA 2K15.

So Many Modes, So Little to Do

As with last year's release, NBA Live 15 does come with a few modes if you wish to delve a little deeper into the basketball experience. Unfortunately, they've only seen a few little additions, rather than the overhaul that EA Sports promised several months ago.

Case in point: Dynasty Mode, which felt like a yawner with all the behind-the-scenes jargon and inability to really feel in control in your team, only has the addition to jump games over the course of its season. That's a decent option, but one that never really comes into play often enough to save the mode as a whole.

Rising Star Mode doesn't fare much better, as it seems to penalize you just when you're getting started with progressing your player. This is mostly due to an AI system that doesn't rate you properly on your progress, thus sticking you with the same goals over and over. It's a restraint that wasn't really needed, and makes you wonder if the career is worth it.

Big Moments is a mode that vows to add genuine situations from the real NBA season that you can recreate virtually. A novel idea, to be sure, but its execution isn't nearly as genius as it should've been. The moments themselves actually don't last long, and with the controls the way they are, half of the time you can't even execute them properly. Plus, you never feel like you accomplish anything. The only real bright spot is the Ultimate Team, where you can collect cards and buy and sell whatever you please in the hopes of creating an excellent squad.

Hit the Showers

With NBA Live 15, EA Sports makes minimal progress at best, but can't seem to find a solid enough identity for its hoops sim. The gameplay is all over the place, the modes don't show enough improvement, and the visual splendor is dulled over by commentators who feel like they want to be somewhere else.

Perhaps this is a good time for EA to focus on something else in the basketball world, something that would work more in its favor. NBA Street always clicked when it was around, and even NBA Jam would be welcome in this new generation of consoles. Anything would be better than a basketball game that can't quite nail down what the feeling of basketball should be all about.


This review is based on a downloadable version of the game on Xbox One. NBA Live 15 is available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The game is rated E10.

Review for
NBA Live 15
4
Pros
  • Terrific visuals
  • Ultimate Team mode is fun for fantasy basketball players
Cons
  • Gameplay riddled with flaws, especially shooting
  • Commentary sounds dull and lifeless
  • Extra modes in the game don't offer enough variety
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 29, 2014 2:00 PM

    Robert Workman posted a new article, NBA Live 15 Review: Can't Buy a Bucket

    • reply
      October 29, 2014 2:16 PM

      I wonder if they'll bother with NBA Live 16 and take a few more years off. They've been taking a pounding ever since their return from that previous multi-year hiatus.

    • reply
      October 30, 2014 7:55 AM

      You've got to be kidding me with this review. This is a HUGE improvement over last year. It looks fantastic, the game is fun to play, and it's stable online unlike 2K. It's not quite on their level yet but it's moving in the right direction. Not sure what game you were playing but in no way did it deserve this low of a score.

      • reply
        October 30, 2014 8:38 AM

        Doesn't matter how high or low the score is. If it's worse than 2k it automatically fails