Recently your man Da_Czar was invited to go up to EA Canada to have a look at NBA Live 10. While elated to have an opportunity lay my hands on the game early I also had a few demands of the LIVE team on my visit.
I wanted to be certain no one was spiking my kool-aid (berry blu), so I requested that outside of my tour I be locked away and allowed to play with no one telling me “hey this is cool look at this”. To my surprise they had the exact same thing in mind. I was shocked by how open they were with their product. As I always do I will give it too you straight... No chaser... But to the haters of the series that also includes things I enjoyed about the experience.
This isn't business.... It's Personal !
On my first day there I was given a tour and then briefly met the members of the team who were around. To a man, the Live team was acutely aware of the immense challenge that lay ahead of them. While at the same time they seemed confident that they had the tools to get the job done. What I saw in their eyes was not soley the motivation that comes from getting a paycheck at the end of the week. I saw a hunger and determination that only a dethroned champion could begin to understand. The Live squad is not even close to satisfied with their current position. That can only mean great things for fans of Basketball video games.
** note of interest**
These are my initial honest impressions after spending 2.5 days with the game. In such a compressed timeframe there may be things you miss or overlook. To the best of my technical ability this writing represents my personal experience with NBA LIVE 10 both good and bad.
Before I move on, I have to say that Live 10 is the most visually impressive hoop game I have ever seen in person. No screen shot anywhere on the internet that I have seen can do it justice. One thing that I found more impressive than the graphics alone was how fluid the Nba Live 10 controls felt when moving and manipulating the players on the floor. A key thing to remember as I go though this is that Nba Live 10 is not perfect.
When making my video I had a nearly a 5 minute segment I cut out just dealing with player movement without the ball. If your a fan of utilizing the full range of right stick movement. Live 10 has you covered and then some. Its so subtle and yet it adds so much to the experience. The locomotion engine in Live 10 is an absolute beast. Players can walk, run, and sprint all dependent on the right stick pressure. There are also different foot plants the players perform when changing direction that vary according to their current speed, momentum and the force of the right stick when changing direction (remember this for later).
While some of you may be saying big deal. The big deal is that you are totally in control of these elements both with and without the ball on offense and defense. Czar has found that your dribble moves can be more effective if you vary your speed. I have blown by defenders by walking up to them and then exploding into a behind the back move or crossover. The fidelity of the system opens up new offensive and defensive possibilities.
Live takes my excitement of this control to a new level by incorporating individual player momentums ( I know I didn't believe it myself). Each player... EACH player in the game has the ability to “feel” different. So controlling Chris Paul and Chauncy Billups are not at all the same experience. This is truly revolutionary. The system continues to go deeper when you consider it's effects on how different players handle the ball.
When you control Carmelo it doesn't just look like him, it feels like him. When you play with D.Wade you feel quicker and that in turn can effect how you use him in the game. Its incredibly deep and rewarding and keeps Live feeling fresh but also familiar if you just enjoy playing with your favorite team. The more you play with a team the better you will become using them in the game. Guys who like to jump around from team to team may find a small adjustment is necessary before finding success on the higher levels.
This is one reason why Live 10 has to be played and not watched to be enjoyed. Those who are too quick to judge or want to run tests instead of play basketball will miss out on this and many other subtle yet major enhancements that were put into the game to enhance the users experience.
I don't want to belabor the point but when you control D.Wade and notice how quick his spin move is compared to another wing player you realize that his physical tools will finally be accounted for and that some moves are more effective using him as opposed to another weapon on another team.
This also applies to the size up moves. Let's take Derrick Rose for example. His size up moves are so quick, to break out of it on the first opportunity, you have to have quick hands on the sticks. Iverson's size-up is much slower in comparison but has more left to right movement to move the d and create space. This has to be played to truly be appreciated but it makes each match-up different and that is great for replay-ability.
If were talking about player movement and momentum lets talk about the defense while were here. Have you ever wanted to play a game where your defensive mistakes could be taken advantage of ? I'm serious. Where there is no “magic” recovery available you just get beat and have to do better next time ? The Live team brings that to the table in 10. Still ... Live 10 is not perfect.
Initially I was not feeling the defensive controls in Live 10. I just didn't get it. Then I discovered that Czar himself had become subject to cheese tactics... I know family... I'm embarrassed to admit it myself but just hear me out for a minute. In most other hoop games we have been trained that if the guy your guarding goes to his left, to stop him ... You must move your controller to the right. In most instances you can use a defensive assist that will move you to that position automatically.
Well in Live 10 that concept will get you beat like you stole something. To defend well in Live 10 you MUST understand your match-ups on the floor. In addition to that, its helpful to know a thing or two about the individual your guarding. Those individual player momentums play a deciding factor in how well you will be able to stay with the ballhandler. Additionally the defensive system goes further , allowing players with higher on ball defense to be more effective with bodying up the ball handler.
