NBA Live 14
The last EA Sports basketball game to ship to consoles was NBA Live 2010. That was a pretty good basketball game, but unfortunately the last one to be released by the company on current-gen consoles. A couple of years later, EA planned to reinvent the series under a new release called NBA Elite, but it was officially cancelled in 2012. So now, three or four years later, we finally get to see EA’s re-entry into the basketball game market, and it comes as a launch title entitled NBA Live 14 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next-gen consoles.
Right away, I’d like to give an initial thought. There tends to be a momentum factor in game reviews that causes each subsequent review to be influenced by the one before it, directly or indirectly. I don’t believe that anyone means to do this deliberately, but it exists nonetheless. The very first reviews that came out for NBA Live 14 were poor, and it may have caused a trend. This game is far from a great basketball game. It’s probably not even a very good basketball game. But it’s also not a 2 or 3 out of 10 like many sources are putting out to market. This is EA’s first foray back into the basketball arena in some time, and while it’s quite a rough first go of things, it’s certainly playable at the very least.
But more importantly, the fact that NBA Live is here, hopefully to stay, is more important for a bigger reason than just this one game. More than one major player in a video game sport is a good thing for gamers, because it creates competition. The fact that EA has such a big mountain to climb in order to gain market share in the basketball sector is a good thing – it will push them to create great games, and it will keep 2K Sports on its toes at all times. Everybody wins.
Now as for NBA Live 14, the best way to describe it is that it’s very plain. It doesn’t do anything flashy. We can go ahead and get it out of the way now: the competitor here is 2K Sports’ NBA 2K14, which is a fantastic next-gen basketball simulator. NBA Live 14 looks like a next-generation game, but not to the extent that its competitor does. The player models, arenas, fans, referees, and environments look impressive at times, but it does not “wow” you like you hope a launch title on a system will – like Madden NFL 25 did.
This iteration’s take on the always-highlighted career mode is called “Rising Star.” As always, you’ll create your own player, which I must say is a severely limited and unsatisfying process. The choices and customization are incredibly sparse, and there’s very little you can do to personalize your player. As in a certain other game, you’ll then jump into a showcase game in which you’ll be evaluated for the NBA draft. How you perform will determine your draft stock and position. Once you’re in the league, there aren’t really any surprises here. You’ll play in games and earn points for your team grades and performances, and then spend the points upgrading your player’s attributes in whatever areas you like. Skill areas that are utilized most by your position will most quickly raise your overall rating. The mode is pretty much what we’ve come to expect, and unfortunately, while there’s fun to be had, it feels a bit tired and dull.
The other mode where you’ll spend most of your time will be familiar to anyone who has played any Madden or FIFA – Ultimate Team. In Ultimate Team mode, you’ll manage playing cards of NBA players, coaches, stadiums, uniforms, etc. that make up your team. You’ll have to earn points to get new packs of cards to improve your team (or of course just buy your way to success with real money!). You’ll also have to refill your players’ contracts, manage injuries, and more. To earn points, you will take your team online and compete in online seasons, tournaments, and challenges to see how you stack up against the competition. Ultimate Team has long been my favorite game mode in EA Sports games, and it’s no surprise that I found it the most worthy of my time in NBA Live 14.
Finally, one of the coolest features in this game is the ability to relive moments from the current NBA season as soon as a day after they happen. I’m a huge Bulls fan. If Jimmy Butler hits a game-winning jumper, I might be able to hop into the game a day or two later and replicate that game-winning moment from the other night. It’s not anything super substantial or something that will create a lot of gameplay time, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless to what otherwise can be construed as a predictable and somewhat tired set of game features.
So how does the game play and control? I’m not really sure how to describe it, other than that it’s just – again – plain. Not to always be comparing, but many of the features that make this game’s major competitor so great are nowhere to be found here. There doesn’t seem to be much disparity between stars and role players like there should be. It’s too easy to get past any defender. Driving layups and dunks seem to all run together, each one the same or similar to the last.
Given that feedback, it seems counterintuitive, but the controls and in-game features are extremely complicated, or at least they certainly seem that way. Even now, I am still experimenting and figuring out new button combinations for various moves. But it’s not in a satisfying rewarding way – more of a frustrating, I-wish-I-had-known-that-during-my-second-game kind of way. The game doesn’t really tell you how to do anything, and it also lacks a sufficient tutorial or instruction mode – something we’ve come to expect from any game with relatively complex control possibilities.
NBA Live 14 isn’t an embarrassing or hide-your-face bad game. It actually plays smoothly and the modes and features all work like they should. It just doesn’t excite me in any way. The modes of play have all been there before, and there is nothing about the gameplay that makes it stand out. Interestingly enough, EA Sports reps for this game have already come out and said that they basically realize that the game isn’t great, and that it’s their starting point for getting back into the basketball picture.
I can’t recommend that you go out and buy this game. But I do think it’s a great thing that it’s here, because of what it signifies for the future of basketball games. We all should want EA Sports to get back to the top of its game, so that we have healthy competition in this space. And while NBA Live 14 won’t impress anybody, let’s hope they can build on it and create an experience next year that will make the decision of which basketball simulation to buy a difficult one.
Reviewed By: Dan Nielson
Publisher: EA Sports
This review is based on a retail copy of NBA Live 14 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.