Oct 21

Written by: Thryon
10/21/2009 1:11 AM  RssIcon

Box Art
52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 41
NBA Live 10
Release Date: October 06, 2009
Developer: EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
When I decided to attempt my "52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming" challenge I figured that playing 52 different games developed in Canada in 52 weeks should not be extremely difficult. I knew that this decision meant I would miss out on some non-Canadian developed titles that I would really want to play. It also meant that I would need to plan my vacations carefully and would need to adapt my schedule around various life events. After 40 weeks of this routine, I can honestly say that playing the various games is indeed the easy part. The not so easy part is writing about them. My write-up about NBA Live 10 could possibly be my shortest one to date as the game arrived in the middle of a five day vacation to Boston, followed by a commitment to be a host for "Gaming Night in Canada", then a wedding to end my weekend. I guess that is why it is called a challenge.

As I indicated in the previous paragraph, I have been doing this challenge for over 40 weeks and in those 40 weeks I have played many sports games. As it would happen, EA Canada develops just about every sports title under the EA Sport brand with the exception of the Madden series. For this reason, sports titles play a major role in my challenge. As many long time readers may recall, I am not all that keen on basketball. I joked in my NCAA Basketball 09 review that players should be allowed to use force to stop opponents. I was rebuked for not understanding the game. Au contraire mon ami, I do understand the game and how a single player can make the entire difference in a game and it is for that single reason why I think the game needs a little "equalizer". I digress as nothing I say will change the way basketball is played. So on with my thoughts of NBA Live 10.

NBA Live 10 is a very pretty game. OK pretty may not be the best adjective to describe the game, how about visually stunning. The game simply looks amazing. It is quite evident that EA Canada has perfected the art of getting players to look and act similar to their real world counterparts. It was quite easy for me to recognize key players such as Kobe Bryant, Andrea Bargnani, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter. For some strange reason Steve Nash always looks a bit odd, but he is the exception to the rule as most players are spot on. The developers did not stop at capturing the look of each team and player, they also manage to capture the sights and sounds of each arena. For example, one of my first games was to play the New Jersey Nets as the Toronto Raptors. I wanted nothing more than to stick it to Vinsanity. I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction of the crowd when Vince took possession of the ball. I kid you not, the crowd booed. This was very satisfying as this is what would happen in real life.
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The controls in NBA Live 10 are where most of the improvements have been made, and the area that improvements still need to be made. The passing game is much easier now thanks to two new passing systems introduced this year. The first is Freestyle Passing. In previous versions of NBA Live, a pass was made to a player by pressing his corresponding icon (button or bumper on the controller) that appeared over the head of teammates. This passing option is still available in NBA Live 10, but an easier method of passing is to pull the left trigger then flicker the right analog stick in the direction of the desired recipient of the pass. This process is extremely natural and allows several passes to be chained together to quickly pass the ball upcourt. The other new system is Direct Passing which allows the gamer to target a recipient on the field using his corresponding icon and to take control of that player and move him into position before completing the pass. When these two new passing systems are combined, the passing game that is so crucial to basketball becomes easy and enjoyable.

In a similar fashion, ball handling has also benefited from new tweaks. All ball handling moves has been mapped to the right analog stick; pressing the stick in any direction will provide the gamer with different moves to outmanoeuvre opponents. The variation of moves available to each player will depend on that player's skill rating. The control simplification also extends to shooting by the use of a single button for all shots. Now the success of a basket attempt will depend on more than the point of which the shot button was released. Factors that will determine the success of a shot attempt will include the player's momentum and body direction in relation to the basket. This gives the game a more authentic felling as opposed to having the result of every shot attempt pre-determined, complete with canned animations. Worth nothing is that free throws have also been greatly simplified. Simply press and hold the shot button till a bar fills up, and release the button when the bar hits the desired “success” zone. Now more press down and up in a very narrow window of time to register a successful free-throw.

It is obvious that I really do like the changes to the game’s control scheme, so why am I complaining that they still require a lot of work. The fact was that I found the controls to be sluggish at times. On several occasions I stopped to check on my controller as it appeared non responsive. I even swapped batteries going from a MS battery pack to real AA Energizers. The problem turned out not to be with the controller or the batteries but with the game itself. This sluggishness was most apparent while navigating the menus be it during or outside of a game. At times I would press a button repeatedly wondering if anything was being registered. I thought it may have been related to the auto save feature present in the game, so I disable it, but the problem persisted. I am quite used to slow menus in other EA Sports titles. NHL 10 for example can take 10-15 seconds to pull up certain menu options, but the game displays an animation to demonstrate that something is occurring in the game. NBA Live 10 could have avoided a lot of confusion had the developers included such an animation in the game. As it was, if the game was freezing while attempting to access information from one of my storage devices, I did not know.
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With the incredible visuals and game presentation, simplified and refined controls, NBA Live 10 has a lot going for it. Surely this will be the year that it will break the slump and surpass the NBA 2K series. Well not exactly. The game does have a lot going for it, but it also has a lot of issues. When determining the quality of a sports title, I always like to set the game to play against itself. This allows me to sit back and view the game as a spectator and to take notes on everything, stuff I may miss if I was playing. So it was with NBA Live 10. I set the game a rematch of last year’s final between LA and Boston. I could not help but stare in amazement how Kobe Bryant managed over a fifteen 3-pointers without missing a single attempt. He went on to score over 70 points in that game even though he was constantly being double teamed by the Celtics at the time. It did not matter where he shot from, it just went in. Do not get me wrong the guy is good, scoring 81 points against the Raptors proved this, but he is not that good. After only a few games, it was easy to identify holes left by the AI’s defence and to exploit them. In short the game may look real, but it does not feel real yet.

A feature of NBA Live 10 that is supposed to add an extra element of realism to the game is the Dynamic DNA. This feature that was introduced in 09 has also been refined to allow the game to mimic real life events and trends. I will not comment on the functionality of this feature as NBA Live 10 was one of the rare rentals games used for my "52 Weeks" challenge and the rental did not include the code required to download the feature for free. I did have the option to purchase Dynamic DNA for only 1200MS points, but to me this feature was not worth the money.

NBA Live 10 offers plenty of few gaming options such as the season mode, dynasty mode, Adidas Live Run (pickup basketball) and FIBA World Championship. I was a bit perplexed as to why the game lacks a "Pro or Superstar" mode?

NBA Live 10 is by far the best game of the series released on the Xbox 360 console, but the game still has a long way to go before it can dethrone the NBA 2K series, or even the NCAA Basketball series for that matter.
--Brian Wray

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