02:31 AM - June 17, 2015 by ChaseB
For now what we'll be doing here at Operation Sports is posting a quick look detailing some of our initial thoughts on sports titles at E3. Once we play more of these games throughout the week we will post more fleshed out hands-on impressions this week and next.
In addition, if you have questions about the game you would like us to ask developers, feel free to post them. We can't guarantee we'll get them answered -- and it's probably better to not get too crazy specific -- but what we do get answered we'll post here on OS as well at some point. The same goes for if you just want to hear more about something we talked about in the article(s). For example, "hey dude, you talked about how the dribbling feels different, can you talk more about that?"
After three years of sort of hiding at E3, NBA Live 16 and the development team working on the title are finally showing off. If anything, that is a good sign that the folks at EA Tiburon finally have enough confidence in the title to stand by it in a public setting where everyone can get as much hands-on time as they want.
-You can only pick from the Warriors and Cavaliers in this demo, but what's immediately striking is how amazing the players on both teams look, both in the 3-D modeled starting lineups screens and then once you see them in action on the court. NBA 2K player models look amazing, but NBA Live player models also now look spectacular -- yet in a completely different way. The differing lighting and art directions for each game make both look impressive in different ways, which is great.
-Dribble pull-ups have improved year over year. I used the Warriors a bunch in my sessions today and running full speed into a pull-up feels smoother, and the transition animations from sprinting to shooting were meshing well.
-The Live team is really pushing the new physics-based animation system that ties together with their motion capture to create thousands of new animations. I can't claim to see thousands of new animations, but drives to the hoop are leading to more two-man interactions. On the second drive to the hoop, there was a big-time swat off the glass by Draymond Green on Kyrie Irving, which is progress for this title.
-I would say around the rim is still where the game is weakest: I trust the CPU/AI more than myself to box out and grab rebounds. Some of the putback layup and shot animations don't look especially great -- partly because the ball looks odd coming out of the player's hand based on the trajectory of the ball and so forth.
-Off-ball movement on offense is more noticeable by default now (don't have to select quick options to push the guys to move on offense). I'll be diving deeper into this because I was seeing lots off-ball screens for Klay and Barnes as some sort of base set. I would wonder if there are team-specific default motion sets and so on. Also, there's no ability to call plays in this demo so you're doing pick and rolls or defaulting to these quick sets that are automatically happening on the court.
-Speaking of the pick and roll, changing up how you call for picks was the right call. I'll be looking more into how to defend the pick and rolls and so on at the show, but as a core concept it feels like the right direction. In short, you're clicking in the L3 button to change from a roll to fade now. I'll also be checking in on how specific you can get in terms of choosing which side the pick should be set.
-Touch passing and quicker passing overall feels better in Live. I wouldn't go as far as calling it super quick and "fixed" now, but it's better. What I would say so far is I don't think you can quite ping the ball side to side like the Spurs or Hawks, but swinging the ball in a calculated fashion off the pick and roll felt much better.
-It's been a struggle on defense for me so far. Staying in front of my man was somewhat of a challenge, especially with more noticeable bits of explosion from ball handlers. I know this is at least partly on me because I can honestly say I still don't quite get the best times to move my defender via the right stick versus holding the defensive stance button, turbo, etc. At the same time, perhaps that is partly on EA as well for not explaining it as well as they could to this point.
-Getting back to players feeling more explosive with the ball in their hand. It's funny to me, but right now I notice the explosion of players going from 0-100 -- which is good -- and yet the player movement still feels a bit sluggish. I'm still wrestling with why that is so far, but perhaps it's because it almost feels like ball handlers go slowly from 0 to 25 mph, and then it gets floored from 25 to 100 mph.
-Signature shots are more noticeable, though I would say I really struggled with shot timing today. This is again something I want to get more hands-on with (it's not inherently a bad thing if this is challenging!), and in addition want to talk to the development team about in terms of how the UI on-screen is explaining what you're doing wrong. It's not necessarily crystal clear to me what the UI is telling me, but I also did not go through the tutorial elements that probably would explain it all for those that are confused. Again though, this doesn't let EA completely off the hook either way.
Right now, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about Live 16. It's certainly not going backwards, and it already feels like the biggest year-over-year leap improvement in the three years of its "rebirth" during this era. At the same time, it's one of those things where you get burned so many times by one game that, especially after only a couple games, I feel it would be downright irresponsible to say something like "Live is back guys!" Plus, I don't even know what that phrase would mean at this point because it's hard to say what the "golden era" is of Live now. Instead, what I'll say is I'm hoping what I've experienced so far is not some sort of mirage and that the core of this game is finally getting itself on solid hardwood. (I'll see myself to the door after choosing to end with that wordplay.)