Consider this quote from Mike Wang in his blog :
“The improved locomotion system also plays a huge role in this as great onball defenders will be able to plant and accelerate much faster than a lumbering stiff. So knowing your personnel and when to crowd vs. gap your check is crucial to being successful on defense. “
What this means is that all these scenarios can play out different.
1.Quick guards who are able to change directions quickly will put bigger slower players on skates....
2.An athletic big man in the same situation has a better chance of staying in front but will not be as effective as a an athletic guard or forward with a high on ball defensive rating.
3. An athletic wing with no handles being guarded by a big man playing well off of him may not be able to take advantage of the mismatch.
Think of the strategical battles that will rage between you and the cpu or another human opponent when every player has their own momentum.... I could go on as this is not near as deep as the rabbit hole goes but I just want to illustrate what all is happening and why Live is a game you may want to play before dismissing it as a minor improvement over Nba Live 09.
I'm not done with defense. The cpu offense is masterful at choosing attack angles to the rim. This forces you to defend angles to the basket. If implemented correctly it encourages both the offense and defense to play real basketball. Normally to stop a drive attempt you move your defender to the left or right depending on the direction of the offensive players drive. In Live 10 the closer you are to the offense the quicker you must react to the drive especially if your guarding a player with a great first step.
This would cause you push hard (don't forget our momentum system) in the direction of the drive, which, if you remember our discussion on the different foot plants available, could leave you dead in the water (depending on the match-up) if a quick offensive player decides to change direction.
Naturally, after you get beat a few times either off of the initial drive or the change of direction, the game teaches you to defend the angles. As well as to not be so heavy handed with the left stick on defense. So that when the drive is made you no longer move your defender hard in that direction but back at an angle to protect the basket. Even better, it teaches you not to crowd guys who are great at getting to the basket.
This maybe why you see so many seemingly uncontested jumpers in the demonstration videos. If your too overaggressive challenging the shot you leave yourself open to too many angles and could get beat to the basket. I am eager to get more time in with the game to verify, but from my initial play time it appears Live 10 will make it valuable to play the percentages on defense.
For players with devastating mid-range games this is why you can't stop them in Live 10 with inferior defenders. You can't stop everything baby !!! pick your poison... cut off the drive and force the contested J ( but be careful of pump-fakes and step backs or escape dribbles) or try to take away the jumper and hope your help d can keep him out of the lane.
In last years game the faulty defensive mechanic allowed you as a defender to close the gap on the offensive player with no fear of being beat. In live 10 closing that gap to stop the jumper can be a precarious situation depending on the match-up. Don't play videogames... play basketball. You will not have an anwer for elite players without using a double team to take the ball out of their hands. Its not a cheap feeling either Its just how the game of basketball is designed. Great offense will always beat Great defense. The key then is to not allow “easy” baskets for the superstars and challenge every shot. I will be very interested to know if defensive schemes held over the course of a game can prove effective in deterring stars from getting the ball in their sweet spots.
I wonder if the ego's we digital ballers have built up over the years of playing inferior offensive AI can handle the same truth great NBA defenders face nightly. With the elite players you can not stop them BABY! You can only HOPE to contain them. This was certainly the case during my stay in Canada. Lets hope the AI has the chops to deal with Czar and the Sim Nation after we are all well accustomed to the controls.
You see I saw the blogs and heard people on the Live team make statements like they wanted to make every possession and every game feel different. I thought it was BS till I laid my hands on the sticks. From my limited playing experience. Mission accomplished !
One thing In regards to its imperfection on defense I would love to see the post defense have the ability to cause contact defending the post. As it stands the offense can have an advantage and occassionaly you can be left feeling helpless on defense. This could be a result of my lack of experience with the system. I didn't find this to be the case the entire game but it came up on a few occasions and I thought it prudent to mention. I also wish you could apply more pressure on the ball. My favorite part of defense is trying to stay in front of a great ball handler with a clumsy post player. When you get the demo make the switch off and see what I mean. It hilarious and feels as difficult as it really should be.
One other note that hardly bares mentioning is that there can be an occasional slight slide when your on defense. It did not happen consistent enough in my brief time with the game to be able to put a finger on if it happens in repeatable circumstances or is just a random occurrence. Certainly it is no where near the type of sliding present in both games last year and comparitively speaking would not deserve a mention.
12 minute tempo
I was very impressed with the tempo the cpu teams played with. There can be no doubt this game was created to play 12 minute quarters to get realistic stats. I have NEVER seen a cpu opponent do some of the things I witnessed in my short time with the game. It will take many more hours of gameplay to see if these were abnormalities but I look forward to finding out.
