Rating: Awesome I played NBA Live '99 when it first came out a few months ago, but I just couldn't get into it. The main reason for this was that the NBA lock-out was in full swing, so I wasn't exactly in love with the NBA at the time and I knew that when play eventually resumed, the rosters would be nothing like they are in Live '99. With the NBA now back in action, I've been playing Live '99 a lot more and have found it to be what I knew it would be all along- a worthy addition to the greatest basketball game series ever. First of all, as a hardcore basketball fan, there was no way I was going to play the game with rosters from July 1, 1998 (and I didn't feel like spending the money on a DexDrive), so I actually sat there for several hours with my Sports Illustrated listing all the NBA teams' starting five and top reserves, and changed all the rosters so that they matched the real NBA rosters as closely as possible (doing this was actually easier than it sounds thanks to the game's simple interface). And unfortunately, that included releasing Michael Jordan... err, "Roster Player" from my team, the Bulls... After getting the rosters up to date and adjusting the many rules and options to my liking, I dived right into the game and the first thing I noticed was that the Artificial Intelligence has been drastically improved. The computer-controlled players in Live '99 make those from previous games in the series seem stupid in comparison. This makes for a much tougher game with a lot more replay value than any other basketball game on the market. The gameplay is full of the usual slight adjustments and improvements from the masters of sports game at EA. Live '99 is not revolutionary by any means, but all the small improvements add up to the game even more playable and the control even more intuitive. Crossover moves are often nothing more than worthless gimmicks in other basketball games, but the crossover move in Live '99 actually feels like an important part of the game. You can't just run straight for the basket and shoot; you can't just drop back and make three pointers the whole game; you actually have to move the ball around and work your way inside. Needless to say, the experience is a lot more strategic than most basketball games. The result is that you feel as though you really earn every single point you score, which makes the game all the more rewarding when you win. Another major addition which stems from the improved AI is the greater emphasis placed on defense, particularly blocking. Blocking seemed to happen very rarely in past Live games, which is a shame because it's such an important part of the game of basketball. While I've certainly never played basketball professionally, I speak from experience when I say that there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching some punk try to drive on you and then swat the ball away and deny him the chance to score. Blocking has finally been given the greater role in the game that it deserves in Live '99, which, here again, makes the game much more strategic. No more running towards the basket and shooting whenever you feel like it. If you try to shoot the ball with Shaq right in front of you with his arms up, odds are you're going to get stuffed, just as you would in real life. Also, the affects of pressing the "steal" button have been fine-tuned to keep the number of steals and fouls reasonable, which makes the game even more realistic. The graphics from the default camera angle are great, but not much better than the graphics in Live '98. However, during instant replays (or if you zoom the camera in), you can see your players up close and personal, and they look very realistic. Now they even make facial expressions based on what is happening in the game. Charles Barkley may get a smirk on his face after dunking on somebody, and likewise, he may get a puzzled and slightly annoyed look if he's benched two minutes later. Unfortunately, substitutions don't happen very often in Live '99 on the default setting for quarter length (three minutes), which completely eliminates a major part of the game- the bench players. I could always increase the quarter length, but it just doesn't feel right because I've gotten so used to playing Live with three minute quarters over the years. And with three minute quarters, there are little or no substitutions in the game. Two more quick notes: The free throws are awkward at first because of the lag between when you press the button and when the ball meter stops, but it's not that much of a problem once you get used to it. And while the menu music isn't on the same level as Live '98, what is? Live '99's menu music is great in its own right. Predictably, the options and interface in Live '99 are incredible, as is almost always the case with EA Sports. The list of great options and features goes on and on. The Create A Player option is still the best in any sports game. If you don't think a player is really "all that," you can change all of his ratings at will. There is now a full draft feature that lets you (and the 28 other teams in the league) select a team of 12 players from scratch. The amount of statistics that the game tracks is almost scary. And finally, Live '99 lets you play up to ten back-to-back seasons, and during these seasons the performance of various players may improve or get worse, and trades can be proposed by either you or the computer. It's no match for Madden's Franchise Mode, but it's a nice start and is enough to make me excited about a full-fledged Franchise Mode for Live 2000. If you're wondering why 989 Sports canceled NBA ShootOut '99, I've got a simple answer for you: It looked silly compared to NBA Live '99. But then again, so does every other basketball game on the market.
Back To Reviews
© 2001 firstname.lastname@example.org