Are you missing your daily dose of b-ball? Lockout got you bummed? Hoping the greedy players and owners will settle up in time to save this year's season? Well if this is you, NBA Live '99 will keep your craving for hoops satisfied. As usual, I am going to give y'all the low-down, without any time wasting extras. There won't be any filler about my childhood love for the game, and I will keep my stance on the free agent trading system to myself. So here is the straight dope on EA Sport's NBA Live '99. Game on.
When it comes to a new game in a series that is updated every year, the most important question to ask is: Is it better then last years game? Have the graphics been improved? Did gameplay flaws get ironed out? Has multiplay been fixed? Yearly, titles face two levels of evaluation. Not only are they compared to every other game of the genre released, they also face the standards that they set for the series with the previous effort. What does this mean to you? Well this is the measure that decides whether you should finally uninstall NBA Live '98 or if you should wait till '00.
It is in my expert (yeah right) opinion that this years NBA Live is definitely worth space on your hard drive. Both hardcore basketball simulation fans and less devout gamers will enjoy its mix of realism, action and variety. Many major flaws have been fixed, including enhancements in the previous dumb-as-wood AI and the stoic facial features of the players. However, I don't want to fool anyone into thinking that this game is perfect, it's far from it. There are flaws, some more noticeable than others. And this is where that "does it out perform last years game" comes in. While some of the flaws I found might be considered nit-picky, I feel that NBA Live series should be expected to fully round out and improve its new additions in every way.
Most noticeable of the enhancements in Live 99 is the brand spankin' new graphics engine. Gone are the 10 static uninteresting players. Now each player responds to play with changes in posturing and facial expressions. They will squint, yell, smile and frown. There is something so nice about hoopin' up over Karl Malone and watching your player "Raise the roof" while running back down the court. In addition to the new faces, the general movement of each player has been improved drastically. They no long stumble and bump into each other constantly. Expect to see a lot of new moves included, such as elbows during post out defense and about five jukes that will have you jumping for that replay button. Not only does it look better in terms of player movement and their facial features, the frame rate is better! This really blew me away. My Monster 3D was able to handle the floor reflections, crowd movement and player shading with surprising smoothness. In a period of gaming that requires immense computer systems to achieve decent performance it is very nice to have something that improves upon the previous standard without forcing you to cough up $600 for Voodoo2 SLI.
In the audio department, there really isn't anything new. It is hard to improve in a category that EA Sports is known for doing constantly right. Why didn't it get a 15/15 you ask? Well little things. The play by play is somewhat uninspired, in comparison to another EA game released this year, NHL '99. Though it too had its flaws, I enjoyed the variety of color and statistics that NHL had. The play by play NBA '99 lacks the same unique flavor that other EA games have, and it gets a small cut because of it.
Well, I hope your calendar is free. This game delivers plenty of gameplay in a great looking package. It's all here. The full season, the exhibition, playoffs and championship modes. There is even a practice mode which allows you to select one player and hoop it up in warm ups on an outdoor court. The practice mode lets you get used to the feel and abilities of specific players, and helps improve your overall game.
The biggest flaw in Live 99's gameplay is the revised passing controls. I suppose the intention was to provide an alternative to the "cycling" method of player selection. That is, to change players you just tapped the cycle button until the circle was under the desired player. It is a method that has been used by many basketball games and most everyone who has played a few games can quickly become proficient with it. However EA Sports has changed the in-game player selection controls, and it does not work. You have to press in the direction of the player you want to select then press the cycle button. Playing with a gamepad made this semi-possible, but it often took me several tries to get the right man. I can imagine gamers using the keyboard being even more frustrated. Basketball is a fast paced game, and this method of player selection just does not allow you to keep up with it.
While we are on the subject of flaws, can I please wage an official complaint against EA Sports for consistently doing a half-ass job of implementing Internet based multiplay? LANs are fine and all, but how about some TCP/IP? As I recall while reviewing NHL '99 the TCP/IP modes were originally hidden, and had to be unlocked with a code. Is this more of the same? Well, I am not digging the hoops EA is making us jump through to play hoops on the net. (Sorry, bad pun, won't happen again..)
Overall NBA Live 99 comes through, it is better than its predecessor in many ways. I recommend this game for all gamers, it's a great translation of the fast action game of basketball. However there is still room for improvement. Snazzier play by play, better/new cameras angle, and for the love of god change the cycle controls back. But all in all this is a fine game, worthy of your best slam dunkin' juke bustin' foul tossin' moves.
Loads of modes/options
Same camera angles
New passing controls