NBA Live 2002 Review (Xbox)
In many minds, NBA Live 2002 is the demon spawn of the basketball world. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because EA Sports develops it. Maybe it's because Inside Drive and NBA 2k2 (PS2) capture a better feel then Live. If you were to ask many gamers what game they prefer it wouldn't be NBA Live. While I'll concede that Live isn't a perfect title, it's been given a bad rap this year that it doesn't deserve.
I'm not going to speculate why NBA Live is shunned but I have a feeling that it's more of the same every year out with this game. Quite honestly it's a few tweaks away from a really great title. But as pass history tell us EA Sports doesn’t want to improve this title.
Let's dive into what Live 2002 offers us on the court. The positive is that Live does a good job of playing basketball. It's not perfect but you'll be able to drive in for a lay-up, post a fade away J, and spot for a 3. My problem with the offense is that if you give it up to your big man more they will most certainly make a hook shot anywhere near the basket. Overall not a huge disappointment but unrealistic in terms of when a small center can post up Shaw and frequently make high percentage shots.
The other problem has to do with rebounding. It doesn't matter who's on the boards but the ball always seems to go to the nearest offensive player. You could shoot three's all day long only to have your big men come up with the rebounding. It's also disappointing that the rebound system is dependent not on jumping for the ball but rather who is position where the ball will fall. The affects the game immensely because there is rarely any pressure to take quality shots when you know your players will get the boards.
Some other aspects that are lacking are substitution AI and play calling on the fly. Often in games, players that have a few fouls get pulled early and never return until very late in the game. The other thing to note, is that CPU AI (and if you set your substitutions to CPU controlled) players are gone in critical points in the game. Star players will be benched even starting the fourth quarter only to find that they have full energy. Another feature lacking is that there is no way to call plays on the fly. Unlike other basketball games, you have to call your play in the menu screen or you have to memorize every play when having the automatic play calling set. This is unacceptable not to have a play calling method in the game.
Where Live shines is its feature enriched franchise mode. If there's one thing to count on EA Sports for is to neglect gameplay but give you features to cover it up. The draft is one of the best I've seen on any sports game. With every player, you get a full scouting report. That includes the expected position of the player, the players potential, positives and negatives. The downside is you can't sort or filter the draftees rather you have to wade through dozens of players and positions you don't want.
Live also includes a feature that is missing from many sports games, the ability to set both the in-game clock and sim clock. To get realistic stats you might want to play a 9-minute quarter while allowing the league to sim 12-minute quarters. Even if you wanted to play shorter quarters with shorter simmed quarters it's possible.
In terms of audio/visual Live does a below average job. Players look like they did 2 versions ago. If I had to compare them it would be to High Heat visuals of last year. Sure they look like basketball players but heavy detail is missing. Animations are wacky, I've been trying to find a way to describe them but it's not normal. When the players turn they seem to waddle and pivot on one foot to face up. Posting up, the player might completely turn around to get his right hand, which takes a second to complete. Overall the graphics are very disappointing. Commentary in the game is basic. The announcers will call the name, maybe give a blurb if it's a star player and say what he's doing. The crowd does get energized at points in the game. This adds a little bit to the overall lacking presentation.