Patience..... Teams that like to slow the rock down will do so in Live 10. Those of you used to the constant attacking style of past cpu opponents may be thrown off by this at first. It will appear as if the cpu is just holding the ball out front and not much is going on. This is usually because if your guarding the ball you have to stay so locked in defensively to contain the drive you can't see much else of the floor. In replays I discovered that the cpu runs a life like offense. Guys don't always blaze full speed through a play. Plays develop in a very natural manner. Just be prepared for a different experience as you will play a cpu opponent who will probe you like never before looking for a weakness to attack.
Transition game is alive and well
If your concerned about uptempo teams playing their style. Be concerned no longer. I played San Antonio vs Golden State and the men from the bay have NO conscious. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to see one pass Jack's on more than one occasion. They push the rock and take the first opportunity. It was so great to see. What also impressed me is that as I got lured into their tempo things seemed to go bad for the Spurs. After I calmed down and started feeding Tiny Tim like gerber. The universe resettled and we were back in the game. It takes a lot of restraint to not get involved when they put the rock up so quickly.
If you thought the playbooks from Live 09 were great I just don't know what to tell you. It is a very surreal experience to see the team your playing run the exact same thing you know they run in real life. Not something similar , not something generic, but the real plays. Suffice it to say I was impressed with the playbooks. This is an area that I can't wait to investigate deeply on my own. Oh the things I'm going to do for my community.
Live 10 controls beautifully. I didn't fully understand how well it controlled until I returned home and played the other games in my collection. The only thing I could compare it too would be the tight controls of NBA 2k7 but with excellent momentum. One thing that I did not like was the removal of the ability to protect the ball by pushing in the right stick.
I Like the improvements to Live 10's post game. Those familiar with Ncaa basketball will feel right at home. While more than serviceable I was hoping for something with a bit more individuallity. This is one of those areas where it could be better but its not something that will ruin your experience. There is nothing wrong with it. I just would like more player specifc individuality in the post up game.
Live 10's rebounding is light years ahead of 09. In truth I didn't spend a lot of focus on the rebounding but I know it felt right and. I never felt cheated. It did have a very physical feel to it. It was a pleasure watching Garnett eat the glass. I have never seen a snatch rebound in a hoop game before. If I have they weren't like this. Guys where Snatching the rock out the air and it just looked great. Good luck keeping guys like Noah off the glass man. It's almost like cpu Noah knows that is the only time he will touch the rock.
Rebounding does suffer from the occasional warp here or there but its nothing to get uptight over. In fact as I recall it didn't happen all that often. Just know if your playing with a poor defensive rebounding team in the game, before you head to the sliders be sure to upgrade your roster. As they are more than likely the main culprit behind the beating your taking on the boards.
I did not get to play enough with all the teams to verify this league wide. However it appears that guys who fill a specific role on your team in real life,do just that in NBA live 10. When I played as Boston I could only smile as Rasheed, on every possible occasion, was making his way to the 3 point line on dribble penetration or broken plays. In Golden State Biedrins was a shot blocking and rebounding machine. He also did a bang up job filling the lanes on the break. The Birdman seemed to play with great energy and was certainly sending weak cow manure on its way to the sidelines. You will notice that great defenders have better movement and lateral quickness when controlling them on defense. In situations where you choose more offense over defense in you substitutions, you will feel the result of those decisions when your poor defender is at the mercy of the leagues elite.
If Live is sounding invincible please remember what I have said all along. The game is not perfect. Its just that what is does well. It does so well that your mostly concerned with playing good baskeball to win.
I am probably not allowed to say this but I feel I must just to set the record straight. Synergy = axiom. PERIOD.
Axiom:a self-evident truth that requires no proof.
The data points from synergy can NOT be competed with. I wish I could tell you more !!!
In closing there are a few things that I didn't like that did not fit into a specific category. So for those looking for an axe to grind you can find it here.
1. Sometimes Yao jumped a bit too high for my tastes.
2. The cpu will occassionally make that pass you have seen across his body to the other side of the floor.
3. Every once in awhile I would see on of those old Live 09 step back animations and they just don't look good.
4. I would love to put more pressure on the ballhandler and force him to protect the ball.
Besides what you have heard me mention througout the article this is my list after a few days of playing and capturing footage of the game. Its not an extensive list and leads me to concur with something I heard Mike Wang say in the Operation Sports Forums when talking about rebounds:
“It's a cosmetic flaw and not a functional one. That's pretty much true with the other glitches that people are seeing or reporting in previews. Live 10 won't be without its flaws, but once you get past them, it is an incredible hoops sim. I just hope everyone, including all the doubters out there, gives the game the chance to prove it to them."
Live is more than back. Live is finally competitive with the reigning Battleground Champion. Is this the year they take the crown ? Only a fool could or would answer that before tasting the competition. One thing is for certain however, it is finally not a foolish statement to call it a competition.